fleurie - 01Oh, fine French dining: the setting for a fancy night out to celebrate a promotion, propose a marriage, or, if you’re in a movie, to inevitably stumble into a waiter when he is carrying an enormous platter of heavy and very loud dishes.

I love fine dining settings. I love the candles, flowers, long wine list, and most of all, I just love feeling special. I don’t, however, always love the fancy French food that comes with these settings. Maybe I have a low tolerance for butter or some lingering rebellion against my Francophile mother. Regardless of the reason, after years in Charlottesville, we had never been to one of the poshest places in town: Fleurie off the downtown mall. So in honor of ma mere’s recent visit, we headed there for a spontaneous Monday night out.

The ambience at Fleurie is downright charming with its exposed brick walls, romantic lighting, enormous daisies on the tables, and excellent service. It feels special without being the least bit stuffy. I just wish the food had been as impressive.fleurie - 11

It started out wonderfully with an amuse bouche of tomato gazpacho with pesto sauce. (It amuses me, pun intended, that my reaction to the bouche is always “free food!”, without any rational calculation of how much one must pay to achieve that small bite.)  Jed’s food stayed strong with an appetizer of incredibly rich but delicious gnocchi in truffled herb sauce. I would have licked the plate if the lights were dimmer. My salad was heavy with roquefort but didn’t celebrate the produce like many excellent dishes in town do. For main courses, Jed’s lamb was good but my mom’s chicken was dry and my halibut was sadly drowned and strangled in a heavy garlic crust.

After we passed on dessert, an adorable plate of three mini desserts arrived complimentary. Again, the touch was perfect but the flavors weren’t mind-blowing. Maybe Jed was just the better orderer, maybe it was an off night, maybe I’m still teenage rebelling, but after years of hearing this praised as one of the most special restaurants in town, it was a letdown. Merde.

Jed says: “If you’re the flexible sort, ask your server to have the chef make his or her favorite dish for you.”

Erin’s Mom says: “I was having dinner with such beautiful/handsome, interesting, charming people, I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have.”

award_star_gold_3 16Rating: Erin: Jed:

thumb_up 16 iconPros: Romantic ambience, great service, extensive wine list.

thumb_down 16 iconCons: Food quality doesn’t match the price.

money_dollar 16 iconPrice: About as pricey as it gets in this town. Apps $9-18, Mains $27-37.

car famfam 16 iconParking: Limited.

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