Bistro Bordeaux is so unassuming that even after walking past it dozens of times, I am a little afraid I might not be able to find it. Located just east of Whole Foods on Church, this cozy French restaurant is romantic without being pretentious. Our plates did not match and the fresh baguette was served plainly in a brown paper bag. The simple presentation focuses your attention squarely on the food. In this case, that’s a good thing.
On Saturday night, the restaurant was packed from 5:30 p.m. onwards. When we left around 8 p.m., there were still people pouring in — a reservation is a must. Most patrons were in the 50+ demographic, but this would be the perfect special-occasion date for younger Francophiles.
Our server Venus, though not French, was very lovely just the same. She gave great recommendations and somehow graciously materialized whenever we needed her without being overbearing.
I started with the Coeur de Laitue, a Bibb lettuce salad with champagne vinaigrette and fresh herbs. Very simple, and the lettuce was fantastic. It was the first time I ever had to use a knife while eating my salad because the leaves were so big and lush.
The Bouchot mussels were prepared in a sweet and tart verjus, adding just enough flavor to the freshly steamed mussels. French food is often stereotyped as heavy and butter-laden, and while the buttery steak frites were well-received, the mussels surprisingly stole the show. It was refreshing to taste a variety of foods prepared so well.
Our meal was wonderful from start to finish, with dessert leaving everyone particularly satisfied. At Venus’ recommendation, we had the crème brulee and dark chocolate mousse. For me, a dark chocolate addict, the mousse was heaven. Made with pure dark Valrhona chocolate, this mousse is dense with rich chocolate flavor and not at all too sweet. The cooking vessel was brought to the table, where a serving of chocolate mousse was spooned out and drizzled with raspberry coulis. The coulis adds a tang to the mousse that lifts it to divine. I will never be able to eat a Chocolate Raspberry Fudge Balance Bar again.
The owner, Pascal Berthoumieux, who recently won a Time Out Chicago Eat Out Award for Last Living Maître d’, was even kind enough to stop by and make sure we were enjoying our desserts.
Bistro Bordeaux has been open since December, and I cannot believe it’s taken me this long to visit. It deserves a spot on my very short list of great upscale dining in Evanston.