The first thing you notice when you visit Le Jardin is the light. Floor to ceiling windows facing north and west bathe the dining experience in light. The light airy atmosphere carries over to the décor and food presentation. White tables, white dishes, and contrasting colors on each plate set a very modern tone. While Le Jardin does not fill the plates to overflowing (like Centro), the flavors are amazing. The end result of the excellent service, ambiance and food results in a very sophisticated European feel. It seems a lot less fussy than that part of its name – “bistro” – might imply. Because of its clean, modern approach, you can go either fancy or casual depending on your mood and feel comfortable.
I’ve visited a couple of times and it was great dining experience each time. On a visit Saturday night before a holiday it was pretty quiet at first, but by the time we left, about half of the tables were full. During the 2014 Restaurant Week drop-ins lacking a reservation had to come back another day.
Le Jardin features locally-sourced fresh ingredients whenever possible—familiar names like Frisian Farms, La Quercia, Crooked Gap Farms, Milton Creamery for starters, literally. Our party of three whetted our appetites with the Crooked Gap Hereford Pork Pate with cornichons and pickled onions. The server brought us crusty, light bread and an adorable and delicious Amuse Bouche without our asking.
The entrees were perfectly prepared and beautifully plated. My Spaetzle Printemps ($9.00—a strange German-French mash-up name) was tossed with carrots, asparagus, roasted radish, dandelion pistou (French for pesto) and cream. It was perfect without the possible addition of Graziano’s sausage or shrimp.
One of my table-mates tried the signature Cast-Iron Cinnamon Chicken ($13.00), prepared with goat cheese, kale, asparagus, potato gnocchi, carrots and mushroom veloute, and declared it tender and fabulous. The other tried the Berkwood Farms slow roasted pork shoulder ($13.00) served with farro salad, dried cherries, and apples. It was a little dry and could have used more of the pan sauce, but the flavor was terrific.
During the 2014 Restaurant Week we visited again and tried the Shrimp & Sausage Spaetzle. As opposed to the white-sauce spaetzle, this was a made with heirloom tomatoes, basil, and smoked tomato cream. Several large shrimp lounged in the sauce along with Graziano’s Italian sausage. The smoked tomato cream was amazing.
Desserts were perfectly sized for one person, and we all indulged for the special occasion we were celebrating. An obvious big hit during Restaurant Week was the Mocha Pot de Creme. This is a coffee infused chocolate custard, topped with whipped cream and nutmeg. The wine selection was very nice and complemented the menu selections. I enjoyed a glass ($8.50) of the Cascaille 2012 Grenache Blanc which paired well with the Spaetzle dish. During the Restaurant Week visit I had a couple of glasses of the very serviceable red Grenache. Service was excellent and friendly without being intrusive. The restaurant occupies the building where Flarah’s (second iteration) vacated about a year ago—same cement floors and industrial fittings, so the acoustics are a little edgy. I believe that more acoustic foam has been added under tables since the first visit. The windows looking out over Beaver Ave. add to the urban vibe. Whatever country it claims to be channeling, Le Jardin has accomplished it at a perfect pitch.
2815 Beaver Ave., Suite 101
Des Moines, IA 50310