Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

Dish of the Week: Moules Marinières at Brasserie Ten Ten

Something for everyone. Coming from your average middlebrow chain, that’s a suspicious boast whose translation generally amounts to a whole lot of nothing for anyone except those who privilege quantity & convenience over quality. Every last item (they’re not really dishes) on that giant menu, from the hoisin-chicken lettuce wraps & Cajun jambalaya pasta to the potato twisters & taco pizza, was green-lighted in a boardroom after market research showed how it would activate the salivary glands in 2.5 of every 4 Americans & then prefabbed offsite—where it bears little resemblance to the legit creation by which an actual chef somewhere had launched an accidental trend.

But there are indie establishments—run by such actual chefs—that inherently appeal to a wide range of diners. They too are mainly mid-priced neighborhood gathering spots, built on solid tradition rather than the shifting sands of culinary pop culture—such that the unadventurous eater is bound to find something familiar even as the rabid chowhound accepts their “authenticity.” Here in the States, they’re likely to be European/American; even now, when large swaths of the population have grown comfortable with Latin & Asian cuisines, there’s still a subset who won’t go near a taqueria or a pho joint—unless, perhaps, it’s Americanized to the point that then the subset who insists on the real deal won’t go near it. But your classic roadhouses & delis, your picture-perfect trattorias & bistros: those almost all of us can agree on, because they speak an honest language we’ve long since incorporated into our own. (In a few decades, the same may therefore be true of those taquerias & pho joints.)

I’ve quibbled elsewhere about the differences between a brasserie & a bistro (here’s a good cheat sheet); despite the name, Brasserie Ten Ten walks a line between the 2. But that’s irrelevant here; what’s important is that it remains true to the spirit of casual French dining, & in so doing, it welcomes your uncle from Cleveland who insists on meat & potatoes (steak frites!) & your connoisseur pal who knows it’s not bouillabaisse unless it includes rouille. Any creative license taken is in keeping with its setting in worldly yet locavore-minded 21st-century Boulder, just as it would be in France. Meanwhile, the warm, bustling space has a timeless aura; the service is crisp & clean; & the bar puts an equal focus on beer (as a brasserie would), wine (as a bistro would), & spirits (there’s your nod to to the cocktail-crazed time & place).

With the memory of a vibrant pesto-chicken & prosciutto salad I had there nearly 2 years ago (it’s no longer on the menu) still lingering,

I’ve been back twice recently—& the impression that Ten Ten has, after a decade, earned its place on Boulder’s short list remains. That’s not to say everything’s perfect—but everything feels right nonetheless. Check out the charming presentation of the brunchtime Bordeaux Scramble—eggs scrambled with local goat cheese, shiitakes, fines herbes & a beet reduction, then topped with a small arugula salad & a scallion biscuit. The latter didn’t seem to have popped straight out of the oven, being a little too cool & crumbly, & the casserole itself needed a touch more salt, but it was the right idea.

Or consider the kitchen’s sly take on huevos rancheros, also a brunch item, with white-bean purée instead of frijoles refritos & avocado pistou instead of guacamole, plus gruyère &, get this, “porc green chilé”!

A raw bar’s essential to the brasserie theme, & Ten Ten does oysters right, with one of the nicest mignonettes I’ve ever tried, the vinegar mellowed a touch by a slew of herbs.

Though it looked a little slapdash—& my vote would be for thinner crostini, for a better fish-to-bread ratio—a plate of marinated white anchovies proved a fair deal for $2.

But the moules marinières (pictured is a full portion; a half-portion’s also available at happy hour) blew my mind.

Traditionally, the simple broth of this Normandy classic is based on white wine, butter, shallots & parsley, but cream, garlic, other types of onion & thyme aren’t unheard of; all appear here, though crème fraîche replaces whipping cream. The addictive result combined an herbal, floral complexity with unexpected lightness of weight, & the accompanying grilled bread was comme il faut—crusty, chewy & built to sop.

Now, there’s a whole dinner menu I’ve yet to explore—but given Ten Ten’s staying power, I know I’ve got time.

