For a small place, Citronnelle embraces a big world.
Step into this spot at 110 W. Orange St. — just steps from downtown Lancaster’s Gallery Row — and you’ll find food that takes its inspiration from France, Asia, the Dominican Republic and Pennsylvania Dutch Country itself. And then again … well, read for yourself this description from owner/manager Susan Louie, who was born in Hong Kong and is the daughter of a chef and restaurateur:
“(We practice) classic French preparation using local and season ingredients with touches of global. We’re locally sourced, and globally inspired! I want to keep it exciting.”
That’s reflected in the menu at Citronnelle, which is crafted by Chef de Cuisine Rafael Perez. He’s of Dominican heritage but grew up near Brooklyn’s Chinatown. There, he was exposed to the tastes of China, Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia. Perez is also Louie’s husband.
Entrees top out at $35 for an eight-ounce Prime Bistro Filet Steak. It’s rounded out with “smoked leek and potato puree, crispy kale, king oyster mushroom and whole grain mustard demi-glace,” as the menu describes. Otherwise, most entrees average under $30.
A sure bet is the Pork Belly a la Japonaise, served with an addictive purple sweet potato puree. It’s just $13 and you will be well fed. The dish melts in your mouth and you hardly need a knife to cut it. If you are from Lancaster County, you might confuse the name “pork belly” with “pig stomach,” but don’t be scared off — it’s not the same at all.
A name closer to Citronnelle’s French name is the Classic Cassoulet. Now when most people think of “French cuisine,” they think of something formal. Not so with this dish, which stars a crispy duck leg confit, Berkshire sausage and navy beans. It’s $27 and will feed the French working man in all of us.
“French food with giant Lancaster portions!” Louie says with enthusiasm.
France has good company; there’s also an entrée of Free-Range Australian Lamb Loin, paired with Peruvian purple potato gnocchi. It’s $29, and it’s literally a dish that will take you south in two different directions.
Other countries also get a shout-out on Citronnelle’s menu. Wednesdays are designated “Global Wednesday” and for a $39 prix-fixe price, you will see the dishes of Spain’s Basque region (March 18), Malaysia (April 1), Corsica (where Napoleon came from; April 15) and Bella Italia, as in Italy, (April 29).
One thing you won’t see on the menu is alcohol. Citronnelle is BYOB, as in “bring your own bottle.” That can save you some money, though there is a $5 corkage fee to open that bottle.
The restaurant also offers a pre-theater prix-fixe menu for $39; it’s three courses and is served between 5 and 5:45 p.m. That’s handy if you are walking around the corner to the Fulton Theatre or the Ware Center.
Be sure to reserve; as mentioned, Citronnelle is a small place. Sunday brunch, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. is also available; the most expensive menu item is $15 for the Croque Madame Burger.
Besides the cuisine, you can have a casually good time at Citronnelle. The décor is sort of a take on contemporary French design. And both Louie and Perez enjoy company.
“We’ve had some of the most fun guests!” Louie says.