Bijoux (Dallas) Any reports?
The Dallas Morning News gave Bijoux five stars last Friday. The chef there did great things at the Tasting Room at Lola as many of us know. I haven't been yet but am really looking forward to it. Anyone been there yet?
Yep. Meant to e-mail you. Food is extremely good. In the league with, if not better in execution (if not concept) than York Street, and half a notch better than Lola. I had the tasting menu. Four of the seven courses (not counting cheese and dessert) were stellar. The other three were very good. Food is absolutely top notch as is service.
The wine list is frankly, the weak link. And I understand that I'm a bit picky in that area, but the selection isn't what it should be with this quality of cuisine and the pricing is at the very high end of reasonable. Not very many selections in top price ranges, either. However, the pairings on the tasting menu, although considerably more economical than what I would normally order, were well matched. None of the wines were profound or terribly serious, but the skill in matching them was well executed. I just wish that there had been a upgrade option. In fact, in my humble opinion, the entire wine program needs to be upgraded. But, that is the only fly in the ointment here.
Some notes from a dinner there in October:
Very good to excellent food, but not on a par with David Uygur at his best. Uygur has mastered texture, flavor contrasts and surprises, and Gottlich, though very competent, doesn't have Uygur's palate or creativity.
Way too much use of pureed potatoes with precious (and almost indistinguishable) flavorings. Everything was over-salted.
Part way through the meal (after the foie gras, which seemed completely out of place two-thirds of the way through the menu) I found myself getting bored. I almost asked them not to bring any more food.
My wife had the wine pairings, and said she felt they missed more often than they hit; a couple of times, they forgot to bring the paired wine with the designated course. (They did send us home with a bottle of Alsatian riesling and some cheese, by way of apology.) I only sniffed the wines, but it seemed that four successive fruity/citrusy sauvignon blancs and chardonnays was a bit much. The reds were bizarre: a cabernet sauvignon from Burgundy, a pinot noir "from France."
Service was earnest but verged on obtrusive. The place was crowded the night we were there, and the staff was rushing to get a couple of large tables served. Sometimes it felt like a school of wait-fish was floating through the room. Four different servers tried to take our bread plates away, and my wife finally said to one of our servers, "I've never had anyone so worried about my bread plate! Maybe they need to buy some more?"
I was seated facing the kitchen door, and contrary to the Dallas Morning News review, the only "dazzling" I felt was the from the too-bright fluorescent lights shining in my eyes.
In all, I think it's a good place ... definitely one of the top 10 in Dallas. I hope they work out some of the kinks and become one of the top five. It will be a while before I go back.
The wines that I had with the tasting menu were, by and large, matched well with the courses and were intermixed well amongst themselves in contrast to what Kirk reports. To wit:
2003 Ch. La Caussade Bordeaux blanc (Beet Carpaccio) -- as good a match as any with beets. A very nice sauvignon blanc based wine.
2005 Flora Springs Chard (Forest Mushroom Soup) Nice wine, but the worst match of the evening. I'd have gone with a red burg or pinot.
NV Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne (Day Boat Scallops) -- not my favorite champagne, but nice and a lovely match with scallops with chives, mascarpone, and caviar.
2004 Drouhin "Leforet" Chardonnay (Skatewine with chorizo). Fair wine, lack of depth wasn't as noticeable given the spiciness of the dish. Not a bad place to hide a less expensive white. However, with a similar dish at Wink in Austin, I had a Spanish albarino with went much better.
2005 "Les Fantanelles" Pinot Noir (Tagliolini with mushrooms, poached quail egg). Killer dish with a fair non appellation French Pinot. Nice match, but how much more could it have costs to get a decent Burgougne rouge?
2004 Rieussec Sauternes (Foie Fras wiht buckleberry lost bread). Very good dish, major league wine, albeit in a bit of an off vintage. Lovely match. No complaints here at all.
2003 Ch. Sissan Bordeaux (Daube of Beef). Decent enough generic Bordeaux that matched very well with the dish.
2004 Hugel Riesling (Peasant Ridge Reserve grilled cheese sandwich). Fair generic Alsatian reisling that made a good match.
