I had decided to dine here after reading a small section in the St. Paul Pioneer Press that discussed how French-owned restaurants had been affected in lieu of the whole Iraq/UN thing. While Vincent is going strong, Pierre's has been hurting, and Pierre Gardien has received some hurtful remarks from ignorant people. I've included a link to the Pioneer Press aricle below.
I made reservations for 7:30, and showed up on time. But the restaurant had mistakenly written me down for 7:00, and had given my table away. I know that these things can happen, and I was very accomodating. They did have a table available, but it was near the bar, and I told the staff I'd wait. When I had made my reservation, I asked to be seated as far from the bar as possible. They do allow smoking at the bar, and although they promise it is well ventilated, you can never fully escape it. 15-20 minutes later, a table further away opened up. It still wasn't ideal, but we took it anyway. And, yes, I did have the odor of cigarette smoke infiltrate my dinner several times. When I go back, I will ask to be seated in the front of the adjoinging room since that appears the best place to hide.
The menu showed standard bistro fare - steak frites, duck confit, roasted chicken, mussels, poached pear salad, you get the idea. We split a cheese plate and salad to start with. The cheeses were all fairly mild, semi-soft, and cam adorned with sugared walnuts and apple sections. The salad was very nice - a pear poached in red wine atop field greens, grape tomatoes, ground almonds, roquefort, and very lightly dressed. For dinner, I had the duck confit, which came in a two-leg portion, turned roasted potatoes, and a light salad. The duck was expertly seasoned, and still had the skin on it, with was delicately crispy (not crackly crunchy, but just crispy enough to change the texture from what it originally was. The meat was tender, juicy, and flavorful. For dessert we split a raspberry charlotte. Pierre makes his own desserts. This one was more like a summer pudding. Cake-like pastry was obvioulsy in a mold and had been packed (and I mean packed) with raspberries - the juices of which had soaked into the cake. Very nice.
Service was a little spotty. We hadn't yet finished with our cheese and salads when we were advised that our dinners were ready. They did comp the dessert to make up for it, though, without our asking or complaining.
Although I brought wine, the wine list is carefully chosen, and includes half French, and half California wines. They are priced well.
The food was solid, and worth the price (entrees in the upper teens). Service coupld be improved, and I really wish they'd go smoke-free. It's a shame that the state which pioneered the Clean Indoor Act can't find a way to make restaurants smoke-free.