Sadly, there is a dearth of French restaurants here in Utah. We had some good ones—Bistro 412, Chenez, Au Bon Appetit, L’Avenue, and The Paris, to name a few. Some simply went out of business; others were shuttered following the anti-French sentiment that spawned freedom fries in the wake of 9/11. But that’s old news; here’s some good news. France is back, baby!
In the space that was most recently home to Coal & Lumber—and, before that, Easy Street Brasserie—Talisker Club has opened a French-themed bistro, Courchevel, 201 Heber Ave, 435.572.4398, courchevelbistro.com. The restaurant is named for the French Alps ski resort and Park City’s sister city, Courchevel, which is in the Savoie département (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region) of southeastern France. An exquisitely talented French chef, Clement Gelas, also hails from Savoie and he’s Executive Chef at Courchevel—the bistro, not the resort. Before moving to Talisker, Gelas was Executive Chef at The Farm. His cooking is second to none.
Rather than the all-too-predictable French fare that we’ve come to expect from French eateries in America, Gelas and his team highlight cuisine of Savoie and other regions of France, but with contemporary updates. So, you won’t find steak frites or moules marinières on the menu. Instead, you’ll encounter inspired spins on classics such as bouillabaisse, coq au vin, and beef Parmentier.
The bouillabaisse at Courchevel Bistro, for example, might not pass muster with someone from Marseille, but here in Utah it makes perfect sense to build a bouillabaisse around fresh trout and a crawfish emulsion, with baby potatoes and haricots verts. Beef Parmentier, a French comfort food classic if ever there was one, at Courchevel, gets a modern treatment that includes cilantro, honey and candied carrots. Even something as simple as bratwurst is elevated here, wrapped in brioche and served with house-made apple cider mustard.
The dish I just can’t get out of my mind—it was so scrumptious—is listed on the menu as Risotto de Crozets, but I believe will soon be changed to “Baked Crozets.” While the dish is reminiscent of risotto, it’s not made with rice, which understandably confuses some customers. Crozets de Savoie are small, flat, pasta squares made from buckwheat. At Courchevel, the crozets are cooked with wild mushrooms, Gruyère cheese, truffle and house-cured bacon, and they’re irresistible.
“I love what you’ve done with the place!” I said to Gelas when he gave me a tour of his new bistro. There’s a comfy bar downstairs festooned with plush leather sofas and chairs and adjacent outdoor seating in warm weather. Upstairs, the airy and light main dining room features an exhibition kitchen and counter seating for those who want to see their meal prepared up close.
Courchevel Bistro also sports a casual café/bakery with Hugo coffee, desserts, and baked goods prepared by another supremely talented French chef, Franck Peissel. Once you’ve tasted a Peissel pastry, you’re permanently hooked.
Hungry yet? Well, I’ve got good news and bad news … The bad news is that Courchevel is scheduled to close for about a month, starting on October 27. The good news is that the Bistro will reopen on November 22 with some tempting new additions to the menu. Chef Gelas told me he’ll be adding an Alpine Bites menu (a.k.a. après ski) featuring dishes such as beef cheeks with polenta fries (his take on “steak frites”), French onion soup, Raclette, and tartiflette, which is a cheesy dish from Savoie made with potatoes, Reblochon cheese, lardons and onions.
Vive la France!