In an unexpected turn, chef Laurent Manrique is consulting for LE COLONIAL, working on a new direction for the 17-year-old restaurant (originally noted in Scoop). But it’s ends up that it’s not that surprising when you hear more about Manrique’s background: in 1990, Manrique’s first boss was Le Colonial founder Jean Denoyer, who sent Manrique from New York City to Vietnam in 1992, and that’s where Manrique found Le Colonial’s first chef (which opened in 1998).
Flash forward to a year and half ago, when Manrique was in Vietnam for his honeymoon and visited the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, reminding him of his original inspiration for Le Colonial. Funnily enough, Le Colonial’s GM, Andre Cortes, got in touch with Manrique soon thereafter—the timing of a collaboration seemed quite right.
Manrique is currently fine-tuning the Le Colonial menu, steering it back to the French-Vietnamese colonial style of cooking it originally offered. Look for dishes like a blanquette de veau made with coconut milk, a pho that will be more like a pot-au-feu, shared dishes like whole fish, and a spin on riz au lait (rice pudding) for dessert. He brought on executive chef Brian Bowen (previously chef de cuisine of Cavallo Point’s Murray Circle, and who also cooked at Meadowood and Mugaritz), saying, “I wanted a younger chef—he is going to bring a light touch and modern techniques.” There are also a couple of Vietnamese ladies in the kitchen who have been there for quite some time, and Manrique said it’s important that they stay—he said their skills are quite special (“You should see how they roll spring rolls!”).
It’s worth noting that the décor will stay as is, which is timeless—the new direction is really about bringing some luster back to the menu. The new menu will be in place in early November; we’ll keep you posted on how it takes shape in the meantime. 20 Cosmo Place between Sutter and Post and Jones and Taylor, 415-931-3600.
Over at ~LA MAR CEBICHERIA PERUANA~, Peruvian native Victoriano Lopez is now the corporate executive chef—he has been working with founder Gaston Acurio for more than two decades at Lima’s Astrid & Gaston; opening La Mar in Mexico City, Madrid, and San Francisco; and Tanta in Chicago. La Mar is turning seven on Monday September 28th, and you can enjoy two-for-one pisco sours and pisco punches all day in the bar.
The veranda at Le Colonial. Photo courtesy of Le Colonial.