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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Faux Pas Bistro: Are Smashed Home Fries a Faux Pas in a Bistro? That's The Least of Their Problems.

I really wanted to like this place. The location is great, the ambiance and open-air setup take me right back to bistros in Paris or New York and service was excellent. But alas, the food just didn't deliver. To be fair, the place just recently opened so line cooks are still "in training," we were told. But it held so much promise.
I mean, look at that incredibly photogenic burger with smashed fries, which, by the way, seem to be the fries du jour. But more on that later. Let's talk about this beautiful burger. No sooner had I bit into it did I discover the patty tasted good but it wasn't cooked right. Not enough redness. It was overcooked the first time and then the second time around as well. We didn't want to be too harsh so didn't ask for yet another round but...I won't belabor the point.

So the patty itself was flavorful enough with decent texture but again, it was somewhat ruined by overcooking. I also had issues with the works -- shredded iceberg lettuce, really? One, it was a royal pain to eat and didn't add much to the mix. Two, iceberg? Who does that for a $12 burger? Could hardly taste the roasted garlic aioli or the cheddar cheese. The sesame brioche bun was ok but it could have been less dense. Yes, I have issues with dense buns. And I just wanted to write that.

The "fries" were more like smashed home fries, which our server had warned us about but I had read the posts about these beforehand so it wasn't a surprise. I thought it was well executed -- even better than at Short Order at the Grove. It's true I not-so-secretly longed for double-fried-in-duck-fat-kind of super crispy "frites" you get at bistros (think Schillers' Liquor Bar in New York) but I still appreciated these for their uber crispiness. And the fact they weren't over salted, a topic I have been known to rant about.

Let's balance the bad with the good. Look at adorable the bread "basket" arrived at our table with a side of tomato spread. The tiny breads were nice and warm although they weren't stellar, they were good, especially with the spread.

I must now judge the Margarita pizza, or Pizzette Marguerite. Not sure it's the correct use of the word, pizzette, at least according to a rudimentary search I did to figure out the difference with a pizza. It's apparently plural for pizzetta, a small pizza in Italian but maybe it means something else in French.

Anyhow, it had none of the airy lightness I recall from the OG pizza in Napoli. The dough was too thick and doughy. There was far too much cheese that made it even heavier. The balance of dough, cheese and tomato sauce was all off. Sliced fresh basil on top was the only decent thing about it and that's not saying much. So we took it back...They were thankfully very gracious about not charging us for something we weren't going to want more of.

So gracious were the host, server and sous-chef that they gave us a pineapple tart with chantilly cream on the side on the house. Again, I didn't love it but it was very generous and nice of them to make sure we left happy. The tart was too sweet and dense but I liked the pineapple brulee that I cracked with the tip of my spoon.

My final rant about the place is the green salad, which was absolutely nothing special. Ok, it's just a starter salad but some tossed greens and two pieces of tomatoes doesn't make a salad. Disappointing for a fancy bistro that presumably takes its food seriously. Why not try to wow us with a seasonal salad like the incredible carrot salad I had recently at Son of a Gun? Bo-ring.

I'll probably be banned from this restaurant as they'll know it was me. I'm not sure I'll be returning though because while service was really attentive and I appreciate them going out of their way to accommodate us, they really need to work on the quality of the food and execution. Like I said, I really do want them to succeed. Honest to God.

But for pizza, must confess that I'd much rather go to Olio a few blocks away. And for burgers, well, you know my faves (Houston's in case you don't!).

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