“Bistronomique,” yet another fun portmanteau born of the kitchen arts, is a term devout foodies might know. It was something of a culinary French Revolution in which the Michelin way of doing things was challenged by chefs who chose to showcase fine French cuisine – bold interpretations of the traditional – in far more casual, bistro-style settings.
Others (read: most people) who enjoy good food and a nice glass of wine, but didn’t weep real tears when Gourmet sadly disappeared from the newsstands after a near 70-year run may be thinking, "Hey, that kind of reminds me of “Ratatouille!” They are not wrong – and in Orlando, two points for the Disney tie-in!
Bistro CloClo's tartare de thon — Photo courtesy of A.D Thompson
It is the relatively young bistronomique tradition that drives the cuisine – classic French with a modern twist – that the chefs behind Bistro CloClo are bringing to Orlando’s Dr. Phillips neighborhood. Since opening, the team has been enjoying a steady stream of diners for lunch and dinner. Some, staffers say, have already become repeat guests whose names they are getting to know. It’s an undeniable mark of the traditional French bistro, says CloClo’s general manager, Paul Ardaji.
“The bistro is a place where, in France, people in the neighborhood gather, sometimes after work or with friends, to enjoy good company, good food, a glass of wine…” says Ardaji, who, like the restaurant’s chef, Julien Bouchet, and its namesake – the late pop star, Claude François (his nickname was CloClo) – is also French.
Vol au vent d'escargots. Just as tasty in English, but nowhere near as fun to say — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Hors d’oeuvres available at both lunch and dinner include ample seafood portions in the artfully plated tartare de thon, hand-cut Ahi tuna with oil and citrus atop a bed of arugula and enjoyably briny olive tapenade and moules marinières, downright pillowy PEI mussels steeped in an amalgam of white wine, shallots, butter and cream. Those looking to double-down on the garlic can add the vol au vent d’escargots – each snail lies abed a delicate puff pastry shell.
Moules marinieres. Certainly big enough to share, but you may not want to — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Some of the most popular main courses, says Ardaji, are the steak au poivre and the scallops á la CloClo, which are cognac-flambéed and set atop a dramatic black risotto backdrop with a drizzle of apple cider sauce. Come dinner, crepes are limited to the dessert menu – Nutella, raspberry-white chocolate or classic butter/sugar (they even have a house version of the “cronut”) so if you prefer the savory variety, hit them up for lunch.
Fillings for the midday crowd? Choose from Classique (ham, mozzarella, sunny-side-up eggs), Nordique (smoked salmon and sour cream), Piquante (Black Angus beef, mozzarella, grilled onions, spicy sauce) and a vegetarian variety with creamy Brie. “As is traditional,” says Chef Alvaro Delbusto, “these are made with buckwheat flour.” They are priced between $9-12.
Mousse au chocolat par Julien: tres decadent — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
French culture comes in more flavors than those you’ll sample on your plates here. Inside, its warm red walls are alive with imagery of France – city and countryside – created by French artists Noreen Coup and Helene de Lille. Jazz singer ZaZa (yes, she is French, too) has been making regular appearances, as well, performing American classics as well as those of Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour and others.
One wouldn’t imagine it’d be easy to forget that Bistro CloClo’s covered patio is steps from a strip mall parking lot, but with well-spaced tables, strings of vintage-style lights, the gift of a breeze and just enough topiary screening to create a pellucid sense of separation (not to mention a deep, red Bordeaux and the strains of “La Vie en Rose”) you’d be surprised how quickly it slips the mind.