From the bustling, mirror-filled brasseries of Paris to the low-lit creperies of Brittany, every French restaurant I've visited has had one uniting thread—they all blare random pop music. Le Coq Rouge, a French joint off Overland and Maple Grove is no exception. And there's something charmingly authentic about that.
Though Le Coq Rouge is billed as a brasserie, it seems much closer to a bistro. The typical brasserie, which means brewery in French, is a bustling croque-monsieur-and-frites kind of place where you bump elbows with the red-lipped ladies chain smoking Gauloises next to you. Bistros, on the other hand, are smaller, family owned spots that focus on wine and a feature a limited assortment of constantly changing comfort food dishes. In essence: Le Coq Rouge.
A chalkboard hanging near the restaurant's cheese case features a 10-or-so item menu scrawled in French. The tables are draped with red-checkered cloths held in place by large carafes of water. Strands of fake flowers and ribbons cascade down from the ceiling and French movie posters freckle the walls. But the most authentically French aspect of the joint has less to do with the kitschy decor than it does with a prevailing mindset: No one there is in any particular hurry.
The first thing that clued me in to this laid-back attitude was the puzzled expression that swept over our server's face when we didn't order wine immediately. After translating the menu in a thick French accent, our waiter, who learned English in Paris by watching That '70s Show, asked us again if we wanted anything to drink. We caved quickly, selecting two glasses of the Les Jamelle sauvignon blanc ($6.50 each) to complement an order of escargot ($15). Though I felt naked without a wine or food menu clutched in my hands, giving up a bit of meal curatorial control added considerably to our leisurely dining experience.
A quarter of a glass of wine later, a creviced ceramic dish spitting hot droplets of butter was set delicately in front of us. Six swirling brown shells sat in mini butter hot tubs, a spray of browned, minced garlic, fennel and parmesan clinging to their backs. Without missing a beat, my date inadvertently reenacted the classic American-in-France comedy routine, sending a slippery snail shell clanking across the table. "Look at that S car go" jokes abounded. Plunging a hunk of herbed focaccia into the pungent butter mixture, my date, newly rid of his escargot virginity, sighed happily: "I feel like I just became a gourmand."
As the butter coma set in, we made a calorically appropriate decision and decided to split the coquilles St. Jacques ($25), seared sea scallops on a bed of linguine. Three-fourths of a glass of wine later, the dish arrived--six large scallops resting on a nest of noodles, all submerged in a sweet, creamy white wine reduction. Though the pasta was sloppily cooked, with some noodles overly al dente and glued together, a swift knife swipe revealed that the scallops were seared to a ghost-white perfection. The dish's sauce played up the scallops' inherent sweetness and even took it a waltz further, adding wisps of thinly sliced, sweet orange mango. It was one of the best scallop preparations I've ever had. Heck, I'd even go so far as to say it changed the very way I think about scallops.
By the time our glasses were bone dry and we had savored every last bite of the coquilles, my date and I looked at the clock and realized we'd unconsciously let two hours slip by. Suddenly snapped back into reality, we flagged down our waiter for the check. Next time, we agreed, we'll order a bottle of wine and let the loud French pop music wash over us until we've made room for the cheese plate. And dessert. And maybe some more wine.
--Tara Morgan loves red-lipped, Gauloises-smoking Frenchies.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Le Coq Rouge here.