French for all

Beaujolais Bistro has dishes for the adventurous and the finicky alike, but all agree on the superiority of the French onion soup.

Beaujolais Bistro has dishes for the adventurous and the finicky alike, but all agree on the superiority of the French onion soup.

Photo By David Robert

When my father says he likes a particular restaurant, it’s as momentous an occasion as the first time Mikey’s siblings (Remember the mute poster boy for Life cereal?) said, “He likes it!” Granted, my father’s tastes aren’t overly refined, but you can count on it when he says something is delicious. Cuisine that’s acceptable to freckle-faced 4-year-olds and food critics’ fathers is usually good-tasting food—from SpaghettiOs to cheese-and-spinach-stuffed quail. Dad gave the gold star of approval to Beaujolais Bistro after eating there.

The menu at Beaujolais is straightforward but eclectic. There are the petites assiettes, small meals that can be eaten as appetizers, and grandes assiettes. The petites include lamb tongue, cucumber and endive salad ($9.50), mussels mariniare ($11), escargots á la Bourguigonne ($9) and chicken liver and foie gras mousse ($10.50).

As my friend, Amanda, and sister, Amber, waited for the other members of our party to arrive, we devoured steaming slices of French bread and our appetizers, the goat cheese and tomato, eggplant caviar, and tapenade plate ($8.50). The dish came with tartines, small slices of toasted bread, upon which we spread the various toppings. The appetizer also came with a scoop of beet tartare, which was very cold and crisp on the tongue but immediately warmed the throat and the stomach upon being swallowed. The eggplant caviar was a briny, almost hummus-like paste with plenty of garlic. The goat cheese, mixed with a mild assortment of herbs, was the most flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese I’ve had.

The grandes assiettes consisted of lamb, duck and pork tenderloin options, as well as frog legs with herb butter ($17.50) and crisp veal sweetbreads, which Amber quickly learned were not breads at all but rather the seemingly inedible parts of the calf (thymus, pancreas, etc.) in a madeira truffle sauce ($23.50). Sweetbreads did not interest me, but my friend Bronwyn, whose mother often prepared sweetbreads for her as a child, said they were some of the best she’d had.

Before the main course, almost everybody in our party of seven had soup, either the special, asparagus, or the onion soup gratine from the menu. The asparagus soup ($4.50), though consoling, could have been almost any creamed vegetable soup, opulent and heavily salted. The onion soup ($6), however, was the highlight of the evening. It was as thick as stew, as gratifying as sex, and the cheese, melted over the entire raised bowl, gave it the appearance of an erupting volcano.

Service, presentation and ambiance at Beaujolais Bistro are all classy, unpretentious and entertaining, and the wine list is exceptional.

My main course of roasted quails with spinach and goat cheese in a port wine sauce ($26) was what my dad would jokingly call “to-die-for,” meaning it’s the type of food he and probably Mikey could eat for dinner every night for the rest of their lives. Nothing in the dish required what you would call an acquired taste. The quail was juicy and fleshy, and the cheese and spinach mixture inside was modest and velvety. The potatoes gratin on the side is an example of how potatoes should always be eaten. It’s a meat, potato and vegetable course that could please the Queen of England or the toddler in your family.