Eat your heart, out Mickey D’s and B-King; you weren’t the first fast food restaurants, the Bistros were. “Bistro” is from a Russian word meaning “fast.” Small, intimate eateries developed in France during World War I, where simple meals were quickly served to soldiers fighting the “war to end all wars.” Today, they are everywhere in France, known as casual eating establishments serving fresh, hearty, simple fare along with wine. Fortunately for us, in the finest tradition, one exists in Carson City.
Gilles and Tina Galhaut opened this intimate 32-seat dinning room in 2006. Gilles came from Paris when he was 22, worked in San Francisco and Squaw Valley, and settled in Carson City.
The ambiance is simple, with tables close together in rows, very much like you’d find in the small, side-street haunts in Paris. Tina runs the front of the house, while Gilles creates in the kitchen. His discipline and drive are such that he changes the dinner menu every week. An entrée would be gone before this article was published, so I went with something remarkable and very French from the lunch offerings, which doesn’t change weekly.
Galettes ($9.25) are commonly called crepes—however, when made with buckwheat, they are correctly galettes. Galettes originated in Brittany in the northwest of France. That’s where Gilles’ mother is from, his inspiration and mentor as a chef. Buckwheat is a fruit and has a variety of healthful qualities, containing all eight essential amino acids and is also high in fiber.
Gilles pours the buckwheat on a professional crepe machine to produce a thin, 18-inch pancake. Onto that he puts a creamy mushroom compote prepared with onions, butter, a bit of heavy cream, Herbs de Provence and topped with Gruyere cheese and sliced, herb roasted chicken. It’s folded into a 6-inch square and finished with a splash of crème fresh and a dash of parsley. Four other traditional, savory filings are offered.
The texture is velvet, followed by an explosion of savory, sumptuous herbs, a mixture of thyme, rosemary, marjoram and lavender—Herbs de Provence. Flavors continue to burst with every bite, like fireworks going off in your mouth, with a cascading essence added by the mushroom and chicken mélange.
This dish is very well suited for a dry wine, and when you can select from a French list, the magnificent Loire Valley in central France is my choice. Although Loire is a land of white wines, it has some reds that are fruity and pleasant. Preston’s Wine Rule No. 4 is drink whatever wine you like with any food, red or white. I couldn’t decide, so I tried both.
Domain du Salvard Cheverny Blanc ’09 is $10. This white wine shows lovely Sauvignon Blanc character, offering refreshing notes of citrus and herbs on the nose. The palate delivers very lively acidity and ripe, white fleshed fruits; tangy and well-mineraled on the finish.
Pascal Janvier Coteaux du Loir ’09 was my red table wine for $9.50. It’s not much darker than a rosé. Remarkable aromas catch your attention as soon as you bring your nose. A whiff of white pepper is quickly followed by a lovely minerality, reminiscent of rainwater washing over limestone. Fresh strawberries follow, ripe and sweet, leading into a tart, bone-dry red-berry flavor that’s light-bodied but mouth-filling with a long finish. As Julia Child once pointed out, French cooking is “one of the world’s great arts” and Z Bistro is a continuing master’s canvas for all to enjoy.