by Steven Doyle
Nostalgic is the proper word to describe Le Bilboquet, the French bouchon on Travis near Knox in Dallas. Here you will find only the classics from a beautiful endive salad, escargot to plenty of foie to keep the heart palpitating in the right direction, and somewhat displaced from an era gone but never forgotten.
The restaurant may be a throwback to a time in France where expats sipped espresso or a Chambery Cassis, dine on tournedos and slathers of foie terrine and toast. You may find all these at the Dallas le Bilboquet and so much more, all executed in a dreamy sequence that defies time. This is a good thing.
The crowds shuffle in early and dines late, enjoying beautiful bottles of wine all appropriately curated to pair evenly with each dish. Classic sparklers abound, this is a house of daily celebration. And we celebrated Spring.
Our evening started off with a glass of French bubbles that lubricated the foie gras served with fig jam and toasted brioche supplied by Empire Baking Company, the same local purveyor that fills the bread basket that stayed on point throughout the evening. The service was as marvelous with each bite of the foie, which to my dining partner was described perfectly as meat butter. Smooth a silky, spreadable to a point, and lush when combined with the fig jam. Almost ecclesiastical in form.
“Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary…” – Ernest Hemingway
We also felt it necessary to begin the evening with a plate of mushroom risotto, which if sharing could be ordered in a larger format, the dinner portion. We found for two the starter portion was quite adequate, leaving us wanting a few more bites which is exactly how every dish should be. It should invite you back for yet another taste of the perfectly braised arborio, and meaty chunks of the wild assortment of mushrooms. Devilishly simple.
The most difficult portion of the evening was deciding which entree to order, and this was settled by ordering more than should be conceived necessary. The Dover Sole was screaming our name, but the Halibut was encouraged by our server. She knew her menu well and was intuitive enough to know what we truly anticipated. The fish was certainly well poached in a flavorful fumet and accompanied by a smattering of wild mushrooms, fellow roommates of our aforementioned risotto, but also perfectly cooked snap peas that had us saying, “these snap peas are perfectly cooked”, more than once as we fought for the last pod. The mint pesto made the Halibut seem to dance a bit, and we smiled.
It is always an achievement not to order every seafood plate on the menu, so we chose the Duck Confit a l’Orange which we were ecstatic about once placed before us. We stared at the confited duck with a sense of purpose before taking tender slices with our forks to what we thought were choruses of Ode to Joy. It was simply that good.
profiteroles filled with ice cream goes perfectly well with martinis
Beef took a turn on our table in the form of Filet au Poivre served with a generous supply of pomme frites. Heavenly in its brilliance. The grass fed beef was ever bit as tender and delicious as you could possibly imagine, and for a brief few moments silence erupted at our table. Sure, our water glasses were refreshed, wine poured, and we were even asked questions by the waitstaff. Be damned if we saw or heard any of this as we enjoyed the last morsel with a huge grin abound.
We had found our place. For the few brief hours we sat in our chairs at le Bilboquet we were exported back to join those expats, we were now part of the une génération perdue that Gertrude Stein spoke about. It was the cafe life Hemingway waxed on about in Moveable Feast and is not to be missed.