A delicious, delightful paradox
A Spring Hill restaurant's success in offering reasonably priced and delicious, traditional European dishes in sophisticated surroundings belies its name.
By LOGAN NEILL
Published August 18, 2006
Certainly by now, Hernando County, with its population topping 160,000, should have attracted more adventuresome culinary outlets than it has.
By all rights we should have more dining choices for continental European fare and ethnic tastes of the Middle East, South America and Asia rather than being bombarded with more chain restaurants.
That said, it's good to know that Nouvelle Cuisine in Spring Hill has been able to thrive here for the better part of 14 years. Its worldly tastes and sophisticated surroundings have earned a loyal following, proving that we do indeed have diners with discerning tastes.
Since taking over the restaurant in 1999, husband-wife owners Jan Kinds and Isabelle Roos have endeavored to put a new face on the establishment's high-quality Belgian-French fare.
Traditional favorites such as chateaubriand and sauteed frog legs reside alongside more contemporary Flemish offerings such as roast quail and pan-seared monk fish, many of which are topped with inventive, flavorful sauces that contradict what most of us have come to identify with traditional Belgian and French cooking.
Rather than burying everything in heavy, cream-laden sauces, Kinds, who studied at the famed Ter Groene Poorte culinary institute, enlivens many of his dishes with thoughtful toppings created from herbs, fruits and native European spices that are sure to throw curve balls at a few palates.
Such mastery soared in the delicious blackberry sauce that accompanied the Long Island duck $19.95 I tried during a recent visit. It proved to be the perfect complement, discrete enough to bring out the richness of the meat without hiding its flavor. Similar accolades applied to my dining partner's salmon filet ($18.95), which was delicately broiled and topped with a light, creamy muscadet sauce that propelled what has become a common seafood entree into a signature dish.
Both entrees were accompanied by sides that one didn't have to shrink from. French-style green beans were crisp and flavorful and accompanied by a serving of seasoned au gratin potatoes. Even the homemade bread was perfectly crusty and light.
Despite its well-earned reputation for quality food, nothing on Nouvelle Cuisine's menu is exorbitantly priced. Entrees such as coquille St. Jacques ($18.95), Lake Victoria perch ($19.95) and quail with tarragon sauce ($21.95) are made with costly ingredients. Even the 16-ounce rack of lamb for $33.95 seems like a bargain when you consider what it would fetch in a fine dining establishment in Tampa.
Desserts are worth pursuing as well. Be sure to try chef Kinds' Belgian chocolate-walnut cake, which he creates with ingredients imported from his homeland.
A word of warning to newbies: Don't be put off by Nouvelle Cuisine's outward appearance, which suffers from being a tenant in an unattractive strip mall. Inside, the owners more than make up for such shortcomings with rich earth tones, cozy, lamp-lit booths and lace-draped tables. The servers are friendly and attentive.
While it is likely to be some time before Hernando residents see a plethora of independent restaurants with the culinary spirit to bring us out of the dining doldrums, here's one that will make a worthy model.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1435.
NOTE TO READERS
Steppin' Out publishes a periodic feature called "What's Cooking," a look at some of Hernando County's favorite dining spots. We welcome recommendations from readers. If you have a place in mind for us to visit, please drop us a line at What's Cooking, Hernando Times, 15365 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville, FL 34613, or e-mail your suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org Be sure to include the name and address of the restaurant and a brief description of what you like about it.
IF YOU GO
Nouvelle Cuisine is at 10531 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill. Lunch hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Dinner hours are 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Mondays. 686-6860.