Brasserie Ten Ten on Urbanspoon

Noshes for the New Year: L’Atelier’s Salade Niçoise

Straight up, L’Atelier in Boulder isn’t really my tasse de thé. Though I know what I’m about to say is positively gauche for a food writer to admit, French cookery in the Escoffier vein tends to kind of bore me. However rich & beautiful, it’s so cooked—it lacks rawness & soul. (Unlike the generally more rustic cuisine of the regions surrounding the nation’s capital, & with the exception of stuff like steak tartare, whose origins are murky but probably not Gallic anyway.) And though I’m sure Radek R. Cerny is every bit the culinary artiste the restaurant’s tagline or subtitle or whatever you’d call it claims him to be, & further recognize that his repertoire isn’t devoid of contemporary flair, it hews closely enough to the classic model, especially at lunch (pâté, coq au vin, steak au poivre), that I just can’t get into it—not least considering the rather dainty, linen-&-porcelain environs, in which a klutz like me feels on constant guard.

All that said, L’Atelier’s Niçoise salad does the trick. Granted, Nice is not Paris; it’s in Provence, where the food is Mediterranean in character. For that matter, this is not even a classic Niçoise, which contains neither seared tuna (it’s either canned or absent in favor of anchovies) nor potatoes (but rather bell peppers); I believe there are some quibbles over artichoke hearts versus green beans as well, though they’re minor. What this is, except for the choice of arugula over Bibb lettuce, is the version Julia Child popularized—& besides being pretty & precisely prepared & dressed in a fresh, simple vinaigrette, it’s perfect for the diet-minded individual insofar as the ingredients aren’t bite-sized. Instead of mindless shoveling, you have to cut them up, & spear a little bit of everything onto each forkful, & consciously experience how well they work together.

Slowing down & savoring, they say, is the key to better eating habits; my own mantra, however poorly practiced, has long been: “Appreciate, don’t anticipate.” I’ll keep this New Year’s mini-series going for the nonce in hopes of finally abiding by it, while offering a glimpse at local restaurant dishes that don’t break the scale for my fellow resolution makers.

Dish of the Week, Salad of a Lifetime: La salade du Périgord at Restaurant Côté Cuisine, Reims, Champagne

Lest you’ve been pining for the fjords of this blog, I’ve got a backlog of sweet posts on the other side of these deadlines—and, oui, oui, on the other side of this press trip to Champagne. Though this technically belongs on Globeater, what the hell.

‘Twas here that I polished off this “salad” of gizzard confit, smoked duck & foie gras en croûton, with some apples and greens thrown in for propriety’s sake. Mon effing dieu, click to enlarge.

Dish of the Week: The Mateo Burger

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been to Mateo, but the memory that I’d dug it was crystal clear. And now that it’s right across the street from my new office, I suspect I’ll be thanking it for many a future memory.

Including an ultra-vivid one of this burger,

which pal K & I split (along with an order of the minestrone-like soupe au pistou—the Provençal version of pesto—& a side of kale chips, fried to a crackling transluence & slick with oil & salt.)

I’m not a burger buff by any stretch, but Mateo’s thick-pattied beauty could make me one. It’s everything a burger should be, intensified: the medium-rare Colorado sirloin that much juicier & sweeter in & of itself, enhanced all the more by caramelized onions & a tender, buttery brioche bun; the addition of gruyère (or blue cheese if you prefer) providing a touch of salty nuttiness. The crisp-fluffy golden fries, too, are comme-il-faut, accompanied by garlicky aioli with the texture of butter.

Kicking it all off with Robert Sinksey’s lively Vin Gris of Pinot Noir in the longest-stemmed glass I’ve ever seen

made for a lunch break that was, apropos of nothing, downright celebratory.

Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar: C’est du vrai de vrai

That Le Grand would be le great was a given from day 1. Between owner Robert Thompson, whose vision is unwavering, and chef Sergio Romero, whose talent is indubitable, the brasserie-style downtowner simply couldn’t miss, any more than the superduo’s Argyll Pub could when it opened, or will when it reopens.

Indeed, the French phrase comme-il-faut—“as it should be,” “how things are done”—here applies across the board, from the décor (twinkling Parisian vibe, check; red leather and mosaic-tile floors, check) to, bîen sur, the menus, with their emphasis on charcuterie and raw-bar fare, bistro and cheese plates, French wines and French-kissed cocktails (not to mention traditional absinthe service).

