Reno’s French quarter

Photo By David Robert

A few weeks ago, as Michael and I walked through Reno’s arts and commerce district, we saw that the building that used to be home to La Veccia was being renovated. We could tell that someone was putting care and attention into the remodel. The floors were being done in rosewood parquet, the tables and chairs were neat and the small bar at the back was tidy and inviting. We both agreed that this area needs nice restaurants and decided to check it out when it opened.

For us, walking into the Bistro was like being transported to somewhere else—a little dinnertime escape is a good thing. The atmosphere is warm and contemporary. The voices of the diners merge into a welcoming hum and the wait staff, dressed in white shirts with red vests, give you the sense that you will be taken care of.

We decided to start with a little celebration, so we shared a glass of the Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Brut ($7.25). On the recommendation of friends, we ordered the game bird paté ($9). The delicate flavor of the paté was nicely complemented by the crusty French bread.

After the memorable paté, we carefully studied the exotic items on the menu. I considered several options: Roasted duck à l’orange ($21), braised lamb shank ($17.50), frog legs ($16.50) or rabbit with Dijon mustard ($19). But while the National Pork Board calls pork “the other white meat,” I call rabbit “the other, other white meat.” So when I saw rabbit on the menu, there was really no contest.

My dish was served with herbed buttered noodles, sautéed Swiss chard and delicately sliced carrots. The rich Dijon sauce enhanced the delicate flavor of the rabbit.

Michael had the slow roasted salmon in red wine sauce ($16), which came with potatoes au gratin, sautéed Swiss chard and carrots. Both dishes were beautifully plated.

Swiss chard, not usually served as a side dish or even available in restaurants in Reno, is a heartier-than-spinach green vegetable loaded with beta carotene. It was delicious.

In addition to our waiter, Kemal, we were attended by a sommelier named Jacques. When Michael told the wine steward that he wanted a red wine with his salmon, Jacques immediately suggested a glass of the DuBoeuf Beaujolais Villages 2001 ($4.50). His selection was right on: The light, fresh berry notes in the wine complemented both Michael’s salmon and my rabbit.

For dessert, I chose the crème caramel ($4.50), which was simple, elegant, creamy and delicious.

Michael selected the wonderful French favorite tart tartin ($4.75). Chef Bill gave a new spin to a French classic. Tart tartin can be simply a flat tart with a single layer of sliced apples forming a circle atop the tart; the tart tartin at the Beaujolais Bistro comes as an entire halved baked apple atop a slice of crust. At first, I mistook this dessert for the poached pear, but Kemal assured us that it was indeed the tart, explaining that dishes vary depending on the restaurant.

The proximity of the tables allowed us to hear the conversations of the well-heeled, well-coiffed patrons around us. We overheard banter about foundation dinners, the new museum—and one woman even spoke of the “superior people” she’d encountered while traveling.

When we left at 8 p.m., the dining room was filled—and there were a number of notable faces in the crowd, including a longtime city councilman and a casino owner or two. Throughout the evening, there had been a buzz around us. Everyone wanted to know who the chef was. It was Chef Bill Gilbert, known from several local restaurants, like Marie’s Bistro and Galena Forest Inn.

Bon appetite!