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Bistro de la Gare Revisited; All Better!

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Our last visit here, on a Saturday perhaps two years ago, was borderline disastrous. Not totally the kitchen's fault, because the doorkeepers were seating everyone who showed up whether there was room or not; our table (for six) was wedged in between two others too tightly for anyone's comfort. Of course the kitchen was totally in the weeds, and didn't the food just show it.

Anyway, 9/11 was Pa-in-law's 81st b-day, and he'd asked me to suggest a dinner spot. So I thought it'd be a good time to try the Bistro again, and he agreed readily. As the South Pas farmer's market was still in full cry at 7 o'clock, and the restaurant is smack in the middle of it, I had to drop the elders off a block away and then go park. They were seated when I got back to them, in the glassed-in corner room, so we could watch the FM action outside; Mrs. O made her appearance shortly thereafter, having taken the train from downtown after work (another very handy thing about this place!) The room's a little noisier than the ideal, being all hard surfaces and full of happily chattering people, but it was not intolerable.

Our very French waiter brought menus and bread quickly, and water soon after, which Pops made his usual fuss about refusing. We had no trouble deciding what we wanted: Pops and Maman both ordered the magret of duck, he medium and she medium-rare, and he asked for the escargot appetizer. Mrs. O went for the poulet roti, without the frites, please, and I made up for it by ordering the steak frites from the Specialites list. Pops ordered two glasses - one for him, one for me, the women aren't drinking these days - of a Bordeaux (Pomerol? Pommard? one of those) that I don't see on the by-the-glass list, but durned if they didn't open it for us, whether it's there or not (I didn't see the printed list, just the online version).

The escargot proved disappointing, canned probably and reportedly tasteless - well, they are cheap, at $7.50 or so. But that was absolutely the end of our disappointments. Both duck breasts were cooked exactly as ordered, Pops's with a core of red, Maman's with a larger red center, both declared delicious. Mrs. O received a very generous and beautiful half-chicken which she proceeded to dismantle and devour happily. And I could not have been more pleased with what was on my plate: not *A* steak, this dish, but about six quarter-inch slices off a top sirloin, seasoned and then grilled quickly on a very high heat. I had ordered it au point, medium-rare, and each of these slices was pure grilled goodness on the outside, red and juicy inside. The big glob of herb-and-garlic butter came perched on top in a Chinese soup spoon, a perfect presentation, and easily poured out where it'd do the most good. And the fries were as good as shoestrings get. The wine, dull and closed when first poured, opened up very nicely by the time the food arrived, and we split another glass to help the food along. I think the pinot noir Sancerre would have made a better choice with my dish, though - this is real downhome bistro food (if you live in Paris), and about as hearty as this kind of thing can be.

I didn't see the tab, of course - Pops was self-gifting, you see - but I've added up what I could from the online menu, and figure it must've been about $150 for the four of us, counting the tip. Not bad at all...and now that they're serving lunch, I'll have to try the lunch-menu version of steak frites, which features a NY steak, for $14.50. I'm so there...!

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  1. Great to know, Will.

    I fell in love with their Onion Soup when they first opened and really loved the place.
    Where they're able to find so many French staff members in LA is a subject of fascination in and of itself.


    1. Glad to hear about it. I always liked the place, but I too had a slightly disappointing (but by no means disastrous) experience there a while back, on a night where it did seem like there was no end to how many people they'd seat. I wonder if the key thing is simply to go during the week when it's less hectic, although I'd think they'd be busy on a Thursday, what with the FM and all.

      1. My last visit was a month ago.

        Service was affable, but the food was borderline awful.

        4 Replies
        1. re: J.L.

          oooh i'm so glad to read good reviews of this place! we're having our day-after-our-wedding breakfast/lunch there! so we'll report back.

          1. re: veee

            Uh. My review was not exactly glowing...

            1. re: J.L.

              true not yours, but the others. i should have hit reply on another post.

              1. re: veee

                No worries. Congrats on your impending nuptials.