Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chez Nous

Chez Nous has been downtown Austin's reigning French bistro since 1982. I've been aware of it (and have wanted to go) practically since I moved here, in late 1994. Success!

The night before Halloween, we were brave enough to venture downtown; Chez Nous lies just off 6th Street on Neches, in the middle of all the hubbub. My dining companion had been there innumerable times over the years, and even knew some of the wait staff by name. The inside is more rustic than I had imagined. Very comfortable and casual, not at all "snooty" like the French and their establishments have a reputation for.

I had attended the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival at the Long Center earlier in the day, and was not starving. Side bar: I now know what all the fuss over the brisket from Snow's BBQ in Lexington is all about. It and Franklin BBQ easily were the best briskets on site. But back to French food. We split the pate for an appetizer, and my friend's salade Lyonnaise with poached egg is in the background of the picture. The pate looks more pink in the picture than I recall it being in person, but it was very nice and smooth, mild flavor.
For a main dish, I had the escargot and salade du marche, in an effort to eat a bit lighter after lots of bbq. The escargot (the middle dish, in the pic below) were a little difficult to find amongst all the mushrooms. The menu description says they are sauteed with traditional garlic and parsley butter, but to me, it had a very strong white wine flavor, and it  hadn't been cooked off all the way. Have to say, I like the escargot at Justine's better, just pure garlic butter that makes you want to lick off the plate. My spinach salad was a nice combo with endive, haricot verts, roquefort, and lardon with a citrus vinaigrette. My friend had their menu du jour, which consists of an app, main course and dessert. Her main course was grilled rib eye steak, which was cooked a perfect medium rare.
For dessert, we had the chocolate mousse, which was underwhelming (gummy and with skin) and the crepe Normande, a slightly thick crepe with undercooked apples, but a really delicious caramel sauce that makes you want more. Overall, I found the service to be odd. The staff was friendly, but sort of aloof, and that's all 4 of the different wait people who took drink, food, and dessert orders, cleared plates, brought new silverware, etc. We couldn't tell if they were a bit short staffed or what the situation was, though my friend did say it wasn't usually like that.
So I can now say I've been to Chez Nous. It's comfortable, a good value, and overall, quite decent food. But I don't now that there was anything about it that makes me want to go back in the near future. Seeing how it took me 17 years (!) to get there in the first place, I can wait a little while before heading back over.

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