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When I was in college, I worked as a dishwasher, salad maker and waiter in a restaurant owned by a couple whose kids I knew from the theater. It was called El Adobe and they served … you guessed it … French food. That’s right, French. I know El Adobe seems like it should be Southwestern cuisine, but that was not the case. I don’t know if I ever heard the story of why it didn’t have a French-sounding name. It remains a mystery to me.
El Adobe has long since gone to the restaurant graveyard – the building is now a house, no physical evidence of it remains. Jim Mangas was a helluva cook and he produced some great food.
It wasn’t a very extensive menu, and its Frenchiness was not necessarily representative of the expanse of that country’s famous vittles. I don’t recall there being many other French restaurants in Las Cruces during the years that followed. At least none come to mind.
But since Thierry Marceaux and his wife Jung-sook blew into town about two and a half years ago, there has definitely been some French options on the table. They purchased The Big Chair Café and gradually began introducing French items to the menu. The first noticeable things were the incredible French pastries.
Marceaux was born, raised and trained as a pastry chef in France. He came to the United States to open a pastry café in New Orleans. He tired of that after a couple of years and began to work in hotels, which took him to South Carolina, Texas and back to New Orleans. It was in South Carolina that he met Jung-sook, who was an intern from Korea working in the same hotel kitchen.
The Marceauxs and their three children found themselves back in New Orleans, and in 2003, lost their home in the flooding caused by Hurricane Ka trina. Another brief spell in Dallas ended when they followed a retired friend’s advice and came to Las Cruces.
“The Big Chair was already an established business with customers who came for the sandwiches and salads,” Marceaux said. “I didn’t want to lose the customers we already had, so I kept much of the menu the same and added French items.”
To further their visions of Paris, the owners renamed The Big Chair, Le Rendez-vous in 2011.
One of the French dishes added was quiche, and there are usually two types every day. A variety of new soups joined the lineup as well as a daily special, such as beef burgundy.
Lunch buddy and I showed up on Saturday around 12:15 p.m., and the place was busy. Despite our server’s apologies, the food came very quickly.
I decided I was going for a total French experience and ordered the French onion soup as a prelude to the pan-bagnet on a French roll. The former came with three large croutons soaking in the soup and it was covered with melted cheesiness. The pan-bagnet is a tuna salad with boiled egg, black olive and greens. It may be the best tuna sandwich I have ever had in my life. It comes with a spring salad and a tasty balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Lunch buddy had the pâté maison, which is a variety of the house pâtés and French sausage with Dijon mustard, a spring salad and a small baguette. He also had the French onion soup as a starter. Marceaux also bakes his own bread, and it’s wonderful.
Other French country-side items includes a plate with a variety of cheeses and a combination cheese and pâté plate, both are served with a salad and a baguette.
The pastry case was unavoidable. I tried the brioche bread pastry with a filling of thick custard. I could hear my taste buds shouting, “Formidable!” while I was eating it and “Zutalors,” when it was gone. LB had the blueberry tart, which is also custard-filled.
Le Rendez-vous supplies pastries for several other restaurants in town, which has helped to establish Marceaux’s reputation as a superb pastry chef.
How soon before the menu goes French completely?
“Well, I don’t know that we will completely get away from the old menu,” he said. “Although if I keep adding things and never take anything away, I will need a menu as long as this table. I even kept a burrito on the breakfast menu because people like it.”
Yes, they serve breakfast from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. and all day on Saturday. And, yes, they have croissants and French toast.
For now, Thierry and Jung-sook Marceaux are just happy to have a popular restaurant that can offer foodies in Las Cruces something different and trés magnifique.
Address: 2701 W. Picacho Ave., Suite 1
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday
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