Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bistronomic


If it isn't already obvious through looking at my posts, I have to admit that I have a bias for French food.  Having said that, I first encountered Chef Martial Noguier as the first Executive Chef of the late lamented one sixtyblue where while he was more or less doing American food, he was very much an advocate of eating seasonally.  After leaving one sixtyblue, he went to Cafe des Architectes where he served modern takes on classic French fare in a modern space.  Last year he opened his own space, Bistronomic, a contraction of Bistro, gastromy, and economic where he serves modern takes on classic and seasonal bistro fare and does it relatively affordably.  The space is obviously a bistro with dark wood furniture and floors, a small bar at one end and tan walls and ceiling.  The hanging lights are of a modern design.  The four lights are large and round with white around the outside circumference and brown on the bottom.  On one side wall, there are large mirrors which open up the room and on the other there is a half wall opening to another dining room with red walls and classic looking black and white photographs of people and city life.  When I came for a weekend lunch, there were a few people here but it was by no means busy.  I was seated in one corner of the dining room next to a mirror which gave me a good look of the dining area from several vantage points.  Looking at the menu, I saw several things that sounded really good.  I decided to start with something that was classically French and continue with something that I have liked since the first time I tried it in France over 20 years ago.  I started with a Chicken Liver Mousse that was served with Dijon Mustard, Baguette Croutons, a salad that had hazelnuts, apples, arugula, fennel, and a nice vinaigrette, and some very nice and tart Cornichons ( baby gherkins) served on a piece of slate.  This isn't nearly as unappetizing as some people might think and as a matter of fact, it tastes very good.  The mousse was very creamy and had a light flavor.  The way that you eat it is to take a crouton, spread it with a little mustard, add a little mousse and topped with the greens.  It's like a small open-faced liverwurst sandwich although not as strong.  I actually ran out of croutons before I ran out of mousse but my waitress was nice enough to bring me more (without my even asking).  It was a good start and it got me ready for my main course.

As I was having lunch, I decided to go with a sandwich that is served all over the place in cities throughout France.  I ordered a Croque Madame which is a Croque Monsieur with an egg.  What is a Croque Monsieur?  It is very simply, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.  Typically, the bread used is also egg soaked but that isn't an absolute necessity.  My Croque Madame was served with fries so I thought there was no reason to order a side, especially after starting with the Chicken Liver Mousse.  The first thing that I thought when I saw this thing was that it was enormous and I was wondering whether I would be able to finish this.  The second thing that I thought was that I was glad that I had silverware because there was no way that I was going to be able to eat this with my hands.  I decided to start with the fries to clear the crock that everything was served in somewhat so I would have some room to work on the sandwich.  I first tried a fry by itself so I could taste how it was before drowning the flavor in ketchup.  The fries were very crisp and I would be willing to bet that they were double fried to achieve a crispy exterior and a soft interior.  They had the right amount of salt and a distinct truffle flavor.  I did ask and found that truffle oil was added.  I then tried the ketchup and discovered that this was not Your Mother's Heinz Ketchup.  It was a house made ketchup with a distinct spiciness to it.  I knew that I liked the food that came out of this chef's kitchens but this just made me anticipate the sandwich that much more.  The bread the sandwich was built between was very thick, like Texas Toast.  It was egg-soaked like French toast before being grilled.  The ham was Neuske's, which is a gourmet pork farm, and was nicely salted and a little more "hammy" than your typical grocery store ham.  The cheese was a white cheese called Pleasant Ridge Reserve which is an artisanal cheese produced in Dodgeville, Wisconsin in the winter and is similar to Gruyere.  The sandwich also had a very nice b√©arnaise sauce added.  The egg, another layer of cheese, and lettuce topped off the sandwich.  I am not sure if it would have been easier to eat the sandwich if the egg, lettuce, and additional cheese had been between the bread but with the way it was it at least convinced me that I didn't want to try to eat it with my hands because I knew that I would probably wear as much as I ate.  I used a knife and fork to eat it and really enjoyed it, or at least as much as I could eat there.  It was so big that I ended up taking half of it home and enjoying it for dinner.

I really enjoyed my lunch here.  The space is very nice looking, the food was very good, and the service was exceptional.  In addition to my waitress who was very attentive with a smile without hovering, Chef Noguier walked through the dining area as is his habit to see how the customers were enjoying their meals.  I think it's a very classy move besides being a good PR move.  I will definitely be back.

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