At times, in a fine dining atmosphere with all the rituals of service, one can feel out of sorts.
It can seem a bit intimidating with all the different silverware, a stemmed glass for each beverage, bread plate, napkin, candles, bread baskets, butter and oils, wine list, etc. Which fork do I use for the salad? Should I drink red wine with fish? Whew!!
With all these decisions, how can it be relaxing?
Atmosphere, ambience, and attitude! A little soft jazz playing in the background, a comfortable décor, and a gracious, accommodating staff, who are relaxed while attending to my table, has a tendency to put me at ease as attitudes are infectious. Café Dominique succeeded by doing just that.
The restaurant is located in downtown Houma along the bayou with its own ample parking lot. Parking is sometimes tough in the downtown area but not here. It is a very elegant establishment with an apparent quest for excellence. The outside exterior is lit effectively to showcase the impressive entrance with just enough landscaping to stay with the clean lines of the building.
Once inside there is a nice waiting area with seating. The hostess graciously seated us at our table and we promptly met our server as he introduced himself while removing the unnecessary silverware and plates.
After giving him our drink order, I looked around the dining room trying to absorb everything. The most predominant feature was the bar situated right in the room. This is not the usual way for restaurants as the bar patrons can sometimes get loud, but this one works. It is an integral part of the room built of bricks and wood in a very attractive way resembling a large fireplace with the bar stools around a huge hearth.
When I visited, there were no bar patrons but I wonder how the ambience in the dining room might suffer had the bar been full.
The décor as a whole is warm and relaxing. The owner definitely has a desire for excellence as I could see no corner cutting here. There are even real linen hand towels in the restroom!
While waiting for our drinks, we were delivered warm bread served with a dish of rich cream butter and a dish of roasted garlic cloves marinating in a luscious olive oil with crushed black olives and roasted red peppers. I immediately slathered a garlic clove on my bread and spooned on some of the flavored oil. It was wonderful.
We ordered an appetizer of Montrachet goat cheese ($12) to continue after the delicious bread course. This dish was composed of four formed cylinders of goat cheese crusted with crushed pistachios served on a sauce of a balsamic and raspberry reduction. There were a few baby field greens and halved grape tomatoes to finish.
The cheese was quite rich, which I enjoyed, and the sauce had a nice acidity that helped me reclaim my palate between bites of cheese. It was a good dish, except the raspberry seeds were left in the sauce. I cannot figure this one, as raspberry seeds have no distinguishable taste and have an indigestible texture.
The next dish was an oven-roasted, free-range chicken ($24) served with our choice of Israeli couscous, asparagus spears and a relish of sun dried tomatoes and olives. I chose this dish because a good mark to a fine chef is the ability to roast a chicken so it remains moist on the inside and crispy on the outside.
This was an excellent choice as the chef delivered those things and more. Each component belonged there and complemented the others.
This was my first time having Israeli couscous and will not be the last! It was incredibly light and delicate with a tantalizing mouth feel. I highly recommend you give this dish a try.
Moving on to dessert, we selected two choices. The first was a carrot cake ($9) served with cream cheese ice cream and a raisin sauce. It was phenomenal! The cake was moist and flavorful with fall spices and the ice cream was a perfect complement with the sauce bridging the gap.
The second dessert was not as successful. It was a triple chocolate mousse ($9) with a raspberry sauce. This is a difficult dessert to master having three layers of the different mousses of white, milk and dark chocolate. Each should be of equal consistency to seem as one when cutting through with a spoon to take a bite. This one, however, was not. It had a harder dark chocolate layer and the layers were not of even size. After a small discussion with our waiter, he graciously removed it from our bill.
After dinner, I went to explore and found a peaceful courtyard with tables and chairs where one could sit and view the bayou and just relax after dinner with a cordial or coffee. It could also be a great place to dine on a cool fall evening with a crackling fire pit.
In the fine dining arena, the quest for excellence should border on obsession. Dishes have to be purposeful and executed with perfection because diners are asked to pay double and even triple the prices as a casual themed restaurant such as Chili’s. For this reason, the restaurant must deliver on all accounts.
Café Dominique delivered on décor and service and, if improved on menu execution with more attention to detail, would be a restaurant that does deliver. Café Dominique serving new American cuisine is an elegant place to dine and I hope they continue to pursue the sometimes elusive label of excellence.
Cafe’ Dominique 8013 Main St., Houma (985) 223-7450 Hours Lunch: Tuesday- Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.