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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: If you are searching for the authentic Parisian taste of entrecote in Saudi Arabia, there is a good chance you will end up at Entrecote Petit Louis.
Its story begins in 2013 with the opening in Jeddah of French restaurant Brasserie Louis, which offered a full menu. In 2017 the first Entrecote Petit Louis opened in the city, with a smaller menu focusing on entrecote, and quickly built a loyal following.
Now diners in Riyadh are discovering why it has been such a hit, as the second Entrecote Petit Louis opened on March 15 in the capital. It is already proving extremely popular, despite minimal advertising or promotion.
For the uninitiated, entrecote is a high-quality cut of beef used for steaks. At Entrecote Petit Louis it is grilled to perfection and served Cafe de Paris-style, with a creamy, buttery herb sauce, and a side of crispy, salted French fries.
The menu is masterminded by 37-year-old executive chef Brice Alexandre. An expert in authentic French cuisine and the art of entrecote, he has been cooking since the age of 15 and has diplomas in pastry, cooking and baking. He was previously executive chef of Restaurant Bon in Paris, chef de cuisine at Carre Mer in Villeneuve-les-Maquelone, and executive sous chef at the 5-star Hotel le Brussels in Val-d’Isere.
Alexandre gave Arab News a glimpse behind the scenes of the new restaurant in Riyadh, including a look at the kitchen and a few tantalizing details about the signature Entrecote Petit Louis sauce which, he said, is so good that plates are often wiped clean by diners. The exact recipe is, of course, a closely guarded secret but he revealed that it includes many ingredients, including herbs, spices and butter, which combine to give it a unique, intricate flavor.
The three-course menu at Entrecote Petit Louis is characterized by its simplicity. There is a single starter: a classic walnut salad, consisting of crisp, freshly chopped lettuce in a creamy, honey mustard and vinaigrette dressing, and sprinkled with crunchy walnuts.
Traditionally, entrecote restaurants offer only one signature main-course — steak, of course — but Entrecote Petit Louis gives diners a choice: the classic entrecote Cafe de Paris with french fries, or fish and chips Petit Louis.
To finish the meal, there is a variety of desserts to choose from, including creme brulee, chocolate mousse, ice cream, apple pie or panna cotta.
“When the customer arrives at the restaurant, we have a concept of one starter, with two (main) platter choices and multiple dessert choices,” Alexandre told Arab News. “Once the customer is seated we ask him whether he prefers fish or meat; if he chooses meat, we ask him about the degree of doneness he prefers.”
While it is nice to have a choice, the entrecote Cafe de Paris is undoubtedly the star of this show. Its preparation begins with the selection of a premium cut of beef. Alexandre said his aim is for the dish to be as close as possible to the traditional versions served in France. To achieve this he uses only the highest-quality ingredients to ensure the most authentic flavors.
“We use the beef tenderloin because it is very low in fat and it is the best cut of beef. It is the most tender cut,” said Alexandre. The meat is grilled to the perfect tenderness, so that it melts in the mouth.
“The best level of doneness is blue or rare but in Saudi Arabia, people prefer it to be well-done,” the chef added. Waiters therefore encourage customers to consider having the meat cooked closer to rare or medium rare, to intensify the flavors.
Alexandre said that as the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program of reforms continues to transform the country, he believes it is important that the population is introduced to new flavors and tastes, including authentic French cuisine. With this in mind, additional Entrecote Petit Louis locations are planned for the Kingdom, along with an expansion of the Jeddah restaurant.
“We are opening French restaurants to allow people to discover the gastronomy and the know-how of France,” he added.
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