Restaurant review: At Le Bilboquet, a glittering scene
Dallas on August 2013.
Updated: 07 August 2013 06:36 PM
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When Le Bilboquet, a 27-year-old French bistro on New York City’s Upper East Side, came to the end of its lease and closed its doors (with a plan to reopen later elsewhere in the city), one of its former managers, Stephane Courseau, had the idea of opening a Le Bilboquet in Dallas with the same menu and chef.
The idea was positively brilliant. Dallas has a serious paucity of French restaurants. The Knox-Henderson location Corseau and business partner Laurent Lesort managed to snag was the recently closed L’Ancestral, a sentimental favorite with the Park Cities crowd. The Upper East Side is the Manhattan equivalent of the Park Cities: old school, conservative, lots of money.
The restaurant should translate perfectly.
And it does.
It’s at once buzzy and intimate, very much a scene. Hard to imagine it was once L’Ancestral, so radically has the dining room changed. The transformation goes way beyond the decor — Lesort gutted the place, and what used to be small, dark, grandmotherly comforting, quiet and cozy is now open, airy, light and vibrant.
Just the place to dally with a prettily arranged Belgian endive-and-Roquefort salad. Dressed generously (or heavily, depending on your point of view) in a Dijon vinaigrette emulsified to creaminess, the colorful chop, perky with tomatoes, was accented nicely with toasted walnuts.
Or a towerlike assemblage of chunky avocado salad and mayonnaisey crab salad. Chef “Momo” Sow sets it on a small pool of tomato coulis, adding circles of basil-chive oil, presumably for color (it had little flavor), and a jaunty hat of fried won-ton skin strips for crunch. There’s nothing cutting-edge or original in these starters; they recall the stylish French food served in New York and Paris in the 1980s or early ’90s. Safe, familiar and often well-executed, at Le Bilboquet they seem captured in a time wrinkle.
You’d never have seen such a gigantic portion of tuna tartare for one person in Paris, though; Le Bilboquet’s would do nicely for a family of four. Sow dresses it prodigiously with sesame vinaigrette, sandwiches it between fried won-ton skins and decorates it with diced tomato and cucumber. The first few bites are pleasant, but there’s not enough going on in the dish to hold one’s interest. For $22, I’m looking for something with more panache; sesame seeds scattered on the plate don’t do the trick.