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Restaurants & Bars 1

Le Bistro, Walnut Creek

Melanie Wong | Jan 16, 200403:05 AM

Last week’s rollicking discussion of cassoulet landed us in Walnut Creek’s little piece of France, Le Bistro, in search of any part of the holy trinity of the Languedoc. Regretfully, we had missed cassoulet night but were presented with a fairly extensive menu, which changes daily.

This was a belated New Year’s celebration, and we were soon toasting with the special bottle I’d brought along, 1990 Lasalle “Cuvée Angeline” 1er Cru Brut. Sending a glass to the chef/owner, Jean-Paul, and sharing with our waiter, put a rosy hue on the rest of our evening.

With our Champagne, I had the ladies’ purse appetizer and the gentleman, the escargot. The ladies’ purse was a heavy mousse of smoked salmon bundled up in two thin crepe packets atop a pool of green sauce (sorrel?) swirled with crème fraiche. It was okay, but not memorable, and rather pricy at $14. Better were the tender snails baked in parsley-garlic butter. The soft and spongy housemade rosemary focaccia was great for mopping up the butter sauce.

To assuage our cassoulet cravings, we ordered the baked lentils with saucisson d’ail, Toulouse sausage and lardon for our ration of pork fat and legumes and the lamb cassolette (not cassoulet) for our entrées. With these hearty dishes we split a glass of the 2000 Collioure, a spicy and very ripe red wine from Languedoc-Roussillon. The richness of the coarse-grained sausages and fresh bacon played well against the smoky tones of the tiny lentils. The cassolette takes its name from the cassole, the small ceramic pot used as an individual-sized baking vessel for the rich, cream-enriched lamb stew. Scented with fresh rosemary and a little too sweet from cream, carmelized pearl onions and carrots, the rustic taste of this house specialty took an elegant turn with its cap of light puff pastry. I liked both dishes, but again, $22 for the cassolette seemed too steep to me.

For dessert we had the crepe gateau and the chocolate mousse. The crepe cake was a wedge of a tall stack of thin crepes layered with orange butter and drizzled with a beautifully balanced tart-sweet citrus sauce. The fluffy, airy style of mousse was milk chocolate and light on the tongue. The servings were generous and best shared.

Overall, it was a good meal in pleasant surroundings. The balance of the more fanciful selections seemed off to me. If I had ordered more conservatively, I might have been more satisfied. The strength of the kitchen seems to be in the more basic and lower-priced dishes. For more elevated cooking, I’d look elsewhere.

Le Bistro
1606 N. Main St.
Walnut Creek

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