What I admire most about Romero’s cooking is, honestly, precisely what I could take or leave about everyday French cuisine in general—its straightforwardness. Maybe I’ve just grown jaded after a decade of food writing, but my tastes tend toward the off-kilter & the boldly flavored; I just don’t crave soupe à l’oignon or moules frites or steak au poivre the way I do goat curry or vitello tonnato or dan dan noodles. Yet Romero’s style is one of deceptive & profound, not one-note, simplicity; a year after eating the Scotch broth he served back at Argyll,

I still recall its equal depth & clarity of flavor. At Le Grand, too, I know from several visits that what on paper doesn’t necessarily make me go gaga is nonetheless likely to delight me wholly in reality—which is where it matters, right?

Exhibit A: happy-hour wings marinated in garlic, bay leaf & red-wine vinegar & paired with a crème fraîche-based dipping sauce. These wings have legs—a mahogany gloss & a subtle tang.

Then there’s the saucisse à l’ail, or garlic sausage, served over brothy lentils with pearl onions & carrots (pictured as both an entrée & a happy-hour small plate)—

earthy to the core, the sausage robust with its slight char, the lentils a touch nutty & so soothing—not just comfort food but restorative food.

The escargots are absolutely beautiful inside & out; where so many preparations emphasize snails’ sea-salty richness with lots of butter & garlic, Romero highlights their sweetness with less butter & a generous smear of parsnip puree.

By contrast, scallop-&-ahi tartare is so startlingly pungent that I’m still at a loss as to how he prepares it; asking our server got me nowhere. Yes, there are toasted capers, but they aren’t the culprit. Is the seafood smoked? I was convinced it was, but I was told no. Is there soy, miso, fish sauce? I don’t know. The accompanying béarnaise toned it down a little—not enough, I imagine, for the sodium-&-iodine-averse. Me, I’m all for it, though (or because) it’s a real mouthful.

Conversely, only the cassoulet has been a bit of a letdown—a little underseasoned & underdone, the ingredients not wholly melding. Truth is I’ve rarely been transported by restaurant versions of this dish, & I can’t help but assume that most pro kitchens aren’t equipped to prepare it the old-fashioned way, a process that takes at least 2 days. If anyone is likely to honor the tradition, it’s Romero, so let’s just say my verdict’s still out on this dish—I’d certainly give it another go. Sure is pretty, in any case.

Okay, the steak tartare was a slight bummer too, but only because the portion was too small to suit my greedy needs. Otherwise it was parfait, fried instead of raw quail egg & all. (I didn’t try the Director’s arugula salad with house-cured bacon, croutons & another fried egg, but I’m sure it’s something Romero can pull off in his sleep.)

Finally, having said that originality isn’t Le Grand’s be-all-end-all, I’d be remiss to note the exception: desserts. Aside from the signature foie gras crème brulée, classic profiteroles made new with bay-leaf ice cream instead of vanilla & eggnog anglaise in lieu of chocolate sauce, plus a zingy underlay of clementine chutney, are downright fabulous. The herb and tart-fruit notes, the crunch of the airy puffs, the tooth-thrilling chill of the filling—they’re far more complex than they have a right to be.

My high praise was rewarded by a complimentary dish of jalapeño ice cream whose recipe Romero’s playing with, which capitalizes on the chile’s initial sweetness & slow-to-build heat. I can’t wait to see what he does with it. I can’t wait to return, period.

Le Grand - Bistro & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Un premier coup d’oeil à La Merise

I couldn’t help but have my doubts about Argyll Pub’s successor in Cherry Creek; following on the heels of a smash success is a job for geniuses or fools, & most people aren’t the former. So far, mixed online reviews have given no indication of any particular brilliance on the part of the joint owners of La Merise—& the fact that, as we were told, they’re respectively from Lithuania & Latvia certainly struck me as a missed opportunity: why they didn’t open a Lithuanian-Latvian joint? That would have been awesome.

But, granting that 1 meal is insufficient to quell all doubt, it went some way toward reassuring me that this French bistro deserves a chance.

The décor hasn’t changed much, nor should it have, since Argyll already had the right vibe—maybe it’s a little twinklier, a little more Gallic in ornamentation, a little more feminine right down to the staff, entirely composed of sweet young things when the Director & I were there for Sunday brunch. The menu’s wholly traditional, which means creativity’s off the table & execution is all-important.

On that score, my chicken croquettes were the pudding the proof’s in.

The meatballs themselves were nothing but light, perfectly moist & seasoned, ground chicken, which is all they needed to be given their bath in a dilled cream sauce that was likewise comme-il-faut in texture (not watery, not gloppy), alongside gruyère-scalloped potatoes sliced ultra-thin for extra crispiness & root vegetables roasted to a T, really—so much deep, glazed flavor.

