We finally made it to the Epernay Bistro on Saturday night. We had previously tried to make reservations a couple of times before, but ever since the NY Times gave it a favorable review, Saturday nights have been very difficult (and it is a small place). On the night before Easter, however, getting in was not a problem.
The bottom line? We really enjoyed it. There is a nice selection of small plates and a limited number of entrees, and while this is not a place to be "dazzled" by intricate preparations and complex sauces, there is a real focus here on using quality ingredients and coaxing the best that the raw materials have to offer. Our meal went like this:
My wife had a salad to start - a nice mix with a mustardy vinegrette and a goat cheese croustade. I had a plate of delicious Noank oysters which came with both a standard cocktail sauce and a really good mignonette sauce. The salad was right on the mark and the oysters were sweet and very, very fresh tasting.
For our main courses, my wife chose another small plate - a very ample dish of mussels in white wine and garlic. Quite simply, they were fabulous - really as good as any mussel dish we've had in a long time. I had an entree from the regular menu - a pork chop milanese. This was the epitome of simple, well executed cookery. A lightly breaded, on the bone chop served over a salad (very similar to my wife's starter salad). All it needed was a squeeze of the lemon wedge that accompanied it. It was a wonderful contrast of a crunchy (not soggy!) exterior and a perfectly cooked, moist interior. The salad provided a perfect counterpoint to the main attraction...
For me, the biggest turn on was the wine list. While comparatively short, it was very, very interesting...not a chardonnay in sight! When our first choice was unavailable (they are apparently revising the list), they brought, unsolicited, a tasting of another selection, and when we did not care for it, they brought another!!! Parenthetically, most of the wines on the list are available by the glass and all of the wine prices are very, very fair. When we commented that we loved the wine program, the hostess (and I'm guessing, an owner) said that "it's all about the wine."
Given the limited menu (augmented by specials), Epernay is not a place that you could frequent on a regular basis without getting a little tired of the selection, but it is a real asset to downtown Bridgeport and both my wife and I agreed that we would be back soon.