4423 state street road



(315) 685-3063







Joelle's Bistro serves fine French feast

Thursday, May 03, 2007

By Yolanda Wright

Contributing writer

A smiling gentleman opens the restaurant door and greets us with "Bonjour," and someone appears to whisk away our coats. The gentleman kisses my hand and leads us to a comfy parlor where we're seated in front of a fireplace, served with complimentary flutes of champagne and offered menus to look at while we wait for friends to join us for dinner.

Forget daydreams. We've just entered Joelle's French Bistro, a magic culinary kingdom in a white farmhouse that used to be a bed and breakfast three miles north of the village of Skaneateles.

In early March, new owners, the French-born husband-and-wife team of Alain Castel and Joelle Bollinger, who were both raised in Africa, opened their eclectic eight-table bistro with classic French food with an occasional Moroccan twist.



Chef Joelle and maitre'd Alain also brought a touch of Manhattan to Upstate New York from their Country Cafe in Soho. Their remarkably friendly, attentive staff was flawless when four of us enjoyed multiple international treats on a recent Friday evening.

Pink tablecloths cover patterned ones in burgundy damask in the dining room, and tables are also topped with olive oil, candles and stemmed goblets.

Joelle's menu offers 13 hot and cold appetizers ($6.75 to $15.50) and 14 entrees ($17.50 to $32.50) which include coq au vin, steak au poivre, braised sweetbread casserole, rack of lamb, vegetable couscous, fresh mussels in the shell, roasted mahi-mahi, bouillabaisse, grilled tiger shrimps and sea scallops and more.

The welcome with chilled champagne began in the parlor or at the table for all diners, and we added a bottle of Dom. de la Batardiere Muscadet ($24) from the Loire Valley to our dinner choices. Hot, crusty bread led to four fine appetizers.

Beef carpaccio ($9.50) covered a handsome plate with paper-thin slices of raw beef decorated with pesto, salad and lacy squares of fried shredded Parmesan cheese.

Classic escargots a la Bourguignone ($9) filled the pockets of hot garlic-basil-butter sauce that seasoned the tender snails, and a warm oysters casserole ($10.25) was a hit with champagne sabayon and diced vegetables.

Star of the evening was the delicious homemade duck foie gras terrine ($15.50), which one of our friends insisted was as silky as butter. The generous piece was accompanied by poached fig in ice wine and thin slices of bold spice bread that tasted of ginger.

Stealing the entree limelight, Moroccan veal tagine with dry fruits ($24.75) arrived hiding the spicy simmered stew in a clay cooking vessel with a tall pointed lid. After its dramatic removal, the lid revealed a centerpiece of steamed couscous surrounded by veal and vegetables.

Haddock with a harissa-olive-pesto crust ($25.50) was a stand-out with the fiery Tunisian sauce adding a big kick to the moist fish which was served with coriander sauce, a risotto cake and creamy carrots.

Grilled marinated tuna ($26.50), a splendid medium-rare, was served with sun-dried tomato pesto, crisp polenta, grilled eggplant and homemade smoked eggplant puree. The combination was wonderful.

A Maple Leaf duck duo ($27.50) was doubly grand, with crisp leg of house-made duck confit and sliced roasted breast meat with rich pomegranate sauce. Even mashed potatoes and fresh green broccoli tasted good.

Homemade desserts held their own, too. Warm tarte tatin ($6.50), creme brulee with a tableside bourbon flambe ($7), a large, silky creme caramel ($6) and a chocolate extravaganza ($9.50) showing off four tiny artistic tastes and presentations made perfect finales. Coffee cost $2.50. It doesn't get better than this.

The bistro has big plans for outdoor dining this summer, and its owners were hoping for the arrival of an outdoor sign when we visited.

Yolanda Wright's weekly Dining Out review is based on an unannounced, anonymous visit. A chronological archive of reviews from the last six months is available on www.syracuse.com/dining/.  





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Joelle’s bistro: Old World charm, authentic cuisine

If the box office banquet “Julie and Julia” left you yearning for French fare — or if “Casablanca” reruns make your mouth water for Moroccan — both Mediterranean-rim cuisines cross paths at Joelle’s French Bistro in Skaneateles.

Five years ago, Chef Joelle Mollinger, born in Morocco and raised in France, and her French husband, Alain Castel, traded their popular restaurant in Manhattan’s Soho district for a charming white farmhouse on the outskirts of Skaneateles.

Intimate, but not overly formal, the Finger Lakes property was a perfect canvas for their playful imprint.

