That’s what Jeff Orlick wrote about our visit to Bistro Les Minots in Astoria on Sunday night. To describe Bistro Les Minots, I couldn’t say it better myself (ctrl-C … ctrl-V). Most restaurants in Astoria started out making food the way those accustomed to their culture enjoyed it. Those gentrifying the area came around to figure out the cuisine was excellent, It was picked up by the mainstream resulting in this Astoria ethnic food boom. The restaurants didn’t change the menu after the more moneyed locals started to filter through; they stayed true to their roots.
That’s that’s the path Yann and Henri (link to bios) started out upon earlier this year. The Bistro is an unapologetically French restaurant and doesn’t pander to American’s basest desires in French cuisine (e.g. butter and white wine sauces). They’re going to keep making French food the way it was prepared by there mères and grand-mères.
Henri started us with two distinctly French dishes: the Frog Legs (above) and the Escargots (pic), paired with white and red wines, respectively. The frog legs were devoured in an instant. Fried with a pinch of salt and a liberal dusting of parsley, the crust similar to that of a light calamari and the texture of a quail or squab.
As far as the Escargots goes (sorry, that’s terrible, I know), he was right; it wasn’t what I was expecting. This one was in a red wine reduction with a basil oil puree on a puff pastry. The consistency was immaculate – soft and spongy until the last minute as my incisors punctured the flesh to release even more of the wine flavor. Even though taste was completely different, the escargots experience was just as interesting as the few others I’d had.
One of the most curious moments of the night was a dialogue between Jeff and Henri over the Short Ribs:
“I didn’t know the French made short ribs.” Jeff said.
“Well,” said Henri, “cows have ribs in France, too, you know.”
And their ribs are just as delicious. Braised in a red wine, I took a bite of the polenta and a bite of the short rib. Both of the items by themselves were good, but when I ate them together, the cheesy creaminess of the polenta gratineé, the tart wine reduction, and the unctuous rib all merged together at the corner of Damn and Amazing.
The Les Moules Marocaines were my favorite of the evening. Henri let us know that it was a popular meal where he hails from in the south of France. Chorizo, chick peas, mussels, and the most gorgeous seafood broth I’ve had in a long, long time. I haven’t had a better seafood broth in the last year (sorry mom). Cumin, cinnamon, and curry mixed with the spicy oil of the chorizo and the briny mussels to knock this dish out of the park. A patron from the neighborhood orders a pint of just the broth each week. This is worth the trip alone. If you are dining in Astoria, take a stroll (actually, I would recommend a taxi in this below-zero weather) and split the Les Moules Marocaines as an appetizer, then tell your friends. If Yann and Henri served only this to first time customers, they’d have thousands of raving fans.
Jeff told me he wasn’t a dessert guy. I think I helped him fix that. I can’t find the link right now, but somewhere on Sarah’s site she lists one of her rules: Always order dessert. I’ve made this one of my rules as well and it’s expanded my foodie repertoire immensely. We had the Crème Brûlée Duo and the Apple Tart (pic). The crème brûlée won my heart; I raved over the espresso-vanilla bean brûlée before I tasted the regular. Jeff said it had notes of toasted marshmallow; great observation. The tart got the #1 dessert nod from Jeff; he complimented the flaky crust and the luscious way-more-cream-than-ice cream. The drizzle you saw on the picture was a red wine glaze. An interesting touch that added a little je ne sais quoi (sorry, again).
I felt bad for dragging Jeff out in the freezing cold, but that feeling was flushed from my rosy cheeks when I tasted those mussels. Get the mussels, get the mussels, get the mussels. Just drop in and get the mussels. Go only for the mussels. They’re drop dead gorgeous and one of the best values of 93 Plates.
Mussels. Get them.
The IRL Arts Foundation and The Wandering Foodie thank Bistro Les Minots for providing this meal.
Bistro Les Minots
47-16 30th Ave.
Astoria, NY 11103