Rather clunkier in presentation was the Director’s pick, a rolled crêpe that struggled to breathe under a heap of hollandaise-drenched ham, poached eggs—1 broken on arrival—& Swiss. But so long as you took care to get a little of this & a little of that with each bite, the flavors came together nicely, classically, richly.

The bread basket isn’t as good as it should be, but the wine list is better than it has to be, & in the end I was rather charmed by the whole affair. Seems to me like the sort of place that could blossom with a little neighborhood attention.

La Merise on Urbanspoon

Meet William, The Man of the Moment at Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar

But first meet H, a gal pal newly arrived from Boston, who, like me, lost her heart to a Denver boy & wound up here. As my date to Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar for the opening last night, she & I found ourselves on familiar terrain: from its cavernous, high-ceilinged dining room, woody amid twinkling lights & red leather upholstery, to a menu awash in shellfish & charcuterie, we might as well have been back home at Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks. For us, the similarities were striking, & while the comparison may not mean much to you Denverites, it’s pertinent as far as the main point: Le Grand is sticking to the straightforward formula of the American brasserie, which in the past decade has become a neoclassic genre in its own right—all big, bustling, glittery spaces, a vintage Belle Époque-era aura, a bar that’s solid on all fronts, & deceptively simple, hearty French plats.

It also happens to employ William, with whom we were both smitten pronto. For whatever reason, he managed to hone in on us as gung-ho eaters, & not only kept the hors d’oeuvres coming but totally hammed it up for snaps. He’s a character, that one, so I’ll be seeking his seating section out.

I should note that we didn’t need the special attention. Grand openings & preview parties are usually shitshows, with a shell-shocked staff getting swarmed at every turn by a crowd for which the kitchen isn’t quite prepared—but not this one: there was plenty of food for everybody, so the pace was relaxed yet efficient, not hectic. Owner Robert Thompson, head chef Sergio Romero & crew have definitely hit the ground running.

Of course, the evidence that Le Grand’s likely gonna be a smash came first & foremost from the sampling of appetizers. While platters of roast bone marrow were comme-il-faut, sweet Kumamotos & creamy Barcats dared to diverge: oyster purists would have been appalled at the dollop of Fumé Blanc Béarnaise, but ’twas a happy surprise when the sauce actually worked with the shellfish, not against it. (Oysters with more complex, delicate flavor profiles might be another matter.)

Other faves included the richly garnished duck confit, the house-smoked salmon—above all for the smooth potato pancake it came on—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the funky, chunky head cheese made with beef as well as pork,

the heady combo of smoked sardines on toast slathered with duck-confit compound butter,

& the judiciously truffled crème fraîche atop frico (basically a parmesan crisp), its mousselike texture melting in the mouth to make new & fresh what on paper seemed passé.

Come to think of it, the only bite that didn’t make H & me do the fried-butter dance was the chicken liver-&-pork butt pâté, which didn’t quite have its seasoning down pat, coming across as a bit muddled & overwhelmed by the shallot compote.

But all in all, Thompson & Romero killed it. I’m already jazzed to return for the ultimate litmus tests: beef tartare & moules frites. If Le Grand passes those, we’re in business. Nice blackberries.


Lou’s Food Bar: The Second Time’s The Big Old Charm

So yeah. Somewhere between the chicken & waffles Steuben’s Brandon Biederman rustled up for the Mixed Tastes lecture at the MCA last Friday night—where my pal Adrian Miller gave a fascinating talk on the history of the dish—& the midnight pizza I’m pleading the Liz Lemon 5th on (more about that when I recover from the shame), I hit Lou’s Food Bar for dinner with Mo & Beth. My 1st impression was that my worst nightmare had come true (or 2nd worst, after the one about sleepeating)—that exec chef–owner Frank Bonanno was finally spreading himself too thin. After all, I figured, it had to happen sometime (with the specter of Boston’s Todd English, who began to lose his mojo not long after branching out beyond his first 2 restaurants, ever looming). If not at Osteria Marco, or Bones, or Green Russell, all of which I wholly heart, then when?

