Save your money on airplane tickets to France and instead, visit Bistro Les Minots on 30th Avenue in Astoria. This petite bistro is the brand new baby of Yann Henriet and Henri DeVedeux, two charming, French ex-pats who have made Astoria their home. With some 26 years in the restaurant business, Yann and Henri made everything in this cozy bistro with their own hands, including the handsome bar, the tables, the blackboard, the sign, and even the house made orange wine that sits in a glass jug on the bar. The peach colored walls are softly lit by sconces and the tables are illuminated by candle glow. Most of the ingredients used in the bistro are purchased locally, most in walking distance, to further support the community that has adopted them. Yann and Henri provide a traditional French bistro experience without the high prices or bad attitude. You will be warmly greeted by the owners, and enjoy a relaxing, non-hurried meal in the French bistro tradition. Though it has been open just a couple of weeks, there are already repeat customers there, including this writer!
On a recent visit, my dining companion and I were regally treated to a tasting of all of Bistro Les Minots' specialties. First, the traditional French onion soup gratinee was an excellent way to whet our appetites. Neither salty nor heavy, this crock of soup was topped with a crouton and melted Gruyere cheese ($8). Henri brought a glass of Cote du Rhone for this course, which was the perfect pairing. The wine list carries bottles from the U.S. and France, in all price ranges. Beer and soft drinks are also available. Next came les cuisses de grenouilles, also known as frog's legs, lightly fried with bread crumbs and parsley, they were tiny, tender and perfectly seasoned.
To cleanse the palate, we were presented with Salade des Minots, composed of roasted beets, Roquefort cheese and orange segments topped with frisee and a lovely vinaigrette. A crisp Sauvignon Blanc paired nicely with this visually appealing dish. Don't be afraid to order the steak tartare, which is high quality, raw filet mignon, hand chopped and mixed with Dijon mustard, capers and spices. The tender meat melts in your mouth and is served with a small serving of their fabulous frites which transported me back to France. Moules or mussels, are traditionally served in the south of France along with lots of crusty bread to sop up the sauce. Here, they are fresh and sweet, prepared with your choice of white wine and garlic sauce, Provencales with herbs and tomato, or dijonnaise with a touch of mustard. You must try these, preferably on Monday, when you can enjoy "all you can eat moules". Otherwise, appetizer or dinner size portions are available, accompanied by frites.
Dinner selections were carefully chosen by the owners who prefer to do one thing, and do it right. I am always grateful for a one-page menu and this one includes all categories. We dined on tender, lean magret de canard, which is pan seared duck served with roasted pears, apples and braised red cabbage with cherry sauce ($17). Grilled hanger steak is another favorite of mine that I enjoyed at brunch on another visit. The meat was tender, cooked to perfection and the savory Bordelaise sauce was just right, thanks to the talents of chef Patrick Smith who cooks in the French tradition with a flair all his own. Le Steak frites can be prepared with Bernaise sauce or au poivre, with cracked pepper. Roasted monkfish with broccoli rabe, herbs and tomato pesto sauce is a light and delicious meal, or opt for the daily fricassee of chicken. In addition, each night of the week features a traditional dish, such as lamb, game meats, poultry or seafood. There is even a kid's menu with all their favorites.
For dessert, try the locally made gelato or sorbets, delicate crepes Suzette, or the classic apple tart. Though the prices here are already reasonable, you can save more by ordering the Dinner Prix Fixe Menu served 7 days a week from 5-7pm (cash only). For just $19.95, you'll choose any two of these three: an appetizer, main course, dessert. I can't say enough about the Saturday and Sunday brunch, where you can literally take a holiday from your busy work week and immerse yourself in the ambience, your companion, or the newspaper, while you dine on French toast, omelets, crepes, eggs Benedict, tuna salad Nicoise, or the famous Croque Monsieur, an elevated version of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. The breast of duck, moules and steak are also on the brunch menu, which is served Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00am until 4:30pm. Here again, save money by paying cash for the Brunch Prix Fixe at just $13.95, which includes a Mimosa and coffee or tea. Dinner service follows the brunch.
If the front dining room is full, the rear dining room is just as cozy and will soon be the site for viewings of French films for all to enjoy.
Visit their Web site for upcoming events and let's say bienvenue and welcome Bistro Les Minots to the neighborhood. Bon appétit!