Sunday, March 2, 2008

Bistro Phillipe - Mini-Review

Located on the burnt and buried corpse of the execrable pan-Asian clusterfuck Firecracker, Bistro Phillipe is the newest part of Bob McMahon's Tucson restaurant empire. I was looking forward to trying it. It would be nice to have a good French restaurant so close to my apartment. And although none of Metro's previous restaurants have blown me away, Old Pueblo is reliable and McMahon's serves a decent slab of beef. (For now I'll just pretend Firecracker never existed.) Sadly, Bistro Phillipe left me quite disappointed. Granted, it's been open only three weeks, and I expect it will improve as the staff gains experience, but I can't recommend it just yet.

The fluorescent hues of Firecracker have been replaced with a simple, clean red-and-white color scheme with vaguely Art Nouveau flourishes on the mirrors. Sadly, the dingy checkered upholstery on the couches in the main dining room remains. Red awnings bearing the names of various French wine-producing regions line the hall. I can only assume the fleurs-de-lis, tricolor flags, and Jerry Lewis photos are on back-order. When we arrived, the hall was about 2/3 full, mostly with elderly couples, and the bar was mostly empty. Our friendly waiter sat us and brought a warm loaf of bread with truffle oil (more oil than truffle). The waiter was still somewhat unfamiliar with the menu, and couldn't explain to me what a "hanger steak" was (hey, I'm no butcher). So I went with something safe and ordered the pepper steak with a side of caramelized carrots and a crepe with mushrooms, cheese, and leeks as an appetizer. My companion ordered a duck meat pie with a side salad and French onion soup.

And so we waited...and waited. Twenty minutes later, our appetizers arrived. The presentation of the crepe was unique, to say the least: flat as a pancake, it resembled more a soggy quesadilla than the cylindrical delicacy for which the French are known. Apart from its questionable visual appeal, it was tasty enough. The same cannot be said for the French onion soup, which was undercooked, lukewarm, and thin.

The wait resumed for our entrees, for at least another thirty minutes. Our waiter was polite and professional, but appeared only infrequently at our table, and showed little interest in refilling my wine glass. When the pepper steak arrived, however, it did not disappoint. The filets were seared and seasoned to perfection, and the sauce was rich yet unobtrusive. One of the filets was slightly less medium rare than the other, but not so much that it lost its moisture. The duck meat pie was sweet and succulent, although the crust was uninspired; it resembled one of those prefabricated crusts one finds in the pastry aisle at A.J.'s. I might have sampled the desserts but my companion was not interested in remaining any longer.

Bottom line: Bistro Phillipe knows how to put together a meat dish, but if I want a decent filet I'll just go to McMahon's across the street. Chef Phillipe Trosch may have earned a five-star rating at the Ventana Room, but he's got a ways to go before he earns my repeat business.

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