I passed on dessert for health reasons, but did have a glass of the 2004 Torbreck Late Harvest Muscat. Nice Aussie stickie.
My complaint is not with the mixing or the matching, but with the overall quality level of the wines. I'd have willingly paid more (substantially more, in fact) to have had an upgrade in quality. Replace the Drouhin "La Foret" with a decent Chablis or a 1er Cru white Burg, the no name, non-appellation pinot with a Burgougne rouge or a village wine, the obscure Bordeaux from 2003 with a decent Cru Bourgeois from 2000, and I'd be as happy as a pig in the sunshine.
By the way, we didn't experience any of the service kinks that Kirk reported even thought they were full the evening we were there.
As to the comparison with Lola (mentioned by Texasgirl and indirectly by Kirk), I think the food at Bijoux is half a notch better, albeit a bit more contrived and designed. The atmosphere at Bijoux is a bit more formal as is the service -- and this is clearly a personal preference -- which is a nod in Loal's favor to me. But the wine list at Lola is so superior and so much better priced, I'd rather dine there by a substantial margin. But I will try Bijoux from time to time.
re: Mike C. Miller
Re: the wines, I'm struck by the fact that six of the eight accompanying your meal's courses were whites. And I am still baffled by foie gras and sauternes inserted between pasta with wild mushrooms and daube de boeuf.
Also, instead of Bijoux's glass-per-course "tour de vin," I'd like to cast a vote for Van's approach to pairings at Lola's Tasting Room. By choosing a single wine to go with "flights" of three or four food courses, he and his chef (especially, David Uygur) are able to create some fascinating and complex pairings that showcase the nuances of both the wine and the food. A single, good value Soave evolves sequentially into new dimensions when paired with tortelloni with ricotta and sea urchin; seared skate with shellfish with fennel and sherried tomatoes; cauliflower soup with fried shallots and chive cream, and crispy sweet breads and succotash. And, in my opinion, you don't have to trot out a Corton-Charlemagne grand cru to achieve the effect -- but if you can, good for you!
I don't disagree with anything that you've said in this post (except perhaps the part about the timing of the foie gras -- more on that later).
I very much agree, however, on using a wine for more than one course. It is interesting to watch a wine change with different dishes. But, I've seen it done more often with a wine per course. (In fact, I'll be at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago this weekend and that's how they do it.) But the biggest advantage I see here is that it would perhaps allow them to upgrade the quality of the wines. As I've said, the quality of the wines didn't match the quality of the food. And while some might accuse me of living too high on the hog when it comes to wine, I don't have to have Corton Charlemange with my food (although it would have been a lovely option from the correct producer), but serving Leforet and a non-appellation red Burg and a mediocre Bordeaux is not doing justice to the food. Spend a bit more and get a generic, decent producer Petite Chablis; a village Burg, a Burgougne rouge or a village Burg. from 2002; and a obscure but really good Bordeaux from Francois Chandou at La Cave. How much could that add to the wine cost? $10 to 15 per person? It would be well worth it, in my opinion. Nor would those be the only options, just the Franco-centric ones. But plenty of others. A nice, fresh Dolcetto would sub nicely for the red Burg at less money, just to point out one easy example. Or one of Kermit Lynch's "Gang of Four" cru Beaujolais producers.
As to the foie gras, I think the placement of foie gras in a meal is a bit troublesome with wine matches. I'm not a huge foie gras fan, but the match with the Sauternes was very nice and Rieussec is a lovely producer. I think that they placed it as well as they could in the sequence of courses unless you placed it after the meat course and before the cheese. The foie gras was just too rich to put earlier among the white wine dishes. Personally, I'd have left it where it was. The Rieussec held up just fine after the tagliolini and pinot. The pinot was very light, almost Beaujolais weight.
