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Restaurant Report: Bistro Jeanty - Yountville (long)

Jennie Sheeks | May 20, 2002 05:18 PM

Saturday evening I joined friends for dinner at Bistro Jeanty. As the evening progressed, Phillipe Jeanty returned from San Francisco and the other restaurant to lurk at the edges of the kitchen, discreetly observing diners and staff, as is his wont.

Having spent many of my dining dollars there in the last year has made me poor but well known to the staff. Consequently, shortly after being seated, a small plate of croutons, each topped with a generous spoonful of creamy duck pate was presented to the table, complements of the house. This pate can be found on the regular menu, where it is served with a sliced pear, poached in red wine.

To begin, I ordered the Lamb Tongue and Potato salad, which has become a personal favorite. A former co-worker suggested it to me last year, and though I was put off by the thought of the tongue, I took his advice and was charmed. Plump, tender morsels of tongue, bite sized chunks of potato, and sprigs of frissee napped in a Dijon mustard laced vinaigrette, accented by a fine dice of red onion and tiny capers. Served slightly warm, this salad is rich, hearty and satisfying, the tongue similar in texture to hot dogs. Several at the table ordered the special Cream of Asparagus Soup with Crème Fraiche, and said it was simple and wonderful.

Then our server appeared with a salad, complements of the kitchen. This salad was offered as a special that night, and we were instructed to each try a few bites. Composed of frissee, sautéed duck gizzards, and candied walnuts lightly bathed in a bacon vinaigrette, it strikes the balance between richness and bright flavors. The duck gizzards were chewy and flavorful, tasting of duck and fat. The candied walnuts offered sweet caramel notes, laced with walnut tannins. The bacon dressing, which I think used red wine vinegar, was slightly warm, with that play of smoky bacon essence and tart vinegar.

After debating between the Steak Tartare, Sole Meuniere, the matter was then confused by the mention that one of my favorite specials was on the menu that evening; Braised Lamb Cheeks served on Penne Pasta with Artichoke and Fava Beans. Ultimately, I chose the simple comfort-food-esque Sole Meuniere. The sole is fresh, with a thin, golden, buttery crust on the outside and creamy white flesh inside. The portion is generous, and draped over a bed of buttery, salty mashed potatoes. Tiny capers flecked the plate, and slice of sautéed lemon perched atop the sole. There’s always enough for lunch the next day!

Having safely stowed half the Sole Meuniere in a doggie bag, I ordered a Lemon Sorbet, served in hollowed out lemon. As my father said when he tried it in December “This is what lemon sorbet should taste like”. It’s creamy and smooth, balancing sweet and sour. A few at the table ordered my other favorite dessert at Jeanty, the Vanilla Ice Cream with (homemade) Chocolate Sauce. The charm of this surely lies in the fact that the rich bittersweet chocolate sauce is brought in a little pitcher so you can pour it over the ice cream yourself (or just straight into a spoon!). This always inspires echoes of that childhood cry "I can do it myself!"

To accompany our meal, a 1999 Titus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 1992 Napa Valley Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, 1994 Napa Valley Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1997 Napa Valley Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon were all brought from one of group’s personal cellar. All the wines were balanced, with well-integrated tannins, lowish acids, bright fruit on the palate and enticing complex aromas.

The restaurant was crowded, and we waited for at least 15 minutes for our 6-top, thanks to an early group that lingered a bit too long. The staff got a little overwhelmed when we were first seated, so water refills and bread took a little longer than normal, but they were prompt in opening the wine, and promptly brought fresh glasses to the table for each bottle. Once the staff caught up again, the rest of the evening went very smoothly.

Bistro Jeanty
6510 Washington, Yountville
(707) 963-0103

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