Our recent visit, on a warm Thursday in late May, felt more like dinner at a friend’s country house than a scripted restaurant meal. Seated on the idyllic stone terrace, we overlooked a velvety green lawn and distant farm fields, as well as Joelle’s freshly tilled potager (a French kitchen garden).

Castel, in the dual role of charming host and seasoned (but solo) waiter, seemed to float between the terrace and the kitchen, exuding Gallic elegance with no hint of arrogance.

He was especially generous with wine tips and menu guidance — a definite plus, as Joelle’s menu covers a broad swathe of culinary territory. When we hesitated over the “at your choice” preparation of Prince Edward Island mussels ($10 for tasting portion), Castel recommended the traditional French mariniere style.

Soon we were digging into a generous bucket of succulent mussels, steamed in chardonnay with cream, shallots and thyme, and mopping up every drop of the subtly layered sauce with a crusty spear of garlic toast.

Another quietly complex sauce accompanied the aged cognac peppercorn steak ($30.75). But the handsome, hefty New York strip steak failed to deliver the same depth of flavor as Joelle’s classic French sauce.

On the other hand, the seafood risotto ($17 for a tasting portion) struck the perfect balance between the creamy, nutty rice and plentiful morsels of lobster and shrimp.

Joelle’s Moroccan creations brought a fresh breeze of exotic scents to the table. Her (justifiably) popular chicken cigar ($10.75) appetizer featured cumin-scented ground chicken in crisp cylinder of brik dough—a paper-thin North African pastry that’s less fragile than phyllo.

A scene-stealing veal tagine ($27.75) was served in its iconic cone-shaped clay pot, designed to retain moisture during cooking. The lid was removed at the table, revealing a mound of steaming couscous surrounded by a stew of carrots, raisins, zucchini, chickpeas and veal. While the veal wasn’t uniformly tender, the saffron-hued sauce was heavenly.

The evening’s least traditional selection was also our least favorite: tuna tartare tacos ($15). While the raw fish seemed very fresh and high quality, its creamy dressing and strong tarragon accent (which was not mentioned in the menu listing) left us cold.

With desserts, we went French all the way. A fine creme brulee ($8.50) was torched at the table and sprinkled with brandy ($2.50), adding a brittle, bitter counterpoint to the sweet rich custard. The banana-filled crepes ($10.75), made with traditional French buckwheat flour, were drizzled with chocolate and served with vanilla ice cream. A dense chocolate mousse with a distinct Cointreau accent ($4 for a tasting portion) would have earned a cheery bravo from Julia Child.

Joelle and Julia — and Alain — are kindred spirits, after all, passionately and fearlessly bringing authentic cuisines from the Old World to the new.

Weekend’s Dining Out reviews are based on an unannounced, anonymous visit. Aimee Koval shares reviewing duties with Denise Owen Harrigan. Recent reviews are availabl....




Newcomers make a splash, but I can’t recall any as grand as Joelle’s French Bistro, 4423 State Street Road, Skaneateles (685-3063). In a white farmhouse in early March, new owners, the French-born husband-and-wife team of Alain Castel and Joelle Mollinger, opened their charming bistro with classic French food with an occasional Moroccan twist.

A friendly, attentive staff was flawless, and the menu offered 13 hot and cold appetizers and 14 entrees which included coq au vin, steak au poivre, braised sweetbread casserole and rack of lamb.

Homemade duck foie gras and Moroccan veal tagine may steal the show, but homemade desserts hold their own.

By Yolanda Wright
Contributing writer


                           The New York Post .


HOT TIP  "Touristy" in Central New York means something entirely different than it might elsewhere; 

still, if you want to get away from the action for an evening, drive three miles north of town to      

   Joelle's French Bistro

one of the best restaurants in the area. (4423 State Street Rd).    

This article was taken from the 100 best places  around Manhattan,

        Skaneateles was No. 39 ..................






restaurant reviews
5/26/2010 9:07:00 AM Email this articlePrint this article 
Joelle’s French Bistro is just a few miles north of Skaneateles. (Photo by Jim Catalano)

French fancy: Joelle's French Bistro is worth a drive to Skaneateles

By Henry Stark

Alain Castel was born in Antibes in the south of France. He moved to New York City in 1982 and opened a restaurant, Pigalle. The New York Times awarded it two stars.

Joelle Mollinger was born in Casablanca, moved to Paris, and opened a restaurant, L'Amateur. She closed it in 1990 and moved to New York City. One evening, in 1991, she went to Pigalle to have dinner. Her waiter introduced her to Castel.

Can you guess what's coming?

