If I were to conceive the quintessential French bistro, it would look very much like Bistrot Glouton in Bordeaux, France. On a recent trip to Bordeaux, I had the pleasure of a lovely Saturday lunch there. A small, simple, and modern interior houses small wooden tables that place one in close proximity to fellow patrons, most of them locals excepting summer months. Nobody seems to mind the potential encroachment on one’s conversations (it isn’t a loud place), as the food is just lovely, and I enjoyed watching everyone’s dishes pass by. The cuisine is modern French – simplicity of flavor, perfectly cooked and artfully presented. The menu is written on chalk board, as it changes frequently but under the watchful eye of regular customers, who protest when their favorite menu items disappear, hoping the chef might relent and reinstate them, as they did with a unique fricaseed egg appetizer.
We started with a black (blood) sausage/blood pudding amuse bouche. Boudin noir, or black pudding made black from blood – yes, really – is fairly pervasive in French and British cuisine. Now, I’ve always been afraid of any dish with ‘blood’ in the name, but when something is offered to me, it would be rude to refuse. So I finally tried my first blood pudding. Though I couldn’t quite move my mind away from the concept of what I was eating, the flavor was really exquisite, I’ll admit. With the texture of seared foie gras though less compact and a flavor that evoked pate, truffles, and a hint of sweetness and iron, it was complemented by onions that had been pickled and just barely caramelized.
For my starter, I chose a warm vegetable salad accented with chicken, dressed with vinaigrette that was typically French and heavy on the oil. It was light and savory. One of my friends agreed to the server’s recommendation of the oeufs fricasee with XXX mushrooms and a bit of parmesan cheese. A single egg rested in a broth of its own milkiness, cream, and a bit of cheese. My friend raved at its delicacy and enjoyed it so much that she couldn’t leave so much as a single drop of the broth.
For my main course, I chose another entree (starter) in lieu of a larger plat (entree) – a tuna tartare. Half-inch cubes of luscious ahi tuna, tossed with sesame, ginger, and a hint of lemon and wasabi were arranged in a generous portion and topped with a savory, wasabi-accented whipped cream. I can say that I’ve never had ahi tuna complimented by dairy before, but the whipped cream somehow worked. One of my friends chose a fish plat, partially deboned and presented as such (see photo) and served with fingerling potato halves, delightfully roasted with oil, lemon, and oregano. My other friend ordered a skirt or flank steak, cooked perfectly medium rare and served with a small romaine salad and the best flash-fried potato squares I’ve ever tried. Crispy like frites on the outside and soft on the inside, these potatoes were made out-off-this-world with green onions and lemon. That simple combination was so good that I couldn’t stop eating his potatoes.
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All three of us were quite full, but we couldn’t refuse Glouton’s dessert selection. We compromised and split crepes Suzette – Gran Marnier flambeed tableside and filled with a light custard. While it wasn’t my first choice, one bite told me that it was, in fact, the best choice, both due to the expert execution and presentation. That dish was emblematic of the quality and artistry of Bistrot Glouton.
And of course, what would lunch in France be without the perfect wine? Glouton’s rose was fantastic, semi-dry and balanced with a nice crispness. I later tried a vin blanc (white wine) that was complex and intense, also slightly dry but heavier without butteriness of a heavy oak malolactic fermentation. I really enjoyed its notes of apple, citrus, and flowers alongside the citrus and creme tartness of the crepes Suzette.
Of all our meals in Bordeaux, Glouton stood out most. Many more bistros could be called traditionally French, but this one is nowhere close to the tired, repetitive cafes that line the streets of France – or, for that matter, their cousins around the world. Its traditional, yet creative and deftly executed flavors and innovative plating were certainly worth a visit. Come during the work week and enjoy the three-course menu du jour for a very reasonable price, or a la carte as we did, with l’addition (the bill) totaling far less than one might pay for that level of cuisine in France.
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