The French Connection
By Keia Mastrianni | Photography by Michael C. Hernandez
Posted: Monday, May. 12, 2014
At one time, Charlottes upscale dining scene had its heyday of French restaurants from La Tache in the late 80s to Chez Daniel on East Boulevard in the early 90s. The sun eventually set on such grand upscale dining concepts and the recession yielded more affordable dining spots as the logical balm to shrinking budgets. In 2009, Tom Condron and Matthew Pera opened the Liberty gastropub in South End to accommodate this new normal.However, a new dawn approaches for Charlottes dining scene and restaurant veterans Condron and Pera are back with their latest concept Lumiere (which means light in French) which opened this February. Of course, the name is where the lightness stops. Lumiere in Myers Park is unapologetically French. Though the phrase upscale French might conjure images of stuffy waiters and indecipherable menus, Lumiere revives seasonal, classic French with a modern take that is both delightful and approachable. The interior is bathed in a soothing palette of calming blues and silver hues. Tables march down the center of the room and highbacked booths, covered in crushed velvet, offer an ideal spot for intimate dining. Matthew Pera mans the gateway to the kitchen, while a small brigade of toque wearing chefs, including Executive Chef Tom Condron, can be seen saucing, sauteeing and applying thoughtful touches to each plate exiting the kitchen.On this evening, an amuse of silky smooth lobster bisque arrives holding the very essence of lobster. To start, we opted for the escargot en croute, French country pate and butter poached lobster salad. Each plate is expertly composed. The pate reads like a minimalist canvas, with dollops of stone ground mustard and luscious tomato jam, placed with precision alongside clean lines of pickled ramps and a generous block of country pate. The lobster salad is a veritable study of color, not to mention one of the best flavor combinations in town marrying verdant haricot vert, tender hearts of palm, shiitakes and bacon into something much more than a salad. Bread arrives throughout the meal, from mini-baguettes to incredible gougeres and brioche. Artful entrees elicit gasps from our table. Alaskan halibut arrives with delicate spring pea agnolotti made in house with roasted tomatoes, artichokes and fresh pea shoots. A hearty rabbit porchetta delights with its own mini-copper pot of sweet corn custard while a plate of wild boar chops lilt on cubes of pork belly with truffled macaroni, pickled mustard seeds and broad strokes of pea puree. The food at Lumiere is as visually stunning as it is satisfying. Here, Chef Tom Condron is making an undeniable statement French cuisine is back in a big way.
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