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Haute Spot: Oui! Bernard’s Bistro on Sunset

Ever since the sad demise of Bon Jour Bistro several years back, there’s been the distinct void of casual French cuisine in our neighborhood.   A place where the simplest of open faced sandwiches or a classic steak frites consistently make the palate swoon, while the artistic sensibilities of a classically trained chef from Versailles manifests his indelible mark on everything from the  menu offerings to the kind of personalized and attentive service you’d expect in a 5 star. Thankfully, French is back and Bernard’s Bistro, located at 2021 Sunset Road at Valle Verde, is an exceptional example of a restaurant that appeals to both young and old alike.

By Aly Wagonseller

Unlike its sister restaurant that calls beautiful Lake Las Vegas home, this second location resides in what originally started as a Boston Market semi-fast food joint.  The drive through sign has been awkwardly retrofitted as a “Bernard’s this way-esque” entrance sign and the building itself still roars blah on the outside, despite attempts to spruce things up with an outdoor “patio.” It’s nothing a coat of paint and a few strategically placed planters and trees wouldn’t fix, and the only reason I mention this is you might have second thoughts when driving past. Judging this book by its cover would be a grievous error if incredible food is what you’re after.   Indoors you’ll find a comfortable space with white linen tablecloths and a lot (and I mean a lot) of wall décor. It lends a themey feel to the space that, while somewhat kitschy, is inviting nonetheless. Live entertainment various nights of the week reflects a laid back, Sinatra sensibility that has a certain charm for those that like the genre and enjoy old school entertainment.

Not entirely French (the restaurant bills itself as California European Cuisine), the food is thoughtful, exceedingly fresh and varied. Classic offerings include crepes, quiche and the like along with sandwiches, salads, burgers, flat breads, pasta dishes and a wide array of ethnically diverse entrees. We started with the Escargot Belle Epoque.  I LOVE escargot, but in most cases it’s the garlic butter and bread that does the talking.  Not so with Le Chef Bernard’s version where melt-in-your-mouth snails are paired with fresh tomato, mushroom and bacon and served in an herb sauce more likened to a tasty beurre blanc than the heavy, traditional butter option.  It’s fresh, inspired and seriously hall of fame worthy. Next up was the Roasted Farm Beets and Herbed Goat Cheese salad – a must order made with delicate cheese that didn’t overpower the expertly roasted beets, accompanied with toasted pecans, papaya and greens lightly dressed with a balsamic reduction that perfectly balanced the main ingredients.  How can something so simple be so good? But of course…it’s a French chef’s secret.

Entrees were tough to decide upon considering the offerings come from around the globe, but in keeping with the Parisian persuasion we decided on Three Petit Mignon with Three Different Sauces, and a Pistachio Salmon in Lavender Wine Sauce. A very respectable dish, the Mignon was fork tender and expertly cooked to a perfect medium rare, no easy feat considering how thin the meat is sliced, and while the sauces were velvety and nicely executed, they seemed one note to me, the demi glace-like base exhibiting a dominant flavor that made it hard to distinguish between the three.  The Salmon dish, on the other hand, was sheer perfection. Artfully plated (a true vision to behold complete with crescent shaped puff pastry adornment), the fish was again perfectly prepared and accompanied by a lavender sauce that was as delicate as it was flavorful.  Pistachios added an earthiness while pesto capped mashed potatoes lent visual interest as well as a tasty bite that didn’t adversely dominate. Bravo!       

We finished our meal with a chef’s special of Cappuccino Chocolate Mousse Cake that was absolutely sublime, and a greeting (French accent included) and kiss on the hand by owner/chef Bernard Tordjman that was as sweet as anything on the dessert menu.  Having a French restaurant close to home is again a welcomed reality, and the amazing food and service at Bernard’s Bistro on Sunset couldn’t be a better option.  For information, call them at 558-3366.

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