Leunig’s has an ego as big as mine, but neither of us can live up to our rep

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines bistro as “a small or unpretentious restaurant.” A more in-depth definition may refer to the idea that a bistro should have simple dishes, with a great emphasis on good ingredients. Leunig’s, although one of the best restaurants in Burlington, does not live up to this definition.

Walking into Leunig’s for the first time one would assume that the ingredients would be top-notch; the bread would be fresh and warm; the butter would be the same; and the chef would demand to use the best ingredients. There is a brass coffee machine, quaint pictures with French words on the walls, well-dressed servers running good-looking food frantically, and lots of upstanding members of Burlington society. The ambiance is just what one would expect from one of Burligton’s best restaurants.

Although I frequent the restaurant often, and I must admit that Leunig’s is probably the best restaurant in Burlington, I am consistently offended by how pompous the restaurant is for one who serves cold Land O’Lakes butter with their cold, almost stale bread. From the first service at the restaurant, any discerning restaurant fan will be shocked by the easily fixable problems at Leunig’s. My wine last week, although at a price that would seem to demand good service ($18 for a good half-bottle of Pinot Noir), was delivered to me along with much of the cork in the glass.

The first step for a good restaurant with a good wine list is proper service of that wine. In that respect, Leunig’s failed me, although I did enjoy the wine after cleaning my glass with my napkin. The bread, as previously mentioned, was also quite a disappointment. Crucial to any French restaurant is the service and quality of the baked goods. The bread at Leunig’s is served wrapped in a cloth, assumedly to keep the heat from the fresh bread from escaping- obviously not the case at Leunig’, as their bread has released its freshness hours before it gets to you. At the very least, they could reheat it.

For an appetizer, I had a bistro classic. If ever a “bistro” should do anything well, the French Onion Soup should be that. The classic combination of good chicken or veal stock and onions, topped with bread and Gruyere cheese is probably the most quintessential French Bistro food. The French onion soup I was given, although delicious, was more than half cheese, a problem that I resolved by decimating the soup and tossing much of the cheese onto my plate. After this was done, I had no complaints.

My entrée of Duck Confit ($13) was delicious. I have no complaints regarding their paring of crispy duck confit, baby spinach, beluga lentils, apple-cured bacon, and mustard sauce. The duck was moist yet crispy, and far from the chewy, over-fatty duck which many other restaurants pass off on the generally ignorant Burlington epicurean community. Drinks are also quite good here, but make sure that you are certain of what you order. Some of the mixed drinks are topped with whipped cream, which does not appear on the menu. Unless you want a drink akin to those at the Applebee’s happy-hour, make sure you order what you want. Otherwise, the bar is excellent.

I don’t mean to give a bad impression of Leunig’s. In terms of restaurants in Burlington, Leunig’s is by far one of the best. However, it would not last more than three weeks in New York City, or any other very demanding restaurant community. For Burlington, it can live up to its reputation. I am the same way. While in Burlington, I act like the greatest thing since grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. And very few people see through it. When they do, I am forced to admit that in the realm of personalities, I am secretly quite mediocre. Much like Leunig’s, I tend to front like caviar, but in reality I am little more than smoked salmon.