The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Go Eat - By Peggy Burch / burch@com­mer­cialap­

LE CHARDON­NAY IS KNOWN by those who fol­low lo­cal gov­ern­ment — and shouldn’t that be all of us? — as the site of the mys­te­ri­ous pri­vate meet­ing in 2007 be­tween then-Mem­phis Mayor Wil­lie Her­en­ton and then-Shelby County Mayor A C Whar­ton.

Since then, Her­en­ton has moved out of City Hall and Whar­ton has moved in. And Le Chardon­nay is in a dif­fer­ent place, too.

In May 2008, the restau­rant left its cozy cor­ner of Over­ton Square near Palm Court, and moved across Madi­son into the space west of Paulette’s. In Au­gust, chef Joseph Cartwright, for­merly of Lolo’s Ta­ble, took over the kitchen at Le Chardon­nay.

The new lo­ca­tion is comfortable and taste­ful — Ori­en­tal-style rugs, couches by a fire on the east wall, a wood-burn­ing pizza oven glow­ing in the north wall — if not as dark and cozy as the smaller orig­i­nal site.

There are seven starters on the menu, and we tried three; each one was so im­pres­sive, I will make a point of re­turn­ing to try the other four.

The “Fried Green Tomato Lad­der” is a gen­er­ous stack of toma­toes in crispy fried bat­ter in­ter­spersed with shrimp and crab meat. The wise de­ci­sion the chef makes with this dish is to keep the shell­fish clean and sim­ple, and to let the trails of spicy red re­moulade and cilantro oil en­hance the fla­vors.

The seared tuna starter is an­other per­fectly com­posed dish, the plump, plum-pink slices of tuna splayed like cards on a pil­low of tart, bright-green sea­weed, with wasabi vinai­grette and soy sauce on ei­ther side. The colors are vivid, the fla­vors are clean and clas­sic.

The “Duck Con­fit Ci­gar” comes in a pa­per-thin fried cas­ing. It was light on duck and heavy on cream cheese and pis­ta­chios. The hot, as in spicy, ponzu vinai­grette was the main at­trac­tion on this plate.

The en­trees we or­dered were solid but gen­er­ally less in­ge­nious than the starters.

The smoked chicken and wild mush­room ravi­oli dis­played the restau­rant’s ten­dency to be lib­eral with its por­tions. There was lots of chicken with the mush­room-stuffed pasta, all float­ing in a soup of Alfredo sauce, so rich it seemed to be try­ing too hard to ap­peal to our dark, calo­rie-driven side.

The beef ten­der­loin came with a chocolate sauce that was in­ter­est­ing, al­though if I’m given a choice be­tween an in­ter­est­ing sauce and a de­li­cious one, I’ll choose de­li­cious ev­ery time. The baked, stuffed po­tato that came with the ten­der­loin was over­whelmed by Ro­que­fort, the blue cheese tend­ing more to sour than sharp.

The seared scal­lops were nicely done, but slightly sandy. They came on a suc­co­tash of sweet pota­toes, corn and smoked ba­con that was ap­peal­ing.

We didn’t for­get the wood-burn­ing pizza oven on the premises. We or­dered the “Grate­ful Noth­ing’s Dead,” a thin-crust pizza with sun-dried toma­toes, goat cheese, moz­zarella, pis­ta­chios and spinach. It seemed bland when it ar­rived at the ta­ble, but re­heated at home the next day, when all the in­gre­di­ents had melded, it was great.

There’s a fairly priced and wide rang­ing wine list, as you’d ex­pect at a wine bar. We wanted a red wine with our scal­lops and pizza, and or­dered the Fire Road Pinot Noir from New Zealand, which was fea­tured for the week. It hit the mark — it was round and plummy — al­though it was $32, and usu­ally a restau­rant pro­mo­tion is more of a bar­gain. We had a glass of the pleas­ant Fran­cis Cop­polla Claret for $9 with the ten­der­loin.

The ser­vice at Le Chardon­nay was dis­creet, quiet and timely. The server we had one dark and stormy night, when we ar­rived with soggy clothes, quickly ac­com­mo­dated our re­quest to cut off the fan over our ta­ble. When we showed him that the ten­der­loin we or­dered medium rare was ac­tu­ally rare, he al­lowed tact­fully that it was “on the rare side,” whisked it away and brought it back done cor­rectly soon enough. Then without say­ing a word, he re­moved it from our bill.

Ben Fant/Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

Le Chardon­nay’s new lo­ca­tion on Madi­son Av­enue car­ries over some of the am­bi­ence of the old site with a fire­place and lounge seat­ing.

A Grate­ful Noth­ing’s Dead pizza, with olive oil, spinach, sun-dried toma­toes, pis­ta­chios and goat cheese, from Le Chardon­nay’s wood-burn­ing, brick oven.

The restau­rant of­fers lounge seat­ing by a fire near the en­trance.

The low-key restau­rant en­trance off of Madi­son faces east to­ward a park­ing lot.

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