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Monday, August 13, 2012

Artisan Bistro: Bay Area's Best Kept Secret

I had one of the most amazing meals of my life at Artisan Bistro. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite restaurants, and I've only been there once for brunch and once (more recently) for dinner -- both experiences were spectacular.

We discovered the Artisan Bistro when Brian's mom was visiting. We were looking for a place to have brunch, near a BART station, before she had to hop on the train to the airport to return home. Brian started Googling places and stumbled across the Artisan Bistro, serving up French California cuisine. We all agreed it look suitable, so we headed over, appetites in tow. From the moment we walked in the door to the very last bite, we were in heaven. I knew we'd be back.



The setting is precious -- tucked away down a small street in quaint Lafayette, the restaurant exists within a California ranch-style home, retro-fitted with all of the necessities of a gourmet dining.  The service is outstanding -- clearly the staff takes significant pride in the food and values of the restaurant, and we felt warmly welcomed by every member of the staff. The Chef uses local, seasonal ingredients -- something us foodies have heard a million times, right? But Artisan Bistro is different. For the first time, every element in my dining experience tasted as though it had been harvested and prepared at the peak of ripeness. And rightfully so...after all, Chef Marquez spent several years working for the infamous Thomas Keller at French Laundry and was selected by Keller himself to help open Per Se. {swoon} The guy knows what he's doing. 

You can read their season dinner menu by clicking here.

For dinner, we started with the Brentwood Yellow Corn Soup, which was served table side and delivered absolute culinary decadence -- without the need for heavy cream and butter. Chef Marquez believes in letting good ingredients shine. If you use good ingredients, you don't need to make it taste good by adding extra fat. The corn soup was silky and sweet -- so incredibly brimming with the essence of corn that I could hardly believe I had never tasted corn like this before. There were little surprises, like fresh corn, chanterelles and young cilantro shoots that absolutely elevated this soup above and beyond my expectations.

We moved on to our entree course. Brian ordered the ribeye, which was fantastic, but I need to tell you about the Duo Watson Farm Lamb that I ordered. O...M...G! The duo consisted of a fantastically prepared rack of lamb and a sous-vide leg of lamb (it sounds like a lot but the portions were perfect). But it gets better. Alongside the lamb were two incredible culinary-accouterment: a corn and truffle puree, and a silky lamb jus. Together with the two lamb preparations, this amazing marriage of flavor was too amazing to even describe. I literally almost cried tears of food-joy right there in the restaurant -- it was that good. And the "side vegetables" were nothing to turn your nose at in the slightest! On the contrary, I just about licked my plate, trying to capture all of the corn, chanterelle and summer squash goodness. I didn't want it to end. 

But dessert was calling. We ordered the Peach Bread Pudding, which was served with a spicy walnut ice cream (made in-house, as is EVERYTHING they serve), a rich peanut brittle and decadent spicy rum sauce. What a note to end on! I'm getting out of breath just thinking about it. 

If you are in the Bay Area, the Artisan Bistro is the BEST KEPT SECRET of our great culinary scene. I urge you...nay, IMPLORE you to go visit and experience it's amazingness in all of it's glory. Even the virgin mojito they concocted for this little pregnant lass was simply divine. 

Our brunch experience was superb, but you will experience the full throttle of Chef Marquez' artistry at dinner time. He is a master craftsman of food. 

Cheers!! 

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