Chef and I had a fleeting experience with Parisian bistros on a French mini break. We loved their bustling vibe and the excellent, inexpensive food. The only thing that was lacking was the service. Every waiter we encountered in Paris gave us a hefty serve of attitude with “le boeuf”. Maybe it was our fault for being bumbling tourists?
Bistro des Artistes, in Subiaco, is quintessentially Parisian, but here the wait staff are very welcoming. The bustling bistro has a casual atmosphere, with jaunty accordion music in the background. As we’re taken to our table, I spot fresh baguettes, and to our delight we’re soon given a basket of the crusty bread.
Chef and I are dining on a busy Friday lunchtime. Two courses is $45, or you can push the boat out and enjoy three courses for $50. This pricing shows what French bistro dining is all about – modest food, at modest prices.
Bistro des Artistes, which opened in 2012, is the creation of celebrated French chefs, Alain Fabregues and Emmanuel Mollois. Emmanuel left early this year to pursue his own catering business. Alain’s iconic hills fine diner, The Loose Box, closed its doors last year.
For entrée, Chef chooses the crispy pigs trotter. The glutinous meat is crumbed and fried. It is served with a cauliflower “semolina” – finely shredded raw cauliflower. Served alone, it is a bland companion to the tasty trotters. They are also accompanied by an organic Quark dip. Quark is a curd cheese and this too is plain and under seasoned.
Though the Croque-Monsieur is essentially a ham and cheese toasted sandwich typically made with a bechemal sauce, I am keen to try something that is a staple on Parisian bistro menus. This version, usually called a Croque-Madame, is topped with a poached egg. As it is truffle season, I add truffle, for an extra charge of $10. I love the addition of this pungent, earthy flavour; it makes the Croque Monsieur feel decadent. The crisp, butteryness of the toast, the oozing egg yolk and the generous shavings of truffle, is a really great way to start lunch.
Chef couldn’t get enough of his main – Lamb belly cooked two ways. Firstly the lamb is confit with rosemary and then grilled till deliciously crisp. The moreish lamb is served along with finely sliced, Alsatian braised root vegetables and a lamb jus. Alsace is a prominent cooking and wine region in North Eastern France, renowned for its rustic style of cuisine with strong German influences. This is wonderfully hearty comfort food on a cool winter’s day.
My main is a seafood lover’s delight; a large quenelle of creamed crimson snapper and local prawns. The rich quenelle is poached to perfection – it has a light and fluffy mousse-like texture. It is served with brocollini and a crab bisque, which is well seasoned and has a great depth of flavour. The dish is absolutely spot-on.
Bistro des Artistes has a certain je ne sais quoi. We enjoy the robust French cuisine and friendly service. Our little piece of Paris on Hay Street.