Artisan Bistro, Lafayette
Three of us enjoyed a flawless meal here. Some highlights: ratatouille soup with several embellishments on a crouton, including a quail egg; cooked-as-requested rack of boar, with individual cranberries among garnishes. At least three varieties of beet in an appetizer with farro and more; terrific fries; delightful large individual cornbread with a touch of pork belly and a jalapeno-butter topping. Friendly, competent, but unintrusive service.
2 modest-priced glasses of wine, $20 corkage, 3 apps, 3 mains, 2 sides, one dessert--$196 before tip, but, in fairness, we had the most expensive mains.
If our experience was typical, this is a real find.
Artisan has been one of our favorites since we discovered it in late 2010. It is the kind of place we like – casual but upscale, well-trained waitstaff, quiet atmosphere, with superb, creative, delicious food.
Executive Chef John Marquez, a native of Danville, has a powerhouse resume that includes Julian Serrano’s Picasso in Las Vegas, Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, Daniel Patterson’s Elisabeth Daniel and Coi, and Gerald Hirigoyen’s Fringale. Artisan, which opened in March 2009, is his first (and only) solo.
We have gone mostly for dinner (4x) but twice for brunch. Brunch menu is very simple but the French scramble is worth its reputation as the most-requested breakfast dish at Artisan. Service at brunch is not quite as on-point as in the evenings, however.
Have never had a bad meal there. The consistency is remarkable. We consider Artisan the best restaurant in Contra Costa and Alameda Ctys. You can guess how eagerly we are awaiting that Caldecott fourth bore opening up, LOL!
I've only been for brunch but found the food and service solid. In the context of the area it's awesome and I think the locals are so glad it's there, but as Jaiko hints at - it's not worth a destination trip.
Chevalier is also decent - but haven't eaten enough between them to make a comparison.
Brunch at Artisan is good, but dinner is far better. We in fact, do consider Artisan a destination restaurant - perhaps the only one we've found in either Alameda or Contra Costa (but obviously, we haven't tried 'em all yet! [smile]).
Chevalier has the nicest patio in Lafayette by far. But we have not liked their food nor the persistent cost-cutting. The issue for us is that we don't drink. Chevalier's food is like Oliveto under chef Paul Canales: if you don't drink, you miss that acidic lift his cooking needs. Otherwise it's too heavy/salty/greasy, without the bite of alcohol.