This Valentine's Day, my Valentine and I decided to descend upon Bistro Liaison to add a little French twist to our V-Day. Located on Shattuck Avenue in between downtown Berkeley and the infamous Gourmet Ghetto, I had driven by Bistro Liaison countless times over the past near decade that it has been around (this coming May 21 marks its official 10 year anniversary), and this time armed with a voucher (thank you, Living Social) and an excuse (hello, Valentine's Day), it was finally time to try it.
Since this was on a holiday, we called in to make a reservation just to be safe. On the phone, we were informed that in lieu of their regular dinner menu, they would be having a special prix fixe menu that night. When I heard bubbly, plus crab cakes, seared ahi, filet mignon, and duck l'orange, were some of the options, I was in.
When we got there, it was clear that a reservation was necessary as the place was packed at 8:30 and there were other patrons at the door waiting for seats as well. Even then, though, I could already tell that I'd like the place. I was oh-ing and ah-ing over the food that the servers brought out. The other patrons looked like they were enjoying themselves. The restaurant itself just looked so cute, rustic and romantic. Reminiscent of a real Parisian brasserie.
Entrée We started out with a couple of glasses of bubbly. My date and I's plan was to order something different for each course so that we could both taste a little more of the menu, but when we noticed that the starters portion of the menu had a choice of either cauliflower puree, a romaine hearts salad or crab cakes -- well, we both instantly had our hearts set on the crab cake and had to go for it. No regrets.
Gateau au Crabe Dungeness crab cake, pickled fennel and citrus salad, sauce remoulade
This was definitely one of the most crab filled crab cakes that I've ever had and the tartness from the citrus salad and the picked fennel was a nice contrast richness of the sauce remoulade and the crab cake itself.
Plats Principaux The appetizer may have been a no brainer for us, but when it came to the main entree, there was stiff competition between seared ahi, filet mignon and duck l'orange. Having started off our meal with some surf, we decided to go for the two turf entrees.
I like my meats rare, but about 75% of the time that I order rare, I end up with something medium rare, or worse -- fully cooked. Well, Bistro Liaison is in the 25% that doesn't mess that up. The filet mignon was the perfect rare that I ordered it to be. The celery root potato gratin that came on the side was just absolutely phenomenal. Even after I finished eating the celery root and potato in it, I just had to lap up the rest of the cream, Emmentaler and Gruyere sauce with the table bread!
Canard a l'Orange Seared breast of duck, orange gastrique, Camargue rice
The duck a l'orange was just as amazing. Done to the standard medium rare, the texture was just amazing and the sauce was just perfectly flavorful and tangy. Don't tell anyone, but I actually scraped the Bearnaise sauce off and dipped pieces of the filet mignon in the orange gastrique sauce. It was that good. The Camargue rice on the side was to die for, too, especially since it soaked up so much of this amazing sauce!
Dessert Dessert was a mystery to us as all the dessert section said was, "Assorted confections for the Lovers to share!!". I can deal with that :) What came out was this beautifully plated concoction. I love doing food photography and don't usually make excuses for my photos, but this time, I have to say -- I tried as many different photo angles as I could to do this platter justice without annoying the other patrons, but in the end, this is the best that I can do, and no, it does not do this dessert platter justice.
Everything on this plate was delicious. It consisted of a mango macaron, pistachio macaron, chocolate fondant, chocolate gelato and raspberry sorbet topped with tuiles, raspberry sauce and lemon meringe tarts. It was almost too pretty and adorable to eat.
Service Now I can't finish writing about how impressed I was with Bistro Liaison without mentioning their service. The host and servers were always just the right amount of attentive, as well as knowledgeable about the menu and were overall personable, fun-to-talk-to folks. One other thing that I should mention is that when I called in to make reservations, I was mistakenly told that they would take my Living Social voucher even though it was a holiday. Our host told us that they were told to specifically not accept them on that day, but he spoke with management and they ended up letting us redeem it since someone on the staff had previously told us otherwise, which we thought was awfully nice of them.
Now that I've tasted their special prix fixe menu of off-menu items... I'm very much looking forward to trying the other French specialties on their menu, like French onion soup, escargot, and croque monsieurs. Plus, they've got an extensive wine list because did I mention... they have a wine club?! All in this cozy, warm atmosphere with a romantic and rustic ambiance. I definitely had a lovely time in this cute bistro with exceptional food, as well as exceptional company :)
While I was dining there, my date and I couldn't help but notice this cozy little nook in the back that looked so closed off from the rest of the restaurant, except it wasn't. An older couple was sitting there among the bottles of wine, rustic home decor and framed French posters. They were wearing comfy and relaxed, yet elegant clothing, topped off with berets, looking like they totally belonged there. I can just imagine them sitting there and sipping on lattes and red wine all day while writing poetry or having some deep conversation or debate about existentialism. Or holding office hours there as people in France have been known to do at cafes. They definitely added to our dining experience.
That's the table that I want the next time I'm there.