Pardon My French, Volnay Bistro bring Paris to the Twin Cities

Local French cafes will make you say, "Ooh la la!"

But I'm very much looking forward to the elaborate ice cream desserts Klein plans to roll out in the next few weeks. He's already tested one called the Floating Island, a French marshmallow (they're more meringue-like and tend to melt in the mouth) bobbing in vanilla cream and drizzled with caramel. If it's as good as it sounds, we can say au revoir to Bridgeman's this summer.

WAYZATA IS ALREADY a proven market for French food, as the restaurant space at 331 Broadway, kitty-corner from Sunsets, housed Chez Foley and then Patrick's Bistro (owned by Patrick Bernet) before changing to Volnay Bistro a few months ago. In many ways, Volnay, which is named after a French town known for its Burgundies, doesn't feel so different from the space's previous incarnations. The cozy jewel box of a room has a full wall of wine bottles, fresh flowers on the tables, and large windows looking out at the patio where groups of ladies sit under large white umbrellas and sip Diet Coke out of glass bottles. In the evenings, Volnay tends to be a couples spot, but it also welcomes local families whose kids might already have their own iPhones and a taste for escargots in garlic butter.

The bistro has a vibe that's less romantic than energetic, between the clamor of the open kitchen—vents hum, plates clatter—and the efficient wait staff striding purposefully across the room. The restaurant feels classy but dialed back a notch, similar to the way the table linens are covered by sheets of white butcher paper. In the evening, Volnay is formal enough for an anniversary celebration, but during the day it's casual enough for spandex-wrapped cyclists to make an espresso stop.

Tray bien: The desserts of Pardon My French
Alma Guzman
Tray bien: The desserts of Pardon My French

Location Info

Map

Pardon My French

1565 Cliff Road
Eagan, MN 55122

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Eagan

Details

PARDON MY FRENCH
1565 Cliff Rd., Eagan651.454.2233; pardonmyfrench.eu
entrées $6-$15; desserts $1-$4

VOLNAY BISTRO
331 Broadway Ave., Wayzata
952.345.6100; volnaybistro.com
appetizers $7-$19; entrées $13-$34

The new owners are Patrick's former general manager, Steven Brown (not to be confused with Steven Brown the chef, this Steven Brown is a restaurant manager whose résumé includes Aquavit and D'Amico Cucina) and Liz Nolan, a longtime Wayzata resident and social linchpin. Brown and Nolan have two Frenchmen running Volnay's kitchen, having promoted Patrick's former sous chef Anthony Herve to head chef and hired Herve's culinary classmate, Cedric Goubil, to assist him.

During breakfast and lunch, Herve and Goubil stick to Patrick's successful formula of bistro classics, including omelets, quiches, salad Nicoise, and a French onion soup that lacks the usual overbearing molten cheese top. (The comforting menu attracts myriad regulars, Brown says, including some who dine at the restaurant three times a day.) I liked the curried chicken panini—a chicken breast with curry sauce tucked into a deliciously flaky walnut bread. It's a nice take on chicken salad, though I longed for a stronger sweet note for balance, perhaps more raisins in the bread, or a slather of chutney. My favorite daytime dish was the bouchée a la reine, also known as France's answer to the chicken potpie. It's made with a volcano-shaped vol-au-vent puff pastry filled with chicken, mushrooms, gnocchi-like dumplings, and an herb-flecked cream gravy. It's a rich, buttery delight, though my arteries would probably have preferred that I share it.

Dinner features more elegant fare, including pretty plates of filet mignon, pastry-wrapped sea bass, and veal chop gratinée. Seared foie gras shines when served with sweet bits of apple, golden raisins, caramelized mango, and an orange reduction. The scallops St. Jacques didn't pair quite as well with their port reduction cream sauce as they did with the accompanying mascarpone risotto, but, still, they were expertly cooked. While Herve and Goubil do some experimenting, they still nail the traditional dishes, such as a hearty beef Bourguignon, a red-wine-based stew fragrant with herbes de Provence.

A few of the desserts at Volnay are made in-house, including a daily crème brûlée and a caramelized pineapple Madagascar, but I tended to prefer the ones imported from Patrick's Bakery & Cafe. Several are nearly identical to those at Pardon My French—the chocolate and the passion fruit cakes are just as delicious as Frédéric Klein's, though marked up a few dollars. I'd also recommend Patrick's signature cheesecake, which has an almost panna cotta-like lightness and a raspberry puree in the base. Talk about just desserts. 

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