Well, I feared, with the 1st bite of the rillettes du jour—in this case pork. Even granting that, at their most basic, rillettes are nothing but the meat in question, the fat of the meat in question, water & salt (more complex recipes may include other spices, wine &/or garlic/onion/shallots), these were way too salty. Though the texture was gorgeous—as smooth as the cream you’d have applied to your face in circular motions after your evening bath if you were a starlet in the golden age of cinema, or that crazy cousin of my father’s who used to dab butter pats on her cheeks at Furr’s Cafeteria—we had to ask for extra pickled onions to balance out the salt. There’s a thin line between enhancement & compensation; accompaniments should offer the former, not the latter.

By that logic, however, I could justify the equally extreme saltiness of the duck confit under the egg in the salade Lyonnaise, tempered as part of a whole with bitter greens & more pickled onions. (On that score, however, I was outnumbered by my companions, who still found it too salty.)

Things got better, if not mind-blowingly awesome, from there. First of all, as a wink-wink gesture, garlic bread is nonetheless fuckin’ heartfelt! Second, as a serious gesture, the selection of 6 housemade sausages is solid. Bursts of cheddar accentuated the otherwise only subtly gamey aspects of venison—& I like it wild, so those were the best bites for me (though for non-game lovers the mildness will be a plus). And, as I’ve already noted in my most recent Dish of the Week post, the sour-meets-unctuous notes of the accompanying bacon sauerkraut really tied the room together (see: compensation vs. enhancement). Same went for the green-curried potatoes with the Thai pork-&-duck sausage (top left, below), which didn’t taste very Thai but did taste very rich. I like rich as much as I like wild. (That’s not, by the way, a double entrendre—I like my men to mostly watch movies & order takeout with me on an old couch.)

Then there was dessert. Given that the pie was from Bonanno’s own Wednesday’s Pie, we had to have a slice, right? Except that it was Friday. The chocolate–peanut butter filling was great—silky & fully suffused with nutty tang rather than merely swirled here & there, so that it was just sweet enough. But the crust was kinda…I hope I’ll never again have to use this word in the same post in which Bonanno’s name appears: hard, perhaps even stale, not flaky in the least. Finally, a quick glimpse (this description will matter later) at the cocktail list made me go huh? Yes, the offerings were clearly craft, containing quality ingredients, but they all swung fruity.

Anywhere else, I would’ve considered a mixed first-time experience a decent experience, a hopeful one. But in the same post in which Bonanno’s name appears, a mixed experience is a disappointment. So I had to go back pronto to determine whether it was a fluke on their part, a matter of excessive crankiness on mine—or whether Lou’s would, in fact, be the dent in Frank’s thus-far-shining armor.

OK, enough drama. My 2nd impression, in the company of none other than the aforementioned Adrian Miller, amounts to this: all’s well that ends really, really well.

Even if the rillettes, chunky with salmon this time, were still awfully salty, they weren’t quite too salty, enriched with housemade cream cheese. This time, then, the accompanying pickle—including super-garlicky julienned carrots & pearl onions, which I’m always happy to see—acted as a proper complement rather than a needed supplement.

Now, of course the mahi mahi on my fish sandwich was salty—it was blackened. Even so, the presence of the moist, sweet filet wasn’t lost in the mix of contrasts beneath its spicy coating: fresh, chewy, butter-toasted country bread; lots of crisp lettuce; ripe sliced tomatoes despite the season; & a generous smear of remoulade (which didn’t taste distinctly of the celery root it contains, but garlicky creaminess is garlicky creaminess; I had no complaints).

Speaking of Furr’s Cafeteria—this Oklahoman couldn’t help but be touched by the homely appearance of plate of Adrian’s fried chicken & whipped potatoes, as deliberate, I’m sure, as the wing & 2 legs were textbook: tender & juicy, the batter crunchy, virtually greaseless & judiciously seasoned (i.e. not too salty). Adrian—who is, after all, writing a book that may well turn out to be the book on soul food—observed that he actually likes his breading slightly less crunchy, a bit more “cohesive,” but he also explained that that was a personal preference, not an objective judgment call.

And then, again, there was dessert—warm brownie bread pudding awash in crème anglaise. And finally, my mind was blown.

So simple, yet so profoundly memorable—it was served with forks, but spoons would have sufficed. In a word, it was pure—of egg, of chocolate, of cream & vanilla, with a texture so soft it nearly disappeared on contact.

In the afterglow, I took a second glance at the drink list—& while the signature cocktails still didn’t do much for me, the list of house-infused spirits & syrups caused a double take: lavender, tarragon & black pepper, coffee…Now that’s more like it!

