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Le Chardonnay

Update 8/09: The management sent a message announcing closure of the Johnson St. location and an upcoming move.

In a word: Their food's not on the frites.

Le ChardonnayThe specs: #0329
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Madison Restaurant Reviews, Welcome to my Pantry, Yelp, the Culinary Adventures of Jahboh and Tossy, Eating the World, Madison Foodie; official web site.

JM ate the boeuf bourginon.
Nichole ate the moules and frites - one marinier and one puttanesca - and an espresso.
We split the creme brulee.
The bill was $51, or $25.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Le Chardonnay a B+; Nichole gave Le Chardonnay an A- (see our grading rubric).

Latest Le Chardonnay news and reviews

A night on the town in Madison in early spring may be any number of things.  It could snow or it could be warm and sunny.  It could be easy to find a spot to park or there could be a state tournament of basketball or singing.  This night was a little sunny and easy to find a spot - things were already off on a good foot for Le Chardonnay.

Moules marinieresDinner started with a basket of small rounds of warm baguette and a dish of terchi, a delicious carrot, cumin and olive oil relish. But Le Chardonnay's claim to fame is their Tuesday night all-you-can-eat moules and frites, served bistro-style with a choice of four sauces from a rotating selection of dozens. This was Nichole's first (and JM's -1st) experience with mussels, so we don't feel confident judging them against others; but based on what we've heard, Le Chardonnay pulls off this simple but delicious dish well. Nichole's certainly not complaining: her first bowl consisted of 12 shells covered in creamy, rich (almost too rich) creamy traditional marinier sauce, the only downside of which were the unripe tomatoes.


The frites were served in a cute paper tray, but sadly (for the mouth, not the arteries) were not as addictive as they look, being a wee bit soggy.

Moules puttanescaNichole's second bowl of mussels was as good, if not better than, her first, in a thin red sauce that still came through with a rich tomato flavor and gorgeous anchovy overtones. The satisfying "clunk" of the shells into the shiny bucket rang through the restaurant all night. And if you're not sure you like mussels, you can probably ask your server to bring you a sample.

JM's boeuf turned out to be a little different than his expectations.  The dish was well-prepared but the  Beef Bourginonsauce was a little too sweet and the meat was a little tough, so the whole meal didn't really come together. The stew-like qualities of the potatoes and carrots did not really help, though the mushrooms and onions were very good.  He'd love to try something else off the menu at a later date.

Creme bruleeWe saved room for creme brulee, which was a wise move. This reasonably-sized serving had a thick layer of caramelized sugar, fun to crack but not approved by nine out of ten dentists. The custard was very loosely set, almost liquid, but very fresh; and it was a pleasure to feel the different temperatures (warm sugar and cool cream) contrasting in our mouths, and know our dessert hadn't been sitting in a fridge, pre-torched, for hours.

Le Chardonnay has earned its praises and will continue to do so into the future, and, by the time we left, the place was hopping.  That said the whole menu may not be worth the expense, but the gems seem to be truly gem-like.


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Oh, no, I think most dentists approve of creme brulee. At least, their bank accounts do.

Your official website link goes to a domain parking page. I think that the official website is at http://lechardonnay.homestead.com/ .

Shouldn't Le Chardonnay be filed under "C"?

(And L'Etoile under "E"?)

JM and Nichole are visiting restaurants in the order they're listed on the Isthmus' Daily Page dining guide. http://thedailypage.com/eats/ If they're in a wonky order, it's not their fault.

The real question is why "DNR South Central Headquarters, Fitchburg" is listed on the dining guide, and why you haven't made that visit yet. :)

If you go - it looks like the food's free. What the food is is another question.

BUT they do have hours listed!

Came here for restaurant week. Had a good time--it's a lot nicer inside than the bustle of Johnson lets on. The mussels were superb. I'd come back again and again for them. The rest of the meal was decent to acceptably good/strong. Will be back on a Tuesday sometime soon.

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Listen to The Corner Table podcast "Remembering Restaurants," aired December 24, 2020, where Chris and Lindsay talk with us "about the menus and memories left behind when restaurants go away."

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