- Published on Tuesday, 14 January 2003 19:37
- Written by Clyde Noel - Town Crier Staff Writer
What really defines a French restaurant is not the service or the décor, but the food. Beauséjour Restaurant Francais in Los Altos serves French classics such as carre d'agneau, canard a' l'orange and ris de veau maison in the finest culinary tradition.
William and Anh Yee have operated Beauséjour in the same location since 1986. William as the chef brings passion and flair to the cuisine. Anh greets customers and ensures discrete and professional service.
Although Beauséjour specializes in classic French dishes, it has modified recipes to reflect contemporary California tastes by reducing the use of butter and cream sauces.
"Food is prepared in more of a healthy style. People ask for steamed vegetables and broiled fish," William said. "People ask for no salt, and that is no problem. The menu is changed four times a year and features items the customers request."
Other changes have occurred over the 16 years since Beauséjour opened.
"The economy was better when we opened, the food cost less and the rent was much lower in those days," William said. "We had a piano bar, but those are passé now."
One very evident difference is the type of alcohol which complements meals. When the Yees opened, diners typically ordered a cocktail before and during dinner. Today, wine has replaced the cocktail.
"Women used to drink white zinfandel or rosé wines. Now they prefer chardonnay," Anh said.
The current menu features frog's legs, escargots, scampi and a great Caesar salad. But I have been searching for onion soup the way I like it for years. Beauséjour's soup a l'oignon gratinee is a treasure.
Bite-sized onions, not overcooked; a good brown broth, not overpowered by salt; crowned by a crusty cheese and baked with submerged croutons recalled my memories with its flavor. Every French household has its own interpretation, and every French restaurant diner has his or her personal favorite; and I like the Beauséjour combination.
Recently, I had the pleasure of enjoying dinner for eight in one of the smaller banquet rooms where different entrées were served, including duck, sweetbreads and lamb.
The ris de veau maison, veal sweetbreads, are served with puff pastry, carrots and champignons. They can be sautéed, braised, poached, grilled or fried. A la carte, $17.95.
William ensures a crisp outer skin without sacrificing the inner moisture for his canard a' l'orange or duck by scoring it before baking to the requested medium or medium rare. A la carte, $20.95.
The carre d'agneau, lamb, is served with scalloped potato, asparagus and roasted garlic sauce. A la carte, $23.95.
The soufflé grand marnier furnishes a feast for the senses. It must be ordered when you sit down to be ready for dessert, but it's worth the wait and the reasonable $8.95 price.
William admitted he watches food programs on television. "I watch what foods they focus on. I like the Iron Chef. Never met him, but I will someday," said William. "I really don't have the time, but we joined the Asian Chef Association in San Francisco."
Many of the Yee's customers are middle-aged or older; but there is a trend for couples in their 30s choosing Beauséjour for special occasions.
The restaurant flourished during the '80s when it was the favorite of the new breed of executives from companies like Apple, Intel and Tandem; now they tend to be from H-P, Synopsys and Loral.
"We still have diplomats and ambassadors come in with their bodyguards," Anh said.
Beauséjour offers an executive lunch, with a choice of pasta, chicken, salad or ravioli, for under $10.
The sunset, or early bird two-course dinner is $16.95 and includes six different entrée items and salad or soup du jour.