Restaurant week 2012: Round Two--The Bistro Voltaire. A classic french restaurant located in the scenic river north area with random and infrequent references to French philosophers in its cocktail list and decor. Go figure.
But why does France (finally) win something you ask? Well, mostly because their food was better. It was less ambitious food than Green Zebra, but at the end of the meal I was a happier camper.
Anyway, to begin I started off with that French gross-out-the-Americans classic, Escargots de Bourgogne, or snails in garlic herb butter served with puff pastry. It was presented in this wonderful little dish with six different wells for the snails, filled with the butter and topped with perfect cylinders of puff pastry. As most things drench in melted, flavored butter, it was delicious.
Matt also started the meal on an adventerous note, ordering the Terrine de foie de poulet, or chicken liver mousse terrine with cornichon (French mini pickles), cherry, apricot, pistachio chutney, and mustard with a toasted baguette. It was stomach-achingly rich but a small small of the mousse, balanced out by the lightness of the bread and sweet/tangy combination of fruit and mustard, was soul-satisfying in a way that only French food can be.
Second course for me was Parisian gnocchi with roasted whole mushrooms, winter vegetables, and buerre noisette. To make beurre noisette, or brown butter sauce, butter is melted in a pan until it the milk solids separate and fall to the bottom of the pan, where they darken and take on a nutty flavor. Then the parts are mixed back together. Together with the gnocchi and vegetables it was a comforting dish for a winter evening. Matt's choice, Coq au vin, or chicken braised in red wine, hit a similar, warming note.
Our desserts, Vanilla crème brulée and Gateau au chocolat (a molten chocolate cake with espresso ice cream and candied vanilla bean), were of a piece with the rest of the meal. French, not at all new or exciting, but for the first time in our two day showdown, I was ready and eager to steal as much of Matt's food as he would let me. And damn did it feel good having all that fat in our tummies walking back to the train.
So go France! This ones your's, guys. Savor it while you can.