Nearly five years ago, Cousin Carl and I dined at Bistrot La Minette, chef Peter Woolsey’s charming Queen Village restaurant. It was time for a re-visit.
Edward dropped me off. A gentlemangreeted me and who asked “Do you have a reservation?” Since I did not, he laughed “would you like to make one?” I was the only patron in the room at the time.
I was immediately transported to Paris with the sunny yellow walls enhanced by mirrors and art work. Lipstick red banquettes run along a wall with round hanging globe lights, reminiscent of Paris, from the high ceilings. Chanson after chanson, which was playing on the sound system, set the mood.
Our server mixed a Bluecoat martini ($12) for Edward and placed it in the refrigerator for cool keeping until his arrival. I asked him to invent a drink for me as I enjoyed a libation made with Saint Germain a number of years ago. He invented a new drink ($12): A French gin which was pale blue in color, mixed with Saint Germain, lemon juice and topped with a twist. It was uncommonly delicious.
Our server brought us warm bread and a ramekin of softened, slightly salted butter.
We began dinner with terrine de foie gras ($18) and sardines grillées ($13). I remember my first taste of duck liver years ago in Paris, and Woolsey prepared it perfectly. He set the seasoned duck pate on a slightly sweet brioche and served it with a fresh blueberry compote and grated cool endive. The sweet-and-savory contrast was a lovely marriage.
Grilled fresh sardines need just a bit of salt, pepper and olive oil. Four boneless beauties were set upon thick strips of roasted peppers and bathed in a light lemon vinaigrette. If you have never tried fresh sardines, this is the place to do it.
The wine list at Bistrot La Minette is carefully planned with a number of moderately-priced vintages by the glass and bottle. After a sampling two, we decided on a bottle of Mas des Capitelles ($36), a heady rich red that drank beautifully with our entrées and desserts.
Edward chose confit de canard parfumé au anis ($25) while I finally decided on steak au poivre ($30) simply because I have not enjoyed this French classic in a number of years.
Woolsey allows a duck leg to “cook” in its own fat for a few days before he roasted it to perfection. It was meaty and juicy inside and crisp on the outside. Crisp duck skin can be nirvana. The licorice-scented-and-flavored sauce enhanced the dish. A scattering of English peas and a bit of pommes puree, otherwise known as mashed potatoes, came with the duck. The potatoes were about the best you can get. They were creamy and loaded with butter.
I usually prepared steak au poivre with a boneless rib steak. Woolsey used a square piece of New York strip, which is relatively lean. It arrived medium-rare, coated in crushed peppercorns and napped in a light Cognac cream sauce. You might think the use of peppercorns here might overpower the sauce, but it did not. The ratio was just fine. My dinner came with duchess potatoes, which could have been hotter and several nicely seasoned pencil-thin asparagus.
Gâteau Opéra ($8) is one of my favorite deserts. It is fashioned with layers of almond sponge cake, coffee buttercream and coated in chocolate ganache. I found the cake a wee bit on the dry side, but the oval portion of Chantilly cream added a nice touch.
Since peaches are in season, we also sampled the tarte aux pêches ($8). A light, flaky pastry round was filled with ripe, sweet peaches, topped with toasted almonds and drizzled with a slightly sweet syrup laced with thyme. I enjoy sweets made with herbs and this one hit the spot. A scoop of apricot sorbet was included on the plate.
The service was impeccable. The staff watched the tables and helped each other, especially when it became busy.
I wish there were more French restaurants in the city, especially like the upscale, casual dining experience that is Bistrot La Minette.
Three-and-a-half tips of the toque to Bistrot La Minette.
Bistrot La Minette
623 S. Sixth St.
On May 27 and 28, Executive Chef Kenneth Bush, of Bistrot La Minette, 623 S. Sixth St., will commend Parisian bistrots’ fascination with comfort food options with a special menu.