Restaurant Review: La Chatelaine

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

It's one of the best bakeries in town, producing beautiful, crusty breads and pastries that can make you happy all day long. It's a quaint Euro-style bar and fountain-equipped patio serving flights of Belgian ales and smartly chosen wines. It's got one of the better lunch deals around, plus a full-sized dinner menu featuring French bistro favorites.

It's La Chatelaine in Worthington, a place that has legitimately earned the too-often dubiously made claim of a "something for everyone" restaurant.

Rustic by design with lots of stout wood and stone-colored brick, La Chatelaine exhibits a chalet-cum-farmhouse appeal. The homemade food follows suit, touching largely on hearty French countryside classics, though a few significantly lighter, winning dishes are also available.

I'll start with that lunch deal. Eight bucks buys a three-course meal substantial enough to satisfy you all afternoon yet proportioned so you won't succumb to an unsanctioned nap.

Ordered and partially served cafeteria-style, you'll get a "petite" (but not teeny) Caesar salad with an anchovy-perky dressing more tart than creamy. It comes with terrific croutons.

Soupwise, you'll choose from one of three options, including the French onion (not a heavy cheese bomb, it had a light, herby, peppery and wine-fortified broth plus more of those great croutons), and the tomato basil (bright with pureed veggies and not over-creamed). Either soup will hit the spot.

From the sandwich board, I'm going to steer you toward the smallish but wonderful Prosciutto and Brie (with uncredited good butter). It arrived on a superlative, crusty yet chewy roll and delivered harmoniously sweet, salty, creamy and earthy flavors.

The recommended Quiche Lorraine ($5.75) was another popular lunchtime pick. Small buy mighty and laced with smoky bacon on top, its fabulously flaky pastry shell contained a killer cheesy custard punctuated with cubes of fine ham.

Dinner meant casual sit-down service. The dual-purposed and locally unique Flamekuches (Alsatian flatbreads, $8.25 to $10.75) could be either an entree or starter. I was a big fan of the ultra-light "Paris" version, which layered fresh salady things (spinach, basil, cucumber, red peppers and onion) above a crackery, whole-wheat crust.

Veering into richer fare, the Vol-au-vent ($11.75) was like a French chicken pot pie. Puff pastry rounds anchored a comforting bowlful of creamy and nutmeggy mushroom gravy populated by giant pieces of tender poultry. Nice.

Cassoulet can be heavy, but La Chatelaine's excellent version ($14.75) was as light as they come. Chalk that up to hunks of relatively lean - but super high quality - homemade duck confit, pork belly and pork sausage along with white beans cleverly leavened by a tangy acidity.

The light and lovely Tilapia en Papillote ($14.50) managed to transform a usually unthrilling breed of fish into something elegant. Baked in a parchment pouch, a delicate filet was beautifully perfumed with mirepoix vegetables and a terrific citrus and butter sauce.

Desserts are slam dunks. For something fun, try the super-cute chocolate mouse ($4) -- it had a dark bittersweet, mouse-shaped shell, an exemplary buttercream interior and a lovely shortbread base. If vanilla's more your thing, check out the wonderful, multi-layered, custard-filled Napoleon pastry ($4).

La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro

627 High St., Worthington

614-848-6711

Web: lachatelainebakery.com

Price: $$ ($10-$20 per person)

Cuisine: World Flavors

Patio: Yes

Hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday