Friday, October 8, 2010

Tuesday, 9/22/10 - Bistro Vatel

Date: 9/22/10
Restaurant: Bistro Vatel
Location: 218 E Olmos Drive, on the same roundabout as Ciao Lavanderia and Shiraz
Executive Chef: Damien Watel, who owns this, Ciao Lavanderia next door, and the Bistro Bakery

Well, we're cruising through the French eateries! This might be the last one on the list. Fortunately for us, it was solidly good eats from start to finish...well done, Chef Watel!

Meander through the roundabout, try to find parking in the atrociously small lot (we didn't have to worry since we were there just as it opened for dinner at 5pm), and voila!

This was very comfortable and cozy, exactly what I'd think of with a "bistro." Well, maybe not...I still harbor fond hopes of being squeezed into a tiny table outside, sipping ridiculously rich chocolate, with snooty mustachioed waiters ignoring my every request but who really cares because it's FRANCE, baby, FRANCE! So this wasn't really like that. But still nice.

Also nice was the menu, providing many staples of excellent French cuisine. For me, that meant the odd bits and pieces of meat that most other restaurants turn their noses up at. I love the French approach to food: the funkier, the better.

(Sidenote: I have a theory that there is a direct connection between the combined stereotypes of "French people are stinky" and "French people have the best food in the world." It's all a huge sensory experience, from the dubious to the divine. That works just fine for me.)

(Sidenote #2: I have never actually found any French person to be stinky. Nor was anyone's hygiene in question at this establishment. Please don't flame me.)

Exhibit A on the divinely stinky: escargot. If all you've had are little rubbery afterthoughts, this is worth a try. Buried in layers of luscious herbage and garlic were the most tender morsels I'd ever tried. Deelish. My puppies agreed with my evaluation after smooches later that evening.

Tavis really enjoyed the soup du jour, a crawfish bisque. It was rich and creamy, nicely balanced between acidity and sweetness. I would have eaten much more of it had he not started gripping the spoon in a rather threatening way.

Exhibit two of "Megan puts the fun in funky:" sweetbreads. I really love sweetbreads, which for the record are the pancreas and thymus of animals, usually veal. These were sauteed and plated with a mustard bearnaise sauce that was really savory, a great complement. Accompanying are some truffled mashed potatoes, truffled frites, and sauteed veggies that I actually enjoyed.

Tavis went for the veal tenderloin in truffle cream sauce. We were temporarily thrown by the identical sides on our plate, which I guess we just aren't used to, and I think I liked them better than Tavis who isn't a big fan of mashed potato texture. The veal certainly made up for any ambivalence on the side dishes; it was astoundingly tender and succulent, and the sauce was liquid gold.

Ho boy, you should save room for dessert here! This is their truffled tart, and in this case the truffle is chocolate not overpriced fungi. It was one of the better chocolate desserts I have had, truly.

Tavis and his ice cream. This was peach and it was just peachy. Yeah I didn't really work very hard on that description, but really, Tavis? Ice cream? Really?

Oh well.

Returnability: I definitely would love to come back here. There are several appealing items on all levels of the menu. The service was incredibly gracious and welcoming, and the level of culinary execution was top-notch. Not that anyone thinks of coming to San Antonio to find lovely French food (especially since Le Reve closed), but this is definitely an eatery worth a stop. Even without snooty mustachioed waiters.