Passing by Bistro Bordeaux on Church Street in Evanston recently, we were pleased to see the space occupied and happy customers seated inside. Outside a sign announced Sunday brunch.
Only a few months earlier a woman I know, originally from France, commented that Evanstonians just don’t support French restaurants. However, this French restaurant seems to be welcomed with open arms. (We know at least three friends who have been very impressed with their food, especially the onion soup which is served with Emmenthal cheese aged for 12 months.) It opened less than six months ago and began brunch service less than a month ago and one needs to make reservations a week in advance and Mother’s Day brunch is fully booked. How is that for support?
Leon and Barbara are brunch entusiasts and decided to review the newly offered brunch at Bistro Bordeaux for Chicago Splash Magazine. Approaching the restaurant from across the street, it looks as though it could be on a side street in Paris. It is low-key and unassuming but catches ones’ eye.
Growing up in Bordeaux with some time in Paris, owner Pascal Berthoumieux spent most of his life in Bistro’s and always dreamed of owning a bistro in Paris. However, once he met his wife to be at the Sorbonne, and then followed her to Champaign, Illinois he shifted his sights. Living in Chicago and working at Kiki’s Bistro, he continued planning a bistro of his own. When this Evanston site became available he could envision a Paris style bistro. Now realized, both locals and visitors are impressed with the Paris feel; the pictures, the 80-seat size, the charming ambiance, the service, and mostly the authentic bistro dishes overseen by Executive Chef, Frank Mnuk.
Visiting Yountville, California one year, Pascal’s wife took him to Bouchon to celebrate his birthday. He says this experience “blew his mind” and he realized how high the bistro bar could be set. He strives to push the bar higher still. Local and fresh are the bywords. Breads are from Bennison’s Bakery down the street, meats, poultry and produce from Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. On the menu I noticed the maple syrup supplier in Wisconsin, who, Pascal explained, supplies maple syrup on demand. And what delicious maple syrup!
From the Bistro Bordeaux website: The philosophy of the menu at Bistro Bordeaux is an expression of our French culinary heritage, for which we have a profound admiration. The support of our local farmers allows us to use the freshest produce and seafood, just as one would find in the markets in the south of France. The menu showcases the freshness of these pure ingredients through simple, flavorful combinations. At last, the long hard days of winter are drawing to an end, spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer. The first taste of English peas, radishes and asparagus and the pervading perfumes of lavender come to mind. Moreover, we also feel strongly about supporting smaller, family owned wineries. These boutique vintners bottle with their souls, and are sure to give a unique experience with each bottle. By offering these exceptional wines, it is our intention to introduce an exceptional find to our guests. We hope you enjoy the eating as much as we enjoy the preparation in the kitchen and wish you all “Bon appétit”!
The team at Bistro Bordeaux
And a word about the executive chef: "Our chef (Frank Mnuk, formerly of NoMI) has a fine-dining background, and we offer a lot of tableside service," he says.
“Cooking and creating are two of my deepest passions, with my cuisine best characterized by the simple idea of allowing ingredients to taste like themselves. My culinary imagination has brought a keen excitement to those who have experienced my artistry.”
Seated and searching the menu, it was really hard to make choices because we wanted one of everything. Pascal pointed out that the brunch menu includes starters that are also on the dinner menu. He said that the saumon is smoked in house and the Boudin Blanc, a white sausage, is also made in house.
We began our dining experience with two most unusual drinks from the “Juice Bar”, Barbara with Orange Carrot Ginger and Leon’s was the Cocktail du Jour which had watermelon as its base. Both of us noted the fresh, clean flavors with tiny bits of fruit but the ginger in mine was a “wake me up”. We thought these drinks were wonderful. Had we wanted Les Cocktails, we could have selected BB Bloody Mary, Mimosa or Bellinis. In addition, we could have selected from ten choices including Coffee, Chocolat Chaud, Orangina and iced tea.
The menu is available online and includes “Les Hors d’ Oeuver”, “Salades”, and “Les Petits Plats”. We focused on the “Plats Principaux”, Barbara choosing Oeufs au Gratin and Leon, more adventurous, selecting Pain Perdu aus Pommes and Oeuf & Boudin Blanc so he could experience a range of house specialties. We could have selected chicken, ham, pork, steak and much more.
Leon was in his element. The French toast was made from brioche bread soaked for a long time in crème Anglais and fried to golden brown with caramelized apples that were firm and flavorful topped with that wonderful Thorpe Farm’s maple syrup. The texture flavor experience was perfection. The sausage was not to be resisted.
It was flavorful, well seasoned, light, slightly browned and fine textured, delicious!
Barbara was very pleased to find a menu items that matched her taste and dietary restrictions. The Oeufs au Gratin was a dish that offered “two soft poached eggs baked with potato gratin, béchamel sauce and comte cheese. Tasting it was amazing in the textures and flavors that blended perfectly. Soft, firm, mild, zippy. And how do they get the egg soft but thoroughly done? One bite begged for another to follow until the plate was empty.
The flavors and textures were very pleasant and had a clean, pure fresh taste. However, the food was filling. Did that stop a dessert order? Of course not! But sharing seemed a good idea and luckily both of us hankered for the same delicacy- Tarte au Citron Traditionelle, Classic lemon tart, pinenut crust. This was just a little different than any other similar tart I have tasted. The filling was at once soft and firm. The flavor was perfect, tart enough but very pleasant. The crust was firm and a little crunchy.
And now we know why so many are flocking to Bistro Bordeaux. We will be among the crowd on a return visit to try more wonderful delicacies for dinner and brunch again and definately try more desserts.
618 Church Street
Evanston, IL 60614
Open Tue-Thu,Sun 5pm-9pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm
Brunch-Sunday 11:00 am until 2:30 pm
Photos: Leon Keer