In the glorious land of Midtown East, the abundance of French restaurants makes it hard for a new one to stand out. Unless, of course, you happen to make delicious Mussels Provencale and a steak that melts in your mouth…
Bistro Vendome, opened just last week on 58th st between 1st ave and Sutton Place in the former March townhouse space. Owned and operated by Chef Pascal Petiteau and his wife, Virginie, who oversees the front of house, Bistro Vendome has a cozy, intimate feel – and the food aint half bad either.
Garlicky, buttery mussels. Who knew…?
I received an insider tip that I should try the Mussels Provencale, which are mussels baked in a garlic-parsley butter (much like the sauce that escargot is made with). Now, hear me on this one, because I DO NOT like mussels. I never order them. EVER. So, the fact that I not only ordered them, but enjoyed them as well, was fascinating in and of itself. My friend Arian was with me and she is not a super adventurous eater, but even SHE ate them and thought they were delicious. I mean, it was garlic, butter and parsley – you could put that on pebbles and I would probably eat it. They also offer other variations of mussels including Thai (curry, lemongrass, coconut milk), Normandie (creamy chicken broth, mushrooms and white truffle oil), Mariniere (steamed with white wine and shallots), and Basilic (basil, white wine, garlic). We also decided to split the Endive & Bacon Salad with blue cheese and walnuts. Again, a classic combination that’s hard to screw up, so it was good; not as good as the mussels, but I never complain about anything that has bacon and blue cheese on it. Substantial amounts of it, nonetheless…
Whenever I go to a French restaurant, I usually give it the steak test. I figure a French place HAS TO know how to make a good steak, and if they don’t, they’ve got no shot. So I went with the filet mignon with peppercorn sauce on the side and sauteed spinach and garlic. No pommes frites? Yes. It comes with that. But I had eaten a boatload of fries at Minetta Tavern earlier, plus I happen to love spinach with steak. I’m like popeye. I eats me spinach every day. Arian ordered the Organic Breast of Chicken over mashed potatoes and garlic jus. As I mentioned before, she likes to keep it simple. Nothing wrong with the classics…right??
Filet Mignon with Peppercorn sauce, and sauteed spinach w/garlic
My steak was beautifully cooked and my knife cut through it like butter. It didn’t really need the sauce, in my opinion, which is why I was smart enough to get it on the side. I feel that if you have a really good piece of meat, you don’t need to drown it in a heavy sauce, it will be flavorful enough with just a little salt and pepper. The chicken was good, but I think the garlic jus made it better. Chicken is kind of the opposite of steak for me. I like chicken with a little jus or some kind of sauce, because chicken can get dry. This chicken wasn’t “dry” but it wasn’t really “juicy” either, so the sweet and savory garlic jus punched it up a bit, but the mashed potatoes were a little gummy. The steak was by far the winner of the entree race. I have heard good things about Bistro Vendome’s beef cheek shepherds pie and rack of lamb as well, so perhaps they are more skilled with red meat than with poultry? At a French restaurant, I think I would expect that anyway, so I’m not that surprised.
Organic Breast of Chicken with Garlic Jus
Here’s another area that needs to pass the test for suitable French restaurant: desserts. The French are known for their delicate, yet rich, desserts, and since we had been sticking with traditionalism most of the night, we were leaning towards creme brulee or profiteroles. I really NEED something chocolate at the end of a meal, and the profiteroles came with a chocolate sauce to dip them in. SOLD. They were perfect. Light and flaky puffs with vanilla bean ice cream inside that was just starting to melt, drizzled with some chocolate sauce…mmm. Nums. Whoever thought of putting those three things together is a genius.
I think there are a lot of good French restaurants in this area, but Bistro Vendome can certainly hold it’s own from what I’ve tried so far. However, I’d like to go back and be a little bit more adventurous with my ordering – then I can make an even better judgement. The beef cheek shepherd’s pie is calling my name…