Friday, March 20, 2009

Bistro Les Minots - Hospitable French Kitchen

Bistro Les Minots - 47-16 30th Avenue, Astoria NY 11103
N/W Train to 30th Avenue or R/V/G Train to 46th Street

After some buzz in the neighborhood, Meg, Tom, Dan and I decided to try the new French restaurant, Bistro Les Minots. The experience was a good one and while it's not the best French food that I've had, the service and the atmosphere were so homey and comfortable that I'm already looking forward to my next visit.

While the exterior is plain and unassuming, the inside is warm, cozy and embellished with fun little touches that have special meanings. For example, we sat at a table close to the bar, which had a small name plate above one of the seats. Ironically it said "Tom," which raised some questions. Who is Tom? We asked about it and found out that it's the name of their very first customer. I thought that was really sweet and quite personal.

The front-of-the-house dining room, while small is comfortable. The walls are painted a warm yellow and there are fun embellishments that make the place come to life. We especially liked the bicycle wheel wine rack and the gargantuan jar of Minot's "mystery wine," made right on the premises. I also loved the beautiful sounds of Edith Piaf and other French artists, that further set the scene.

Being a fan of French fare, I was happy to see that they offered great, classic options such as escargot, French onion soup, mussels, profiteroles and such. Overall, we were happy with the food--some things were done better than others but generally, we were pleased.

French Onion Soup - I was excited to see how this soup measured up to my previous experiences. It was quite good with nicely flavored broth and plenty of yummy croutons inside--I hate it when they skimp out on those. The cheese on top was of good quality but I wished that it was a bit more on the well-done side. I like to see it slightly browned and maybe next time I'll tell them so.

Escargot - Being that this is one of Dan's favorite foods, he was excited to order it. It looked absolutely gorgeous on his plate, served in a puff pastry shell and flavored with garlic, parsley, shallots and red wine sauce. He said that he liked the pastry and the sauce but that the escargot weren't the best quality. I tasted one and agreed--they had a slightly strange aftertaste and were a bit on the small side.

Truffle Fries - We ordered these for the table and devoured them at record speed. The fries themselves were beautifully golden and crispy. Topped with delicious parmesan and seasoned with truffle oil, they had a hint of decadence and luxury. These weren't your ordinary French fries--they were distinguished and sophisticated. I absolutely loved dipping them into my mussels sauce--it was pure heaven!

Mussels - I ordered the classic moules marinieres with garlic, shallots and parsley in a white wine sauce. The sauce was outstanding and the mussels were generally fine but again, not the best quality. I got a couple of inedible bad-boys that I was sad to discard. Oh well! There was plenty of delicious sauce to dip bread and fries into--and that made me very happy. I ordered the small portion, which was just enough.

Chicken Rolls - Dan chose this as his entree and couldn't be happier. The chicken was stuffed with seasonal veggies and gruyere cheese--and the whole dish was further flavored with a rosemary reduction. What was most appealing, Dan said was that the outside skin of the chicken was crispy and that the inside was wonderfully moist. It came with a side of mashed potatoes and string beans, which he said were just OK. But overall, he gave it two thumbs up.

Other Dishes - Meg and Tom both ordered salads to start and they seemed to enjoy them. Meg's was a goat cheese salad served with herbed mini toasts, grapes and honey dijon dressing. The toasts looked fantastic and Meg seemed to like everything, as she cleaned her plate completely.

For their entrees Meg ordered a classic French dish, the Pisalladiere (a warm onion tart) and Tom chose the Le Fermier sandwich (aka a grilled chicken sandwich). Both dishes looked good and Tom's was an especially generous portion--for $9, I'd say that he got his money's worth. Meg's on the other hand was on the small side but she didn't mind.

Dessert - This was hands-down my favorite part of the meal--we ordered two dishes for the table, the profiteroles and the creme brulee. I liked the profiteroles better but that's not to say that the creme brulee wasn't good--they were both outstanding. What I loved about the profiteroles was the puffy, airy dough filled with delicious vanilla creme that melted in your mouth. The whole thing was slathered in warm chocolate sauce and further embellished with fresh strawberries.

The creme brulee was light on the tongue yet rich on the senses and included two flavors, vanilla-bean and banana. I preferred the classic vanilla-bean and again, the dish was enhanced with a fresh strawberry. I highly recommend both desserts.

Service and Cost:
Our servers were also the restaurant's owners and that made our experience lovely. They were hospitable, jovial and so very French. We loved hearing their charming accents and they made our evening at Les Minots fun and interactive. I use the word interactive because they made us guess 10 ingredients in their homemade "mystery wine," which we got to sample. It was absolutely delicious and we tried our best to guess the 10 ingredients for a promise of a free dinner. We guessed 8 of them and by the end, the whole restaurant was in on our little game. It was a really great time and I'm looking forward to more fun at our next visit.

The costs are moderate and we ended up paying about $40 per person (including tax and tip) for a three course meal with wine. Les Minots has a $19.95 dinner prix-fixe where you could get a choice of appetizer and entree or entree and dessert between the hours of 5pm - 7pm. I think this is a pretty good deal and they have tons of options to choose from.

2 Mmmms

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