Second part of two parts, please start here with Part 1
At Dominique’s Kitchen, the concept is both simple and timeless: affordable unpretentious dishes that remind guests of classic home cooked French meals that can be gotten any where in France. Chef Theval and his wife Liza wanted to create a dining environment analogous to having friends over for dinner, so the restaurant, in spirit, is an extension of their home with incredible price points that encourage customers to come back a few times a week. Thus they've created a neighborhood restaurant based on repeat clientele rather than a destination restaurant reserved for special occasions.
This warm hospitality is no where better reflected by the genuine affection that both Dominique and Liza share with their guests. Whether it is Liza hugging a repeat customer or Dominique running out dishes himself from the kitchen to a customer, the level of interaction is at an extremely personal and personable level. Before getting too slammed in the kitchen, Dominique visits tables before they order, exchanges greetings, and recommends wines to pair with plates.
Wines like all the dishes are affordably priced. Almost all bottles are under $30.00 with most of the wines listed also offered by the glass. In addition to French varieties, wines from Spain, Italy, America and other countries are available. Want to bring your own wine? Corkage is only $5.00, recently raised from an absurdly low $2.00.
The plates too are incredible value. Three lamb chops with polenta are offered for less than $20.00 with excellently sourced product from Australia. Baked snails with garlic butter for less than $10.00 are just another of the many generously portioned dishes at incredible price points on their menu. All desserts like the panna cotta with red berries are less than $5.00. When putting together the menu Chef Theval was and still is very careful to use ingredients that allow him to provide these prices so that he can cover his food costs and still make a reasonable profit. But even with fluctuating food costs, Theval is adamant about keeping his price points low having thinner margins, if necessary, since again he wants to provide customers an accessible every day experience rather than a more ostentatious special one. Plus by keeping his overhead low without extra managers or directors, as well as being so hands on in the kitchen, any higher food costs are offset by lower labor costs.
But quality isn’t sacrificed for value. Theval prepares his food utilizing his classic French training taking time to prepare carefully sourced ingredients in ways he finds most flavorful. So no short cuts are taken in preparations or cooking. Plus being hands on, unlike in the other large American restaurants he’s managed, Theval is directly involved in all phases of getting dishes prepped, cooked, and as noted above, sometimes even ran to guests’ tables.
As he gets to know his guests better, unlike many of today’s chefs, Chef Theval is also open to substitutions and modifications for he wants to provide a very personalized experience that caters to the specific desires of specific guests many of whom Liza and Dominique already consider friends. With further menu development to reflect product availability, a new happy hour menu for early customers, and special menus for days like Valentine’s Day, there will be even more options for these guests to enjoy the food and drink.
Thus the love and passion of the chef for his cuisine and his wife Liza, is manifest in both the broad strokes and the details at Dominique’s Kitchen. This genuine love of the proprietors for one another is shared with their guests through their graciousness and generosities making the line between owner and customer a thin one, especially as the referred customers become repeat guests. So when old becomes new again, where “trends” like farm to table and seasonality once more become the norms, a return to face to face interaction and congeniality- in an era of tweets, yelps and “likes”- at a neighborhood restaurant founded on love is a welcome overdue return to humanity.
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