Bistro serves fine French feast
May 03, 2007
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.
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.
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.
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.
tablecloths cover patterned ones in burgundy damask in the dining room,
and tables are also topped with olive oil, candles and stemmed goblets.
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.
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.
carpaccio ($9.50) covered a handsome plate with paper-thin slices of raw
beef decorated with pesto, salad and lacy squares of fried shredded
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
bistro has big plans for outdoor dining this summer, and its owners were
hoping for the arrival of an outdoor sign when we visited.
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/.
Joelle’s bistro: Old World charm,
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.
- THE RESTAURANT: Joelle’s
4423 State Street Road, Skaneateles; 685-3063.
- CREDIT CARDS? Yes.
- ACCESS TO DISABLED?
- HOURS: dinner 5:30
p.m. to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week; lunch 12:30 p.m. to
2:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday; brunch 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
- COST: Dinner for
four, including appetizers, entrees, desserts, win, and
beer: $243.74 including tax and a 20 percent tip.
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....
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.
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.
duck foie gras and Moroccan veal tagine may steal the show, but homemade
desserts hold their own.
The New York Post
TIP "Touristy" in Central
New York means something entirely different than it might elsewhere;
if you want to get away from the action for an evening, drive three
miles north of town to
Joelle's French Bistro,
of the best restaurants in the area. (4423 State Street Rd).
article was taken from the 100 best places around
Skaneateles was No. 39 ..................
9:07:00 AM Email this article • Print
French Bistro is just a few miles north of
Skaneateles. (Photo by Jim Catalano)
fancy: Joelle's French Bistro is worth a drive to Skaneateles
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)
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:
TO ALL; LAST NIGHT'S
SLUM DOG PARTY WAS THE BEST, THE FOOD WAS EXCELLENT, SERVICE SUPERB AND THE
ATMOSPHERE WAS PERFECT. MY FRIENDS
AND I HAD A GREAT TIME. THANK YOU
SO MUCH FOR ANOTHER WONDERFUL DINING EXPERIENCE AT THE BEST PLACE TO DINE IN
requested to be withheld.
food, the ambiance, the service, and what the Party….. Thank your. R.N.
guys sure know how to throw a Party, Congratulation, We loved it .B.D.
the place to be, when’s the next Party, count me in ..A.L.
food’s a dream, the place heaven…. Thank you for being here D.C.
Bistro serves fine French feast