Bistro du Midi is all about location. Facing the Public Garden and adjacent to the Four Seasons in Boston, it lives on Boylston Street not where you live, at least not where I live. But it's where you stroll for a south of France lunch. We like the downstairs where you'll meet Jenna who's minding the bar. Have the café menu at the bar and on the patio and if you can score a tiny table outside, take it. (Upstairs, Chef Robert Siska does it up big starting at 5 but we're partial to light fare). After two visits I'm on to this being one of those cafés where you think you're looking at someone you know from the movies. Today I think I see Dermot Mulroney. I ask Jenna and she agrees it looks like him: him in 10 years maybe. Still.
Quiche: It's Julie's choice with Languedoc Hecht & Bannier, better than good. This is a traditional quiche; the creamiest we've had since forever. It's topped with potato crisp and goat cheese, spinach, leek, and tomato fill it out but it's mostly cream and eggs. She says it's one of those lunches that taste like summer, even more with these bright greens. The last time I had my own quiche was a long time ago. I take just a bite; eggs are no longer mine and I miss them. This quiche is, as you expect, filling with the taste of France now that Maurice Chevalier is keeping us company.
Mine is cod fish pan-bagnat and it's $17. It comes with pesto, which I talk them out of. Pan-bagnat's served with salad on the sandwich: tiny tomatoes, radish, anchovy, red pepper, and artichoke. On the side apparently is now passé. (At Legal C bar, sandwiches come with a heap of cole slaw and giant pickles on the sandwich. Messy is what it is as I watch two guys try to get their mouths around it.) Anyway, I've now got this salad topper on the side. I'm guessing people with bigger mouths than mine, if that's possible, down it the way it's served.
We're back, Vince and I, for a light lunch before he flies off. He opts for Fournier Sauvignon Blanc, his favorite, that's crisp and fruity. (Read the online wine menu at home; it's 30 pages.) Not sure why the quiche presentation changed: it's less but l'accompagnement mesclun salad still has its mellow vinaigrette. I want the Point Judith calamari that's golden crisp and never out of style. I ask for pepperoncini (the right degree of hot) and thinly sliced anchovies (perfectly not salty) on the side. Pierre Franey, back in 1989 in The New York Times, wrote about French-fried squid. And before that in 1982, Craig Claiborne's recipe nearly matches though he prefers just lemon to aïoli. We want them both, of course.
Dessert: Julie and I have lavender beignets with dark chocolate sauce. It's the best nine bucks you'll spend all week: creamy custard with chocolate you may want to order by the quart. Do you think they pack them to go? From what I see of recipes and photos, the beignets we're eating are so French you may feel like you've been transported to Le Jules Verne on the the Eiffel Tower where six course dinners run 230 Euros ($300).
Vince opts for a three-inch rhubarb plum tart with pear that fell off a tree and lemon honey ice cream crusted in salt. Rhubarb straws are piled up, having been julienned and torched. It's sweet, it's tart, with a buttery pastry that will make you think twice even if it is fruit. Here's the thing, I never had pastry before I wrote about restaurants. And while no scientific research says missing dessert is unhealthy, we're sure you will want to always have it here and for all the right reasons.
We like bistros for their appealing simplicity and down to earth creative menus and now we don't want to leave. It's the tunes and laid-back mood and if we don't get going, someone's going to have more wine and another dessert. As we're leaving, Vince and I debate if it's Piaf or Cotillard. It's Cotillard all right, and if you want to be enthralled, watch her Take it All, an apéritif not to be missed. Vive la France!
Bistro du Midi
272 Boylston St (Back Bay)
Boston, MA 02116
617. 426. 7878
© Photos by Julie Moffatt. Kitty Kaufman is a writer in Boston. See more of their adventures at Corporate Edge and join Kitty Kaufman on Twitter.
by Maia Harari