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Oui: We've got tastes, pictures and opening dates for uptown Charlotte's new French palace

One of La Belle Helene's specialties will be a roasted Poulet Rouge, cooked on the Paris-made rotisserie with fingerling potatoes to catch the juices and a thick, rich jus on the side.
One of La Belle Helene's specialties will be a roasted Poulet Rouge, cooked on the Paris-made rotisserie with fingerling potatoes to catch the juices and a thick, rich jus on the side.

Uptown Charlotte’s newest fine-dining restaurant opens July 31, bringing a classic homage to Parisian brasseries, right down to the white-and-black tile floor and a Belle Epoque menu.

The windows are still carefully papered over at La Belle Helene, the new restaurant coming to the 300 S. Tryon building that is the headquarters for Elior North America. But a preview this week shows that all that work with the Ducasse Conseil, one of the many arms of Ducasse Paris, the restaurant group associated with acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse, has paid off in details.

Helene room
Dramatic lighting stands out in La Belle Helene's muted colors of dark green, black, white and gray. Kathleen Purvis

Some of those details: Expect a muted but classic color scheme of dark green (on the banquettes), black, white and dove gray. Servers wearing gray vests and bow ties. A grownup but not stuffy feel to what will probably be a busy bar scene. And across one side, check out a gleaming rotisserie made in Paris, with hooks for more than 50 chickens and other sizzling/dripping meat things.

helene chef
Michael Rouleau, the executive chef at La Belle Helene, calls the Paris-made rotisserie "my baby." Kathleen Purvis

Chef Michael Rouleau, most recently from Philadelphia, calls the rotisserie “my baby — my belle Helene,” and he’s ready to crank it up, particularly on the chicken dish that will be one of the specialties: Poulet Rouge chickens from Joyce Farms in North Carolina, with salty, crispy skin, served alongside fingerling potatoes that have been cooked below the chickens, and with the chicken juices, combined with butter, served on the side. (A half will be $24 and will serve two easily.)

Helene oven
The action in La Belle Helene will be around the Paris-built rotisserie, which can hold more than 50 chickens and will also often feature something special, like a suckling pig. Kathleen Purvis

Rouleau also plans to have daily roasted specials, such suckling pig, that guests will also see up on the rotisserie.

Other things he whipped out when I went by for a tasting this week:

* Oeufs mayonnaise, the French version of deviled eggs. These have half a firmer egg yolk underneath, topped with a creamy swirl of hand-made mayonnaise — Rouleau is making his staff put their elbows into it — beaten into cooked yolks ($8).

* Beef tartare, served with a barely cooked yolk on top, so you can mix it in yourself, and thin frites on the side ($16).

Helene tartare
Expect a menu of French classics, like beef tartare with the slightly cooked egg yolk ready to mix in. Kathleen Purvis

The rest of the menu (see below) runs in that same arrondissement: Radishes and butter, foie gras terrine, coq au vin (actually made with rooster for a change) and veal blanquette on the weekly specials list, salades (including Lyonnaise and nicoise) and steaks topped with maitre d’ butters. There are lunch and brunch menus as well, but those hours will be added later.

Let’s hope the lunch hours come quickly — in business-oriented uptown Charlotte, places to do business while being seen are in short supply. Ready now for the see-and-be scene: Four glass-fronted private rooms along the side, for tete-a-tetes.

Helen dinner menu
La Belle Helene will open first for dinner. Here's the menu.

Price range, according to the previews of the menus: $14 to $36 for plates (that would be omelette to lobster; a burger plate with frites is $16), $24 to $32 for daily specials. Steaks are in the $32 to $45 range ($56 for a rib-eye that serves two).

Dinner hours: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday starting July 31. Lunch hours: 11:30-3 p.m. Monday-Friday and apres midi 3-5 p.m. Monday-Friday (starting Aug. 6). Brunch: To be announced.

Kathleen Purvis; 704-358-5236.
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