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San Francisco Bay Area

Excellent French/Med at Brigitte's (long)

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Excellent French/Med at Brigitte's (long)

Alice R | May 30, 2003 02:27 PM

Hubby & I went to Brigitte's in Santa Clara last night, our wedding anniversary. Brigitte's was reported in a ChowNews last year, but I wanted to post something more recent.

The place is located on Saratoga Ave. in Santa Clara. A few patio tables in front, face a park/golf course across the street. Inside, the ambiance is typical French bistro- creamy yellow walls decorated with framed prints & photos, and a string of red, white & blue balloons lined each wall (I think leftover from their first year anniversary last week). Blond beech chairs & tableclothed tables were spaced a little close but typical for a bistro. Since the place was less than half full, we never felt close to other diners.

There were 2 servers and Brigitte herself went around the room chatting with every table & sometimes bussing plates. The servers seemed very knowledgeable about the menu and were very pleasant (we did not drink wine, so not sure about their wine knowledge). It was sometimes hard to get their attention though.

The menu is on their website (link below), but because slight changes are regularly made, it’s not always current. The cuisine is more of a Cal-French or Cal-Mediterranean, which I like since I'm not a fan of the veal, steak and lamb I've seen many other French places focus on. What I really like is that most items come in a choice of regular size, or petite, so you can build a selection of petits plats here.

I started with the Arugula salad with shaved summer truffle ($6.25 for the petite) and hubby had the Creamy cauliflower soup ($5.50 for the regular). My salad was served in an oversized deep dish, but the portion was the expected petite. The arugula was dressed with the perfect amount of white wine vinaigrette. There were about 5 or 6 shavings of truffle, and a few shavings of parmesan. The truffles were very subtle, and I've never had summer or winter truffles before so I can't say whether these were good. But I enjoyed their nutty texture with the arugula. The soup was really good, criss-crossed with bright green and yellow oils which I couldn’t identify. The green oil was actually not basil oil, and the yellow oil hinted of a crab roe taste.

I had the vegetarian plate of the day ($14 for the regular). I wanted to see if they really used the freshest produce touted on their website, and was not disappointed. My plate had fresh shelled peas, snow peas, and string beans, sauteed with pine nuts, mini red radishes, mini cherry tomatoes and accompanied by poached & peeled roma tomatoes. The roma was exquisitely sweet with a perfumey rich tomato flavor (surprising for this time of the year). The whole plate was very well composed for a veggie-lover like me; my only quibbles were that a couple of the cherry tomatoes had a slight “moldy” taste and they de-stringed some but not all of the snow peas and string beans.

My hubby, being a salmon die-hard addict despite my lectures to him about the environmental repercussions of farmed salmon, had the salmon ($18), and I think it was farmed atlantic (tho we didn’t ask). But he said it was one of the best salmon dishes he’s had, and this is a guy who orders the salmon at practically every restaurant we go to. It had a perfect golden crust on top, and the texture was pure velvet without being mushy. There was none whatsoever of that smelly salmon taste that I always detect from Safeway/Albertsons salmon, or even sometimes at other restaurants we’ve been to. It was served atop the same peas/snow peas/beans that were on my veggie plate. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t find anything too salty (I’m a light-salter), nor did I need to add pepper to anything, which I usually do (a shaker & mill were at our table).

We were served & were refilled a small basket of “pain de campagne” type bread, with slivers of green olives inside. It was sourdough, something I didn’t expect from a french restaurant (I grew up eating baguettes, and don’t understand the prevalence of sourdough here in CA). The server was very nice & prompt about giving hubby a little dish of olive oil when he requested it, something I also didn’t expect from a french restaurant (I’ve eaten too many times at Baker Street Bistro you see). The olive oil was superb, with a slight grassy flavor that I love that some may find too strong.

During our meal we asked Brigitte where she gets the excellent produce, and she said they have a producer that supplies only restaurants (she didn’t name names). She told us the story that the owner of that produce company saw there was this one restaurant that kept ordering such small quantities of each thing (a first thing he’s seen), so one day he came to eat to Brigitte’s see what that was all about (he left very impressed). I find it hard to believe that that produce company hasn’t before gotten orders for only a little at a time in order to serve the freshest possible food, but maybe the “freshest possible” mentality is slow to come to the South Bay?

For dessert, I ordered the chocolate pot de crème (which comes in a petite size, $3.50), and hubby had the chocolate molleux (molten cake) served with capuccino ice cream ($6). When I tasted mine, I realized I was served the coffee pot de crème in the large size, and since I get wired very easily, I looked for our server to ask for the correct chocolate petite one. It was hard to get his attention, so I spoke to the other server, and he was very nice about fixing it for me instead of asking the other server to do it. However, the phrase “well you asked for it” came to mind after I tasted the chocolate one- it was just ok and more sweet than bittersweet, with a very slightly lumpy texture, whereas the coffee one, even though I only had a spoonful, was lusciously silky and creamy, with the right amount of bittersweetness. The molleux had good chocolate flavor but was a little dry (only a small part of the middle was molten). We have yet to find a chocolate molten cake as heavenly as the one at Anzu (yes, the Japanese hotel restaurant), despite ordering it whenever we see it on a menu. We ordered coffee, and it was the dark, ultra strong brew I completely expected it to be. Heavenly and brought me back to summers in France. My decaf was just as good as the regular to boot. We sat with empty cups for quite a while before the server asked if we wanted another cup, but by then we had paid & needed to leave.

Our total was $73 after tax & tip (we had no wine). I hate to end with the now cliché phrase that this place serves up simply prepared dishes with the freshest ingredients, but it really does. All the elements, including the sauces, were simple, but taste like you’re getting a really fancy meal. They are holding wine talks every other Saturday starting this weekend and through June (in May we had just missed their chef demonstrations). We’re not big wine drinkers, but we intend to come back in July for Bastille Day.

Link: http://www.brigittescuisine.com

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