Finally, I hope that no one takes away too much of a negative vibe from all of this. I had a very nice time at the restaurant and will be back frequently. The food was wonderful. And as you can tell, I am very much interested in wine. It is just very frustrating to go have a meal with such well prepared food like this and see almost all the wines on the list fall into one of two categories on the list 1) Ones that are below the quality of what I have at home; or 2) a few bottle of excellent quality at three to four times their retail price. Seems like there ought to be some middle ground in there. And there are many interesting wines to be had in the sub $50 range retail that could (or should) be on the list at <$125. I just didn't see them when I was there.
I wonder about that myself. Strictly speaking, under Texas law, a restaurant that has a license to sell mixed drinks isn't allowed to let patrons bring their own wine whereas a restaurant that has a beer and wine license is allowed to do so. (Crazy law, I know. I bill will likely be introduced this legislative session to fix this if I can get my ducks in a row.)
I'm assuming that Bijoux has a mixed drink license. As to how scrupulously they will observe this small detail, I don't know.
re: Mike C. Miller
Very good suggestions on the wines, and especially the Dolcetto. (I might have suggested a Priorato or a Ribera del Duero, because I am partial to Spanish reds.)
I still cast my vote in the "fewer is more" column on wine pairings -- but even with that approach, the wines should build to a crescendo at the end of the meal, not peter out like the orchestra got bored and left rehearsal.
Personally, I think the foie gras and Sauternes would have been better after the daube de boeuf (or another red meat dish). To my taste, foie gras is so rich that it does the same thing cheese does ... push the "reset" button. Daube seemed like a chore after foie gras, instead of the crescendo of the meal. (At The Tasting Room, Uygur once served foie gras as a dessert, and I could have sworn I saw him standing in the kitchen door looking like the Cheshire Cat when it was served.) I wonder where Charlie Trotter will place the foie gras in his tasting menu when you eat there this weekend... ; D
Now, having spread all this erudition around the field, I think it's only fair to point out again that I did not taste ANY of the wines at Bijoux. Like your "pass" on dessert, I abstain for health reasons -- and because my friends Bill W. and Dr. Bob correctly suggest that lots of things (including food) can be enjoyed without wine pairings. By the way, if you would like to add to your home cellar, I have a relatively small quantity of well-selected and well-cared-for bottles that I would be happy to tender for your review.
Just like what Kirk said, all the dishes was over-salted. I went to Lola this past Saturday, and it was a total disappointment. Only 5 out of the 10/11 tables were seated.
I didn't feel like any of the dishes were freshly prepared. And, I couldn't believe how salty each dishes were! I couldn't finish any of my dishes. I could care less about the food; however, I did enjoy the wine pairings. I am no wine expert, so I can't much about how each wine went with the food. I did enjoy every single one of the wines I got.
Two most noticeable flaws other than the SALTINESS of the food:
1) the fresh grapefruit(from the grapefruit sorbet dish) tasted foul, as if the grapefruit was prepared on a dirty, unwashed cutting board!
2) the warm chocolate pudding with yogurt sorbet (I am a huge dessert person) was BORING. I didn't even bother to finish it, and it wasn't because I was full. Afterall, I didn't finish any of the dishes. The petits four were bad. The shortbread cookies tasted like it had been out for a week.
I think I was expecting too much from Lola. I was comparing to Daniel (NYC) and Alan Wong's (Honolulu). They were both pricier than Lola. Lola is cheap for tasting menu.
Oh yeah, I was tempted to tell the chef to lightly salt my dishes, but I didn't, mainly because I thought all the dishes were already made and sitting on the counter ( too late to make any alterations).
So here is the question: is it rude to tell a chef that the food is too salty for your own preference? If not, what is the best way to say it without offending the chef?
wow, fantastic report, love the details and comments on the service... "school of fish" is a very funny analogy. nice work, kirk!
Bijoux is fantastic! Much better food, selection, quality and service than even the Mansion. We did the 5-course option. Very creative options like an oyster tasting, foie gras with big eye tuna (seen in the picture in the Guide review), and a creative cheese course. Only hiccup is that I wouldn't order the venison, just like the review in the Guide says (wish I had read it prior to going to Bijoux) it is chewy. Instead I would opt for the beef, it was outstanding. Overall it is a great experience, similar to Lola, only better!