New L’Alouette owner reinvents menu, offers delicious food in an elegant settingBy Lisa Leigh Connors
I have probably driven by L’Alouette on Route 28 hundreds of times since moving to the Cape 10 years ago, yet never once stopped in for dinner. Perhaps I was slightly intimidated by the words “French cuisine”—or maybe it had to do with the fact that no one ever recommended it to me and it didn’t look that appealing from the outside.
But then I learned Christian Schultz of the famous Christian’s in Chatham bought it last April. The buzz started building and I began to hear about several exciting changes. Schultz renovated the restaurant from top to bottom, put in a new bar area and changed the sign out front from L’Alouette French Bistro to L’Alouette by Christian, featuring global cuisine with a French influence.
But Schultz admits he didn’t want to get the word out too quickly or even advertise right away because the restaurant needed a lot of work inside and out. “I had to figure out the building,” says Schultz, who has worked in the restaurant business since he was 21. “Everything was broken, from the dishwasher to the ice machine.” Still, that being said, “We turned away 50 to 100 people every Saturday night in the summer because everyone wants to eat at 7 p.m.”
I had been anxious to try this cozy restaurant for several months so, on a rainy Friday night, my husband and I ventured out to try something new. We made dinner reservations for 6:30 p.m. (reservations are recommended.) When we stepped inside, we were seated by a table near the fireplace. The 75-table restaurant is intimate, romantic and elegant, with white-linen tablecloths. As I looked around, I also noticed many pictures on the walls that tell stories, including one of the original Christian’s in 1981, the first year Schultz started running the restaurant.
As we settled into our seats, our waitress, Amy, greeted us with a warm smile. She assisted with our wine and beer selections and we settled on Pinot Gris Ponzi white wine and Sam Adams beer. For appetizers, Amy suggested the lobster fritters and the gnocchi. As we waited for our food, warm rustic rolls with homemade herb butter arrived. Yum.
The appetizers lived up to our expectations. The crispy fritters arrived with sweet Thai chili dipping sauce—the perfect pairing of sweet and salty. The gnocchi with mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, sweet peas and Parmesan cream was creamy, delicious and not too heavy. For our entrées, I ordered the Sea of Love, which featured an abundance of lobster, shrimp, scallops, garlic and tomatoes over linguini. My husband ordered the free-range chicken cacciatore with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and peppers over cappellini from the $27 Prix Fixe menu, which includes a choice of appetizer, entrée and dessert. Since my husband doesn’t like dessert, he let me dig into his chocolate mousse, with fresh whipped cream and strawberries. I definitely got the sweeter end of the deal. The entrée portions are generous and we even had some leftovers to take home with us. In the winter, Schultz says he will offer more comfort food, including meat loaf and chicken and biscuits, as well as Asian and Indian dishes.
Although Schultz also owned the Academy Ocean Grille in Orleans from 1999 to 2005, he says his customers still talk about Christian’s. “I did so many weddings, so many parties,” says Schultz. “Chatham was so much fun because it is ‘celebrity-ville.’ We had Robert Redford to Ted Kennedy. But you can’t treat them any differently. Every guest that comes into my restaurant is special.”
On L’Alouette’s website, there’s a quote, “One of the Cape’s best secrets.” I would have to agree.
L’Alouette by Christian
787 Route 28, Harwichport