December 14, 2006

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French but not fussy
Bistro offers simple cooking, cheese plate
By Susan Reilly  news@hippopress.com

You have to love the French Bistro for its lack of pretension.

French fries are called just that, not pomme frites. Even the name of this cozy boite on the Milford Oval smacks of simplicity.

The menu is in French but if your command of the language is confined to foie gras, petit pan and Dijon, you will be thankful for the English subtitles.

The dishes are simple and authentic. There is no fusion, no cross of Thai spices with Basque flavors or what have you. It is all authentic French cooking just like grand-mere would make.

On the first weekend of every month, The French Bistro offers a prix-fixe tasting menu. The price is roughly $45 for four courses, or roughly $65 paired with wine (the price varies slightly depending on the menu each month). Also, there is the option of a cheese plate for an additional $9.95, an adventurous selection of French and Canadian cheeses.

The Canadian influence in this quaint bistro comes from the fact that owner and host Thierry Navette has spent the last year stuck in Quebec due to an immigration snafu. During this time he has sourced some outstanding Canadian cheeses, which he has put on the menu at the bistro.

Navette’s immigration troubles seem to be in the past. He expects to be able to return to the renovated caboose restaurant and his adjacent home in the next few months.

“Life has been difficult. My wife and my daughters are here with me and the girls have started school. But we are all eager to get back to Milford,” he said by phone from his Quebec home.

Navette, who has dual citizenship in France and Canada, has been stuck in Canada since Oct. 3, 2005, unable to get his visa renewed.

Since 1999, he had been living and working in the U.S. on a visa that allowed him to be employed. He worked as the food and beverage director at the Stonehedge Inn in Tyngsborough, Mass., and then as the general manager of Mantra, an Indian-inspired French cuisine restaurant in Boston.

But when Navette tried to return across the border last October after traveling to Canada to get his visa renewed, U.S. Customs agents refused to renew his visa because it permitted him to be in the United States only if he were sponsored for employment by a company, not if he owned his own business. Navette had opened The French Bistro in September 2004 and was not working for anyone else.

“It is a different visa if you are self-employed. It looks like now that this has all been cleared up,” Navette said.

Chef Koltan Kosa has kept the restaurant going and the foodies clamoring in Navette’s absence. From Quebec, Navette has a list of 1,200 customers whom he e-mails several times a month with menu updates and special events.

“I get a lot of email back with kind words of support. It has been very helpful and encouraging,” he said.

The French Bistro is located just off the Oval in Milford. There is a clapboard home, where the Navettes live, and an adjacent caboose, which has been restored.

The bistro seats approximately 40 people. The menu is succinct and unaffected.

Lunch ranges from a steak sandwich ($12.95) on a baguette with caramelized onions, and cheese to beef tartare ($12.95) with French fries and steamed mussels ($10.95) with French fries.

The dinner menu offers starters such as jumbo asparagus with a morel sauce ($9.50), house cured salmon risotto ($8.95) and a charcuterie selection ($8.50) of French salami and chicken liver mousse served with brioche toast.

For the main course, look for confit of pork cheeks with braised red cabbage and apples ($18.95), fish stew in saffron broth ($22.95) and braised chicken with sweetbread ($16.95) in a pastry shell.

Desserts are decadent yet simple. There is a daily crème brulée ($6.50), the classic Paris-Brest ($7.50) and crepes flambéed with Grand Marnier ($8.95).

When Navette returns, he is set to open an adjacent wine and cheese shop to sell some of his customers favorite items.

“I am really looking forward to coming back and moving forward with my life. I really miss the restaurant and all of the regular customers,” he said.

New Years Eve at the Bistro
The French Bistro is offering a four-course prix fixe meal for $70 per person, which includes a glass of champagne and party favors.

Offerings include appetizers (scallop with papaya and mango slaw, artichoke and tomato tart or seared foie gras with beet carpaccio), entrees (veal tenderloin with bone marrow risotto, baby pheasant with brussel sprout, carrot and pear, or pan-seared red snapper with spaetzle, green asparagus and sherry foam) and dessert (chocolate millefeuille with creme anglaise, chestnut crème caramel, hazelnut gateau or apple tart tatin with caramel sauce). A cheese plate is available for $9.95.

The French Bistro
15 Elm St., Milford, 249-9605
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tuesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.



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Chocolate, Part II
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Drinking Out Of The Box
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Experiments With Very Bad Brownies
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Go ahead — run silent, run deep
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Holiday Cookies - The Easy Way
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