I should note in closing that even as I moved from doubter to potential devotee, I wasn’t once skeptical about the service—I got the same guy both times, & he was an unerring pro: cheerful, knowledgable, attentive, helpful. What I didn’t get was his name—but I discovered that he’s an aficionado of North Carolina barbecue, so there’s a clue to resting assured you’re in very good hands.

Lou's Food Bar on Urbanspoon

This Week on Gorging Global: Les Delices de Paris et Vous

Few, myself included, deny the importance of France to the history of cuisine per se; hell, the word itself is French (by way of Latin, bien sûr). But I have to admit that, given the choice between a meal at a classic bistro or something else—an Italian trattoria, a Cantonese dim sum joint, an Indian curry hut—I’ll gravitate toward the alternative. Elegant simplicity (to crudely oversimplify) is just not my bag.

Even I am utterly charmed by this adorable café/bakery run by real French people, however.

Vive le quiche!

Check it out here on the Mouthful, chime in about your favorite French pastry, & win the chance to contribute to a future post that profiles your favorite local chef!

What a difference a day (give or take 2 1/2) makes: Bistro Vendôme revisited

It’s heaven when you find romance on your menu, as the old song goes, & so I did upon returning as promised to Bistro Vendôme soon after a meal that had proven less comme il faut than my experiences at its sibling Rioja (so make that comme il Riautja) had led me to anticipate , the Director in tow. During an unexpected lull from the seizure-inducing chaos that this year’s Starz Denver Film Festival has been, I managed to whisk him off to Jennifer Jasinski’s petite Larimer hideaway for a brief tasting tête-à-tête that, while only strengthening my sense of Rioja’s superiority, at the same time raised my appreciation of its subordinate’s merits—above all the twinkling, dreamy mood it sets.

For one thing, service was not only as gracious as before but twice as smooth. By now any even semiregular rubbernecker of this here head-on(line) collision of culinary & narrative self-indulgence is probably aware that the Director & I far prefer bar to dining room seating for any number of reasons: the liquor is only inches away; we can bump knees; we rarely have to wait to be served, etc. etc. Here, however, the tiny barroom busted out all over with boozers, whereas the sweetly awkward, warmly lit table-lined corridor between the bistro proper & the adjacent storefronts was totally empty. I asked if we might be seated there; initially telling us, with regrets, that they were already cleaning up the area for the evening, the host did a deft 180° the moment I undoubtedly appeared to pout (must be some little girl’s daddy), reopening it just for us.

Before we’d ordered a thing other than drinks, we were brought an amuse bouche of mahi-mahi ceviche over acorn-squash puree. Speaking of undoubted pouting, I’ve complained more than once about too-quick-on-the-draw amuse bouche–slingers; IMO, our server’s timing was here perfect. A, our wine was already on its merry way, meaning she understood that 1st things came 1st; B, food was not only not yet on its way but not yet even requested except insofar as we’d indicated we weren’t planning to eat much—meaning the tidbit was being offered unconditionally, as a gesture of hospitality rather than calculated tit-for-tat.

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While a tad taken aback by its tartness—the citric acid of the fish marinade being stronger than the sugar content of the squished squash—I rather like being taken aback by tartness. (In fact, for my tastes, unlike sweetness, bitterness & saltiness, there’s no such thing as too much sourness; putting aside the occasional slug of mignonette or gin & pickle juice, I’ve been known to down lemons like oranges.)

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Having split piles of steak tartare in our time, the Director & I agreed the above wasn’t the most exquisite version we’ve ever shared—but it was far, far from the coarsest, being tied with lovely little satin bows like a sunny-side-up rather than raw quail egg (less practical yolk-mixing-wise, but more charming); a rim of basil oil; & slices of freshly grilled baguette rather than the more common tooth-chippers that are room-temp croutons.

Still bubbling in their baths of hot melted butter with garlic, shallots & herbs,

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their little heads covered in shower caps of puff pastry,

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escargots en croûte were as luxurious as they looked—as though they could have been presented with their own tiny flutes of champagne to the soft strains of a solo piano soundtrack.

The only letdown was a gratin of potato, leek & black truffle;

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while the latter was nowhere to be detected, the former was—like the sweet potato in the crêpe ordered during my previous visit—undercooked to the point of crunchiness. Spuds are not this bistro’s strong point.

What is, however, is the ease with which the experiences it offers unfold. Judging by both of mine, I’ve got to applaud the way time here appears to be measured in sips of wine.