Me gotta go

Chef Josh Berreman knows his gnocchi.

Chef Josh Berreman knows his gnocchi.

Photo/Allison Young

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With a passion in his voice and a glow from the aura of his culinary energy, Chef Josh Berreman can excite anyone about this little bistro’s creative food. Berreman has a track record in this town. A product of the Glenn Hare Center at Reno High School, TMCC, Arrowcreek, Beaujolais Bistro, 4th Street Bistro, Brasserie St. James, then Mark Estee’s Campo before Chez Louie. (Estee owns Chez Louie.)

Don’t let the name fool you, it’s a very imaginative menu with a petite French flair. A small, simple eatery with seating inside for 40 but adding the foyer of the Nevada Museum of Art, there’s room for another 80. They offer a small spirits bar and a small, but well thought out, wine and beer list.

Chez also has a quartet of unique cocktails like French ’75 ($9): gin, lemon juice, Prosecco served over ice, or the Rue de la Liberte ($9) brandy, lemon juice, Elderberry liqueur, orange liqueur, sugar rim served up. Old Pal ($10) is bourbon, Campari, dry vermouth served up, and I decided to try the Ginger City ($9) vodka, ginger liqueur, lime juice, cranberry juice served up ($9). It was pink and tart with a little bite from the ginger and like the others, meant to be fun.

The big thrust is lunch, and it’s tailored more toward a lot of flavors and textures, and not over-served portions. There are also a few starters ($9-$15), soups ($8), salads ($7-$14); a kids menu ($8) and the main courses ($10-$16), painting a mental picture of tantalizing morsels with descriptive adjectives foodies will appreciate.

The chef eagerly presented me with the Parisian gnocchi ($13), and the aroma alone was sublime before the first bite. Not the traditional potato pillows rather a puree of pumpkin and butternut squash-type pasta, poached and served atop some blanched, finely shaved Brussels sprouts, with fresh bacon bits, pumpkin seeds and some crisped Brussels sprout leaves surrounded by a Sherry gastrique. The savory from the gourd dumplings, the texture and flavor of the delicate vegetables accented with the bacon treated my palate to a creamy medley of hearty yet delicate tastes.

The menu will change with the seasons, and specials are at the chef’s discretion and imagination. A special Berreman creation is an amazing duck confit set atop golden beets with shaved fennel, shaved apples, and arugula with lentil du pays (a type of bean). The duck had been in dry brine all night, and it’s the chef’s proprietary recipe.

The crisp skin had a mild, herbaceous, saltiness but ever-so-slight sweetness. This easily carried through to the moist meat without any greasiness, often a fault of duck. Again, it was not a huge portion, but remarkable flavor and completely satisfying … perfect for a lunch. The fennel added spice, the apple a bit of sweet, and the arugula was crunchy and subtly tart. The du pays was a nice distraction from the same-old, same-old starch and veggies and again, showcased the creativity of the chef.

Choosing a wine from a simple list was easy; most are by-the-glass ($8-$12). The bottle list covers a spectrum ($31-$230). I went with the 2012 Domaine St. Rose Rousanne-Marsanne-Viognier white blend, all elegant grapes. These grapes from southern France were picked at night to protect the juice. The nose is white melon, pear drops and sweet vanilla. In your mouth good acidity and balance up front is followed by rich, caramel flavors and a lush, almost creamy mouth feel.

When a chef is able to express himself artistically through his food like Berreman is doing, I know he’s trusting his instincts and staying true to his initial goal of expressing himself creatively. Try Chez Louie and see an artist at work.