As advantageous as fresh ingredients are to the quality of a meal, flavor is equally, if not more, important.
We were recently invited to Rouge, a French-Moroccan restaurant in Normandy Isle, for dinner. The wide chasm that can exist between fresh ingredients and taste has rarely been more apparent.
From the beginning it was evident that Rouge does indeed use mostly fresh ingredients, but the quality ingredients are undermined by unfavorable flavoring. From appetizer to dessert, we were unpleasantly surprised over and over again.
This is a huge shame because the décor and service are superior to most restaurants in the area, even the county. The picturesque restaurant features an outdoor garden dining area which would serve as a wonderful backdrop for wedding photos.
Owner Nabil Hach Al-luch informed us that the menu changes every four weeks or so, making it conceivable that the lackluster meal was a result of the current lineup. Rather than reinvent the menu constantly, it would benefit the picturesque restaurant to serve a select number of extensively tested, perfectly prepared dishes.
The quality of ingredients, service, and ambiance could justify Rouge's prices, were it not for the taste of its dishes.
The escargot and creamy pastis quiche ($14.95) appetizer was overly buttery and we could not fathom how the "creamy" aspect was rendered, as the dish was dry.
Any hint of cream was again absent from the "creamy" mint and zucchini soup ($12.95), a cold dish with an combination of seasonings that left an unpleasant aftertaste.
The soup was switched out for a house salad ($9.95) which consisted of a romaine heart, cherry tomatoes, and a flavorless balsamic reduction.
Main courses were equally disappointing, starting with the rabbit ($29.95), a salty mess consisting of dry rabbit meat swimming in what tasted like a canned sauce set atop overcooked pasta. The menu describes the dish as "sautéed American rabbit with mustard, bacon, and mushrooms served with pappardelle," and while mushrooms were plentiful, bacon was scarce.
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The pan-seared salmon au citron ($27.95) served with sautéed vegetables, lacked flavor as well, especially the promised citron, and was not fully cooked. The server explained that "everyone serves salmon medium-rare." That's fine, but customers should be informed of this upon placing their order.
We find it hard to believe that anyone can screw up Nutella, but we were wrong. The soufflé de chocolat et Nutella ($10.95), was overcooked and therefore dry and crispy, when it should have been soft and moist. At least the crème brulee a la vanille ($9.95) was exceptional. Delicate and light, the beautifully presented dessert allowed us to end the meal on a high note, rather than a sour one.
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