How is it that some of the quaintest little restaurants are hidden away in measly little strip shopping centers? Tucked away in the Eastbluff Shopping Center in Newport Beach is a diamond in the rough, the charming French bistro, “Bistro Le Crillon”. Owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Chantal Berton de Crillon as chef and Diego Ostroski as Wine Director, Bistro Le Crillon has been at this location since 1989. Chantal, originally from the south of France, can proudly say she is a descendent of the famous Hotel de Crillon family in Paris whose grand hotel, impeccable service and extraordinary haute cuisine date back to the 1700s. Chantal also happens to be the Executive Chef and a “seasoned” one at that!
To get into the bistro you must first walk through a semi-enclosed courtyard that has a warm fireplace and plenty of comfortable seating. Should you decide to order a drink from their full bar prior to your dining experience, the outdoor patio with classic French songs playing in the background is a lovely place to enjoy a cocktail (guys, for the record… Diego mixes up a perfect vodka martini) or glass of wine before you head into dinner. Although hubby tapped into to his personal wine cellar and brought along a 1989 Vieux Telegraphe Chateau Neuf-du-Pape (ONE of my favorite varietals!), next time I dine at Bistro I may just have to try a bottle from their extensive wine collection – a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.
We ventured out to Bistro Le Crillon on a weekend and although our reservation was for 7:30 p.m. the restaurant had only one patron who was sitting at the bar chatting with Chantal. The fact that business was extremely slow did not keep Chantal from greeting us graciously and serving up some wonderfully tasty Provencal bistro fare.
For our first course we ordered the “Terrine of Wild Duck with Pistachios and Cornichons.” Guys, a cornichon is a baby gherkin pickle which is small, very crunchy and sweet. The terrine was a tad bit on the dry side and I did expect a creamier texture but the flavor was very good. My spousal unit started with “French Tomato Soup” that Chantal makes with low-fat sour cream, croutons and parsley. It was velvety and delicious, we almost licked the bowl (ok…”I” almost liked the bowl)! How in the world can a “low-fat” soup be so darn tasty?
My second course was the “Medallions of Venison” with a scoop of pureed chestnuts, polenta, lingonberry sauce and green apple and celery puree. Chantal suggested I cut a small piece of venison then dip the piece into each separate sauce so I would be able to experience the various flavors that accompanied my meat. Great idea since each sauce and the puree had such distinctive flavors each one working very well with the gamey venison. My chestnut puree had a nice “earthy” flavor and my only “beef” is that it was slightly dry but the green apple and celery puree made up for it since those sauces were so delicious. The mixed puree reminded me of pommes mousseline (classic French mashed potatoes) with its rich taste and perfect consistency. I could have done without the polenta since it was a little on the torrid side. Chantal also makes a spectacular lingonberry sauce which is a slow reduction of mixed berries. My sauce was splendid and had a beautiful, vibrant burgundy color!
For hubby’s second course he chose the “Wild Boar Papparedelle” which marinates in “secret” ingredients for hours then is slow cooked in its own juices and served aux jus. The intense aroma and smooth texture of the Wild Boar stew tantalized my taste buds and had me humming La Vie en Rose…it was a lovely dish. I have dined at Bistro Le Crillon in the past and have had the “Lapin Aux Prunes” (rabbit stew braised with prunes) and tasted the “Navarin of Lamb Tenderloin” with turnips, carrots and potatoes. Both dishes were spectacular and I have yet to experience a bad meal at Bistro Le Crillon! I must confess Chantal works wonders with wild game.
The piece de resistance for the evening was the “French Valrhona Dark Chocolate Soufflé” which has to be ordered in advance. There are two words that come to mind when I think about that dessert…”deliciously decadent”! The perfect accoutrement to the soufflé would have been a lovely sweet dessert wine such as a golden Chateau Eyquem Sauterne. Alas, maybe next time I will enjoy a glass of sauterne with my dessert from their award wining wine collection.
During these cold, blistery nights should you feel the need for some Provencal comfort food take a ride over to Bistro Le Crillon and allow Chantal and Diego to make you feel warm and fuzzy all over by satiating your palate with their delightful taste treats.
Lunch and Dinner Served
Reasonable Price Point (wild game dishes is more expensive)