By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
This same simple elegance appeared in the wild mushroom risotto in tomato-saffron broth ($10.95). The near perfect risotto was smooth, creamy, and hearty and, just like the cassoulet beans, slightly undercooked, adding that bistro edge that kept the dish from being too precious. Cremino, portobello, cultivated white, and chanterelle mushrooms were spared from boggishness with the rich pungency and tang of the broth.
But two things need some improvement before this bistro, barely a month old, can be considered exemplary. First, the waitstaff needs to be more thoroughly briefed by chef Emmanuel Pose (former sous chef at Beau Nash in the Crescent Court Hotel and sous chef at the Mercury) on the food so they can speak confidently of the menu. It's short, so this should be no insurmountable challenge.
Second, some of the prices seem a bit high for what you get, especially since Sakouhi makes a point that one of his prime objectives is to create a simple yet richly flavored menu at prices that prod guests to visit more than once a week.
The grilled hanger steak, for example, was priced at $17.95. Not ludicrous, but all you get is a plate with a handful of meat slices drubbed in a potent merlot-veal reduction and topped with matchstick potatoes over haricots verts (green beans) and pieces of tomato. Hanger steak, often grilled and carved in bistros, is a portion of the diaphragm muscle attached to the back that "hangs" down below the ribs. It's a soft, grainy, elliptical-shaped piece of meat roughly 7 inches long. Sakouhi says it's a hideously ugly, purplish thing in the raw, which is not surprising, considering its pedigree.
Still, the meat, stingily portioned though it was, proved juicy and affluently flavored. But after three or four bites, the plate was empty, and I found myself hankering for seconds; $17.95 simply has to go further than this in a bistro.
The same twisted price-to-value ratio struck with the arrival of the roasted salmon with red onion confit and Champagne. At $14.50, the piece of fish was barely bigger than a silver dollar, something that could easily be dispensed with in four bites. Yet I suppose it could be argued that the fish -- with its crispy outer crust; flaky, firm, buttery texture; and opulent flavor -- quickly rose to this price point. Plus, the sauce skillfully complemented the rich salmon with a refined surge of raciness, a touch that didn't overwhelm the meat.
Other things didn't harass the pocketbook. Mussels marinière ($7.95) -- a generous flock of winged shells with tomato and onion in a Pernod (an ivory-tinged, licorice-flavored liqueur similar to absinthe) and wine sauce -- had chewy, tender tongues of meat that burst with rich sweetness through the firmly brisk, intoxicant-riddled sauce.
Sautéed shrimp ($15.95) with baby vegetables and fried caper-lemon butter struck the same way. Perfectly cooked bits of carrot, squash, and zucchini mingled among fried capers in the lively, smooth sauce. This bracing flash of saucy flavor slipped right into balance, never grinding underfoot the sweet, firm succulence of the shrimp.
"We're trying to adapt ourselves to an understanding of what Dallas people eat and what they don't," Sakouhi says. The French still gorge on rich food, at least when compared with Americans, who focus on fats, salt, and such, he says. "If we do really French food here, I don't think they would eat it. The French people don't look at how much of this or that is in the food. They just sit down and eat."
Right through after-dinner cheeses ($6.95), coffee, and dessert. Perhaps a bistro after-dinner standard, crème brûlée skips up to new heights here. A warm, crusty bronze lid that never slips into bitterness hides a custard that's cool, firm, creamy, and rich in flavor.
On the cover of the Le Paris' menu is an odd picture bludgeoned into fuzziness by a bad computer scan. It depicts a huge crane hoisting the Eiffel Tower, concrete footpads and all. "We're thinking like we're importing Paris to here, like we're installing the Eiffel Tower in Dallas," he says.