Castel closed Pigalle and he and his new partner Mollinger opened a restaurant, Country Café, in the SoHo district of New York. After a successful run of 15 years they needed a change of pace and wanted to move away from the city. A friend told them about a dairy farm that was for sale three miles north of Skaneateles, N.Y. The 1820 farm had been converted to a four room bed and breakfast and was "out in the country." The couple checked it out, liked it, and bought it in September 2005. That's when this dream story turned into a nightmare.

Castel: "We were out in the middle of the country and had a major problem just locating the well that had already been dug on the 3½ acre property. Then we had to put in a new leach (septic) system."

Mollinger: "We had no clue about wells and leach systems."

Castel: "We next had a problem with the grease trap."

Mollinger: "We had no clue about grease traps."

And on it went. Before long the couple had spent almost a quarter-million dollars of their own money to install a huge septic system, replace all the antiquated kitchen equipment in the B&B, and build a lovely outdoor patio.

Joelle's French Bistro finally opened for business in April 2007.

I recommend arriving before your scheduled reservation so you can enjoy a glass of French wine in the intimate and cleverly decorated reception area. The small dining room (32 seats) is tastefully furnished with burgundy and pink linen tablecloths, paintings by local artists accenting the light avocado walls, and lace curtains and drapes on the windows. The original wood plank floor adds an old world touch. The house overlooks spacious lawns that provide an outstanding venue for weddings and other special occasions.

Obviously, this wonderful ambience would have been a waste of time and money if the food wasn't good. But that's not a problem: the food is very, very good. Joelle is a creative genius in the kitchen. Coming from Casablanca, she adds Moroccan accents and flair to some of her dishes.

One example is her Moroccan Chicken Cigar. Frankly, I found the "cigar" part a bit off-putting until I encouraged Mollinger to explain: "It refers to the shape of Moroccan dough which I fill with either chicken and almonds or crab and lobster." Mollinger also offers Moroccan Veal Tagine with Dried Fruits as well as a Couscous Royal. The latter dish is made with grilled lamb, chicken, and merguez. Merguez is a spicy North African sausage with cilantro, cumin, garlic and other herbs blended in heavy cream. Vegetable Couscous is available for non-meat eaters.

If Moroccan accents don't appeal to you, there are plenty of traditional French dishes on the menu. The homemade country pate is terrific. So is the crab soufflé. If you like cassoulet, steak au poivre, or mussel's marinière, they're all available and cooked to order. You can also choose from grilled lamb chops, duck duo, roasted tuna, veal escaloppines, and many more.

As you might expect, the prices match the quality. Appetizers range from $7.75 to $19.75; entrees are priced from $21.75 to $35.75; and desserts run from $7.50 to $18.75 for a cheese and fruit plate.

Speaking of desserts, I think you'll find one of my recent experiences informative. I ordered crème brûlée. My server Raymond brought the dessert, which I noticed had not been caramelized under the broiler. He proceeded to wrap a small blowtorch with a linen napkin and then thoroughly "brûléed" the surface. Next he produced a small aluminum pitcher which contained cognac and orange liqueur. After warming the bottom of the pitcher with the torch, he poured the mixture on the custard. Then he "flambéed" the entire dessert.

After all this theater, I wasn't ready for his apology: "I'm sorry Mr. Stark, this would have been much more effective if it wasn't so light outside." Well, I suppose that's the kind of problem you have to put up with if you like to eat early.

Take the pleasant drive to the private house, walk around the grounds, enjoy a cocktail in the lounge or on the patio, and then enjoy a leisurely dinner. It will be one of the best dining experiences you've enjoyed in a long time.

Joelle's French Bistro, 4423 State Street Road, Skaneatles; (315) 685-3063, www.joellesfrenchbistro.com






Escape to Culinary Excellence a romantic retreat that will whisk you away to Paris. Relax in the lounge where the window frames a picture perfect scenery. Or on the Patio with Joelle’s signature dishes dreaming of Province. Catering, Weddings and fund raisers available on our three and a half acres of land.

With Joelle's Catering Services, you will have memorable choices for your events, from the South of France to the Exotic. Meticulously prepared meals, well chosen wines and Champagnes, What a better way to reward and inspire your party, give them an occasion that there will never forget. From fundraiser to Weddings or just simply," a get together at your home," Joelle will cater for you.




Some Customer Comments: 


E-mails requested to be withheld.

The food, the ambiance, the service, and what the Party….. Thank your. R.N.

You guys sure know how to throw a Party, Congratulation, We loved it .B.D.

Joelle’s the place to be, when’s the next Party, count me in ..A.L.

The food’s a dream, the place heaven…. Thank you for being here D.C.  


Joelle's Bistro serves fine French feast



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