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If I had, by some bizarre twist of fate, held the reins of power in this country, I would have espoused a uniquely self−serving immigration policy. I would have required parity between French and Italian immigrants.
After all, while the French and Italians have inherited what are arguably two of the greatest cuisines of Europe, and probably the world, in this city, you can hardly toss a MetroCard without it glancing off the entrance to a ristorante, trattoria or pizzeria, but good authentic bistros are few and far between. That’s why I am so delighted to make the acquaintance of Bistro Les Minots, the new “kiddos” on the block in Astoria. “Minots” is slang from the South of France for kiddos.
Bistro Les Minots is the 3−month−old venture of Parisian Yann Henriet, who works the front of the house, and Chef Henri Devegeux, who hails from Marseilles. Their vision is that of a classic Parisian bistro that combines the culinary hit parade of the city of lights with some specialties of the South of France. The setting is small, inviting and implies its origins without being an over−the−top French clichÉ.
In the Parisian bistro tradition, the carefully assembled menu fits all on one page. There is a blurring of the lines between hors d’oeuvres and entrees, with many of the offerings available in two sizes.
Escargots de Bourgogne, served in puff pastry with garlic, parsley, shallots and red wine or les cuisses de grenouilles en persillade, are sure to please the diehard Francophiles. For something a little more updated, try le tartare de saumon, a zippy mound of hand−cut raw salmon with mango, cucumber and ginger croutons, dressed in a cilantro vinaigrette.
Les moules (mussels) is a category unto itself here, betraying the chef’s Marseillaise roots. They can be had in large or small portions prepared three different ways: marinieres, steamed with garlic, shallots and parsley in a white wine sauce; Dijonnaises, steamed in a Dijon mustard sauce; or Provencal, with herbs and spices in a tomato sauce.
The light but deeply flavorful broth from the marinieres was intoxicating, and we could have dined happily by dipping the excellent bread to the exclusion of all else. If you go for the large size, it comes with an order of their wonderful crispy fries, imbued with the delightfully funky scent of truffle oil and dusted lightly with Parmesan. Monday is all−you−can−eat for $19.95 mussels and fries night.
The classic of all bistro fare is steak pommes frites. Two versions can be had here, either grilled sirloin steak with a choice of bÉarnaise or au poivre sauce or hanger steak with frites or grilled veggies in a bordelaise sauce. You can’t go wrong with either one, but we give the hanger steak a slight edge.
Confit de canard et pommes de terres sarladaises is another classic dish that was offered as the “casserole” on the day of our visit. It is a sinful dish of a preserved duck leg that has been refried along with sliced potatoes in duck fat. It was as good as it is bad for you. Well, that’s why God made Lipitor.
Desserts are homemade and predictably luscious here. A chocolate mousse was a heavenly trip back in time. A complimentary chilled cordial of vin l’orange, made by steeping sliced oranges in wine that has been boiled with sugar and seasoned with cloves and cinnamon, was an unexpected pleasure at the end of the meal. We were wondering the whole time what the very large glass container filled with orange slices and liquid was doing on the bar. Aha.
The Bottom Line
Solid French fare is not the only good reason to visit Bistro Les Minots. They have some added value offers and special events. There are daily prix fixe lunches and dinners until 7 p.m. Sundays are French film nights. On May 31, “Le Plaisir” (1952) with Jean Gabin and Claude Dauphin is showing at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (reservation necessary). Tuesdays are wine−tasting nights with guided tastings and pairings. As Julia used to say, bon appÉtit.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e−mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bistro Les Minots
47−16 30th Ave.
Astoria, NY 11103
Price Range: Appetizers: $8−12, entrees: $12−$22, prix fixe l⁄d $16.95⁄19.95, Sat.⁄Sun brunch $13.95
Service: Attentive with Gallic charm
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily
Alcohol: Wine & beer
Credit Cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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