Paris in the Springtime: Evanston’s Bistro Bordeaux

First things first: Pascal Berthoumieux, the oh-so charming and dapper owner/maitre d’ of Evanston’s terrific new restaurant, is spoken for, so that shouldn’t be your reason for visiting the restaurant.

Instead, come to Bistro Bordeaux for the Parisian atmosphere, with the servers in classic black vests and long white aprons and the hot, crusty baguette, wrapped in brown paper that’s placed on your table with a crock of sweet butter.

Stay for the inspired seasonal bistro cuisine of Chef Frank Mnuk, formerly of Nomi (Chicago) and Bouchon (Napa Valley, under the tutelage of the great Thomas Keller). This was my second visit, and things have improved noticeably in a few short months.

Bistro favorites are well represented, from escargots to chicken liver pate served with pickled vegetables. The Tarte du Jour ($8.95), served with a small market green salad tossed in a sprightly French vinaigrette, was filled with spinach and Comte cheese (and roughly a quart of cream), lightly scented with nutmeg.

Soupe a l’Oignon Bistro Bordeaux ($8.50) was a meal in itself, blanketed with bubbly Emmental and Comte cheeses, the broth both beefy and winy. I hope they never take this off the menu; there would be an outcry if they tried.

Speaking of beefy, if you are a fan, do not pass up the Steak Frites ($22.95), a pan-seared flatiron steak with caramelized shallots and maitre d’ butter, cooked medium rare to order. But let’s discuss the fries, shall we? Wow. Thin-cut, skin left on, cooked in beef tallow, each one perfectly crispy yet somehow creamy inside. They are a marvel. If they don’t come with your dish, they must be ordered ($4.50). Screw your diet. Seriously.

The Gnocchi Parisien aux Legumes de Printemps ($16.75) arrive, and they look like French tater tots tossed with lovely, tiny spring vegetables. Prepared in the French style, they are actually potato-free, made instead from pate a choux (flour, butter, eggs, milk), and they are delicious.

For the pescatarian (hello, fish and seafood eaters, that’s you!), I recommend the Moules de Bouchot au Verjus ($19.50), sweet Maine mussels steamed with shallots, garlic, and white verjus (made from the juice of unripe wine grapes). You’ll be mopping up the sauce with whatever is on the table, plus you score a cone of those frites. Lucky you.

We also enjoyed the Thon aux Legumes de Printemps ($21.95), roasted Albacore tuna (white, not red!) surrounded by a spring veggie stew of fava beans, watermelon radishes, pea shoots and Meyer lemon.

Do not skimp on dessert, especially the Mousse au Chocolate Noir ($8.50), a deeply dark and velvety Valhrona chocolate mousse, served tableside from a terrine and topped with ruby red raspberry coulis. The Crème Brulee Traditionelle ($7.25) is topped with a spectacularly thin layer of caramelized sugar. The Profiteroles au Chocolat ($8), filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with dark chocolate sauce, were divine.

Yes, Pascal is taken, but if you play your cards right, he will come over and chat with you about your wine, or your meal, or whatever you choose. Actually, he stops at every table, but he somehow manages to make everyone feel special. His passion for the restaurant, and for your comfort and enjoyment, is palpable. That, combined with the food, will keep us all coming back for more.

Bistro Bordeaux
618 Church St., Evanston