Artisanal

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A business trip in February to Beaverton, Washington brought me to the local eatery, Artisanal Bistro. Apparently it has since closed which saddens me, but I am still going to offer what was a lovely evening. Stylistically, it is reminiscent of a Parisian bistro with its bentwood, rattan-backed chairs, 1930s Art Deco styling, and giant murals. The space is large and while far from intimate, the waiters work hard to provide comfort and a very pleasant experience. The menu is seemingly staid and a throwback to the 1970s with its “classic” French offerings; Bouillaisse, French Onion Soup, and Escargots. There is no nouveau, California cuisine to be found here, but there is a perfectly enticing cheese counter near the bar area which beckons upon entry.

Dining with an old friend, we ordered to share and reveled in the nostalgia of a style of food I rarely encounter. To start, we shared a Beet Salad served with Endive and Spinach, Walnuts, and Humboldt Fog Cheese. Of all we tasted, this very well could have been the most “nouveau” of the entire meal. Generous slabs of cheese accompanied the well-dressed combination of greens and freshly roasted, ample beets. Here was a delightful opening which provided an excellent precursor to the Soup du Jour, a combination roasted chestnut and fennel, creamed together with single fried sage leaf and a small brunoise of foie gras to elevate the already unctuously creamy offering.

Our main entrées were ordered to complement one another; the Plats du Jour of Dover Sole Meunière and Duck a l’Orange. Although Dover Sole is traditionally fileted tableside by a server, here is was brought out pre-flailed and topped with fresh haricot verts, almond silvers, and capers. Fortunately the tail and fish head were left intact to allow for consumption of those delicacies. The fish was tender and moist, with the capers providing a necessary piquant contrast to the rich butter. The duck was equally as rich and tasted exactly like those I experienced when first my parents began taking me to “fancy French restaurants” in the early 1970s.

The true joy of the evening — and the biggest sadness about the restaurant’s closing — was the cheese. We had saved room specifically for the cheese and somewhat laughed when I asked our waiter for suggestions. It seemed he current favorites were all California cheeses. I wanted to experience locally-created cheeses and the in-house cheese monger came over and chatted with us for a bit to find out what our tastes were inclined towards. I advised that I ordered both a glass of Sauternes and Late Harvest Riesling to accompany and our cheese monger did more than accommodate. Hillis Peak is goat cheese made from Nigerian dwarf goats and is made from Pholia Farm, Oregon. A raw-milk cheese, it was tangy from a rubbing with oil and paprika. Red Darla, from Washington, was washed with red wine and produced a pungent, soft, and well-balanced offering. The killer cheese of the evening was Rogue River Blue, also from Oregon. Wrapped in grape leaves and macerated in pear brandy, this was one of the creamiest and intensely fruity blue cheeses I have ever experienced.

I regret I did not write this up in a more timely fashion – perhaps to have encouraged more patronage. It was a very memorable evening.

Artisanal Brasserie & Winebar on Urbanspoon

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