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Bistro de la Gare report: good French in South Pas!

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Bistro de la Gare report: good French in South Pas!

Will Owen | Dec 16, 2005 11:38 AM

The parents-in-law treated my wife and I to a meal in a new South Pasadena restaurant I hadn't even known about, in the space at El Centro and Meridian that used to house a tearoom/antiques shop (same building as Nicole's). Delightful, welcoming space called, appropriately, Bistro de la Gare, since it's right at the Gold Line station. Our res was for 7:15, and we were glad to have one as the joint was pretty well filled up, and here it was only Thursday!

Charming man in casual dress took charge of our table - turned out to be the owner. Established immediately that everyone spoke French except me, which means that some of what follows will be hearsay...anyway, Papa ordered a Bourgogne, whose label I found uninformative, and since I didn't see the wine list all I know is that it was delicious. The menu is not huge, but there's plenty of interesting stuff at reasonable prices. Papa asked for the magret de canard, Maman and Ms. O ordered the John Dory, and I in a mad departure from South Beach discipline went for the entrecote (New York steak in this case) with fries, rare. I did manage to ignore the bread basket (slices of baguette only), at least at this point.

The food arrived with admirable speed, plated with a minimum of fuss but attractively, with sprigs of fresh thyme as the garnish. The fish and duck came with vegetables, in this case a bacon-wrapped bundle of green beans and broiled tomato on each plate, but my serving was simply a nice big steak and a giant pile of matchstick frites, with an absolutely divine green peppercorn sauce (look, honey - wet fries, just like The Hat!). Tania and I swapped bites and found our own and each other's choices to be excellent; Papa found his duck a bit tough but tasty, and after one green bean handed the rest over to me, as he regards as raw any vegetable that he has to chew. I found the beans perfect, with just the right layer of smoky bacon flavor, and the tomato reduced to an herb-accented custard.

As the dishes were being removed, we asked our host if we could have a cheese plate. Though there's none on the menu, we were very quickly brought a plate with small servings of five different cheeses, all surrounding a small salad of wild greens and herbs in a very tasty vinaigrette. There was a bland young chevre and some slices of another very ripe and pungent one, a fresh-tasting Camembert, a Pont l'Eveque, and another very flavorful white one whose name I never did get right. At this point I forgot all about ignoring the bread basket...we then concluded the proceedings with espresso for Papa and I; T. and her mom shared a plate of three apparently tasty profiteroles, from which I stole one of the accompanying poufs of whipped cream to garnish my cafe. Yum.

Did not get a look at the bill, of course, but I think a fair estimate would be around $35 each for the four of us plus tax and tip - all the entrées were right around $20, that very good steak being $18-some, a stone bargain. Our room was shared with the bar, and though fairly noisy was only happily so, and conducive to conversation. Very nice mix of families and dates, something I'd imagine to be typical. The proprietor and the parents conversed at some length, in French, and my wife thinks he said he was the former owner of Cafe Beaujolais, which would help to explain all those young French waiters and the jolly atmosphere. We will most certainly be going back, a lot.

Here's a link to the website, which unfortunately is less than comprehensive. I can't get the menu to come up, though that might be just my browser.

Link: http://www.bistrodelagare.com

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