The James Beard Foundation recently bestowed its best new restaurant award on Le Coucou, a Manhattan French dining spot, confirming that for all its roller coaster rides on the food-trend cycle, French cuisine is here to stay. We can thank French-born and trained chefs for spreading the delicious word throughout pockets of the country. Here are a few recommendations featuring classic menus and delicious wines served with distinctive Gallic personality.
Fleur, Las Vegas
Las Vegas may seem an odd spot for French cuisine, but acclaimed Alsace-born Chef Hubert Keller has always played culinary long shots with great success. His restaurant Fleur, inside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, bends the rules of French cuisine and also features traditional dishes.
TRY: A riff on traditional escargots, this version features black garlic butter, parsley, cherry tomatoes and puff pastry crouton, and pairs well with an Alsace Pinot Blanc, a fresh white with mineral notes from the chef’s home region in France.
Zinc Bistro, Philadelphia
Philadelphia’s Center City East neighborhood is home to Zinc Bistro, created by French native (and Chopped alum) Olivier Desaintmartin, and is named for the 1919 zinc bar top that he purchased from a Parisian bistro.
“We’re a comfortable neighborhood spot where guests who have visited France find familiar flavors and feeling,” says Desaintmartin of his cozy 40-seat restaurant.
TRY: The St. Jacques et Crevettes Provençale, which combines scallops and shrimp in a sauce scented with herbes de Provence and light garlic. It pairs beautifully with a crisp, full-flavored Provence rosé.
Paris 66, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh’s revitalized East Liberty neighborhood is home away from home for French native Frédéric Rongier, co-owner of Paris 66, a charming 50-seat bistro, appointed with French commercial posters and photos of Paris.
“We succeed because we bring the best from France and offer it here,” says Rongier, who was born in Paris’s 13th arrondissement and grew up in Brittany.
TRY: French-born Chef de Cuisine Larry Laffont has a deft touch with foie de veau, a pan-seared veal liver in red wine and balsamic reduction sauce. It pairs well with Crozes-Hermitage, an earthy, Syrah-based red from the Northern Rhône that has ample dark fruit, fresh acidity and refined tannins. Or, for a lighter meal, try cuisses de grenouilles: plump frog legs sautéed in butter, garlic and parsley. It’s popular paired with a crisp Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay.
Bacchus Bistro & Wine Bar, New York City
New York’s Boerum Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn is French bistro central, and where Bordeaux-born Bruno Laclide established Bacchus Bistro & Wine Bar in 2003. Starting as a modest BYOB bistro, it grew into a fully licensed wine bar with a secluded back patio. Laclide offers wines from all major French regions, with a focus on sustainable, organic and biodynamic producers.
“We’re a traditional French bistro without any pretension,” says Laclide. “We rely on outstanding, consistent suppliers and take pride in delivering quality food and wines at fair prices.”
TRY: The L’Onglet, a Black Angus hanger steak served with sautéed mushrooms and Sarladaises potatoes, prepared with garlic and duck fat. Pair it with a refreshing Bourgogne Pinot Noir that has just a bit of tannin.
Chez Fonfon, Birmingham
Alabama native Chef Frank Stitt trained in France, working in vineyards and restaurants before coming home and opening restaurants in Birmingham. Chez Fonfon, his French bistro that occupies a restored building in the Five Points historic district, delivers fresh, classic cuisine and a terrific wine list. Stitt says that customers enjoy the bistro’s “fun-loving spirit.”
“The boules court out back is a beloved spot on an afternoon to watch our Birmingham world go by,” Stitt says.
TRY: Stitt’s popular pan-seared trout with brown butter and capers, a dish from France’s Jura Mountains, matches well with young Savagnins—aromatic whites with pure, fruity flavors—from the same region.