Tuesday, March 18, 7:00 P.M.
Members $85, guests $110
We don't know
about you, but when we hear the words "lobster cassoulet" we immediately
take a lively interest. Robert Lhulier's Italian-American family
celebrates Christmas Eve with an all-fish menu, and Lhulier's cassoulet
is a favorite at the table. He adopted the basic concept of this
traditional Gascon dish and added a few twists—and the result
is a rich and warming stew that not only thrills his family but
also has diners at Deep Blue Bar and Grill lining up out the door.
restaurateur Dan Butler's third venture in the Wilmington area,
made a big splash when it opened in 1998. And its popularity never
abated. Weekends, patrons squeeze in elbow to elbow for a taste
of dishes like Lhulier's seared ahi tuna, dry-rubbed with Chinese
five-spice powder, ginger, and nutmeg, which was Philadelphia
Magazine's winning entrée of the year.
are going swimmingly for Lhulier, a CIA grad (with a degree in art
history from the University of Delaware) who signed on with Deep
Blue soon after he finished cooking school. Before school, he'd
worked front-of-the-house jobs—as waiter, captain, manager,
sommelier—in a number of well-heeled establishments, first
at Wilmington's Hotel duPont, then at The Columbus Inn and at Griglia
Toscana, a Butler property. Lhulier later ran the dining room at
The Ebbitt Room, one of Cape May's best restaurants, and while there,
made his first visit to the Beard House, with Ebbitt's chef, who
cooked at the Foundation in 1995. Soon after, Lhulier realized that
it was the kitchen, and not the dining room, that gave him the most
satisfaction, so he enrolled in culinary school. A stage
in France, at the Café de Paris in Biarritz, sealed the deal. He
came back to the States eager to graduate and re-start his career,
this time behind the stoves.
the good press, it was a wise decision. Philadelphia Magazine's
Teresa Capuzzo wrote, "One exclamation of delight rolls over another
as we devour the sautéed filet of John Dory, a rich, soothing dish,
served with mashed potatoes studded with big pieces of rock shrimp."
Susan Hagen of Philadelphia's City Paper called the food
"divine," especially Lhulier's appetizer of French asparagus with
wild mushrooms and arugula. And The News Journal's Eric Ruth
found a real "treat" in the tiny tuna and salmon cakes, "meaty,
and blessed with a deep, smoky flavor," which were about "near perfect."
Ditto on the pan-roasted Arctic char with caramelized Vidalia onions
and a buttery Cabernet sauce—"a swirl of interesting textures
and flavors"—and a favorite of Delaware Today's Mark