Last week the Dallas Morning News food critic Leslie Brenner rolled out an article that basically explained how she could judge a restaurant with a simple visit to an establishment’s menu online. The premise was that if you noted off season ingredients, or tired dishes on the menu the restaurant might not be up to her level of cuisine.
Brenner also specifically mentioned cassoulet and braised meats as seasonal dishes and this raised the ire of the soon-to-open Boulevardier restaurateur, Brooks Anderson. I ran into Brooks last night and he shared his studied opinion on the issue. Specifically that these dishes and more are offered throughout the changes of seasons in a true French bistro.
Today Brooks backed up this opinion on his Facebook wall in an open letter to Brenner and was signed by the four partners in the business, Brooks and Bradley Anderson, Nathan Tate and Randall Copeland.
Anderson offers up the questions, “is it really feasible to have nothing but light, summery dishes on a bistro menu when the very foundations of bistro food are stews and braises? Is a chef really out of touch if he/she both has a heavy braised meat or two and a heavy stew in summer, in addition to other lighter, seasonal dishes that are ‘proper’ summer fare?”
Anderson goes on to cite various menus including Brasserie Les Halles in New York City which serves braised red meats, cassoulet, six types of mussels and “lots of grilled red meats.” He went as far to call the restaurant to confirm these types of dishes were indeed served year round.
Anderson also notes that the current issue of Conde Nast Traveler’s features an article on cassoulet.
In the same article written by Brenner she mentions that she would also be watchful of a menu that offered mussels and calamari on the same menu. Anderson notes that Pastis in New York City consistently offers these two dishes on their menu. The New York Times extols the virtue of Pastis and claims The Times mentions in one review of Pastis, “The menu is so traditional that virtually every dish could qualify for protection by the French Ministry of Culture”.
Anderson went on to mention, “Based on the menus of some of the very best, and busiest, French Bistro/Brasserie-style restaurants in the country, it would seem as if serving these types of dishes year round is not only standard, but to be expected.”
In the conversation I had with Anderson last evening he made it clear he was not wanting to spar with Brenner but did want to make note that his menu at Boulevardier would have these menu items year round and that the “decision to serve these types of dishes all year long is not out of ignorance, but out of a love for this type of truly delicious comfort food,” and that “wouldn’t be the French-inspired, neighborhood friendly bistro that we want to be.”
I personally feel Brenner raises great points. Winter vegetables have no place on a summer menu. Crazy rolls, although can be a fun distraction, are off-putting en masse on sushi menus. And the over abundance of sweetners in savory dishes can often show the lack of balance in a chef. However, I am not sure how an authentic bistro can carry out a proper menu without these braises and dishes Anderson mentions.
Look for the new French-inspired bistro to open its doors within the new few weeks in the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff.