Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bistronomy Bistronomie Bistronomique

Last autumn I heard about Bistronomy from a cable TV program. They showed a chef in a Parisian bistro tossing together an assiette de charcuterie using house made cured meats and sides. It was a classic Bistro dish with a few innovative touches.

From Chowhound contributor Souphie
Now bistronomique is what happened in the 90s when some chefs trained in top restaurants decided that they did not want the whole circus of expensive laundry, big staff, etc. Top gastronomy at that time was very much top ingredients perfectly cooked. The trend is often considered to have started with Christian Constant's disciples. Constant was the chef at the Hotel Crillon and he is known for introducing simpler ingredients, more casual ingredients, usually reserved for bistrots, but using the skills and precision of top dining.

So some Constant disciples said: we can do that without fancy dining room. The most famous ones are la Régalade from Camdeborde and La verrière from Fréchon. Ultimately, even Constant himself turned his restaurant le Violon d'Ingres into something more casual. Camdéborde now runs le Relais Odéon and La Régalade, run by his second is one of the top bistronomiques.

The standard for bistrots became more upscale, but only few stick to the actual concept of using top ingredients and cooking in no formal settings. La Régalade and l'Ami Jean are the best.

I googled bistronomy, read about the concept and scanned a few menus. The dishes of course look deliciously Parisian. The pic above is from Potatomato's blog.

It's pumpkin soup with foie gras served at La Muse Vin a bistronomique in Paris.

From Gary Lee Kraut:

Bistronomy is a combination of bistro and gastronomy. The term best applies to bistros where the chef continues to emphasize seasonal produce and nearly traditional recipes while displaying his knowledge and interest in more polished or sophisticated cuisine. These are indeed bistros since the additional elements required of a truly gastronomic restaurant—elegant services, fine tableware, more expensive produce, a section-by-section kitchen staff, a decorator—may be absent.
A number of famous (read: trademarked) mid-career and older chefs who have made their name in gastronomy now have an adjacent business of bistronomy, while opening such a restaurant is now also a way for chefs in their 30s to try to strut their stuff and take full control at an early stage in their career.
The term bistronomy is naturally a fad, a bit of a marketing ploy by which its owner or chef claims to be a cut above the ordinary bistro. Yet beyond the easy way the word rolls off the tongue lies the sensible notion that traditional French cuisine evolves and that gastronomy is just another of saying a good meal. Add to that the notion that a hungry traveler can have a relaxed, well-conceived meal in an unpretentious setting at an inviting price.
Le Cotte-Roti is a classic example. It is an open 30-seat space that’s pleasant enough without having any particular charm. Service is kind if direct. The chef sometimes gives a hand in the dining room. A three-course meal is currently an honest 30€ without supplements. One comes for the food.
Thus a tasty October lunch with Fabien of hare terrine containing bits of foie gras; braised veal tournedos with stewed mushrooms; a fruity-cum-earthy bottle of Faugères, a Syrah-Mouevèdre-and-then-some blend from the Languedoc region.
Re-thus a notable November dinner with Jean-François (who not only allowed me to share in the conversation but also in his meal) of oeuf mollet frit, a fried soft-boiled egg on a pesto-lined “dipping” bread; a mi-cuit foie gras terrine; a succulent scallop and potato purée dish; a sea bream (dorade/daurade) on a bed of salsify heightened with white truffle oil; poached quince with a triangle of French toast; poached pear on a creamy rice putting laced with caramel. Wine: Saint Joseph 2006, a Syrah from the northern portion of the Rhone Valley.
All these are good examples of bistronomy’s enhanced bistro fare and of someone giving it his best effort in the kitchen. Regarding those efforts, the foie gras lacked umph (and curiously of toast), an indication that one can’t expect the chef in a two-man kitchen to do everything well.

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