It's so small that if you blink, you might miss it—but that would be a shame because restaurateur Zoe Pidgeon's newest eatery, Bar Les Freres, definitely is a stop you want to make.
Pidgeon has said she had her eye on the location of her newest restaurant for a while. Anyone who ever visited the shoe store that was the previous resident at the tiny storefront on Wydown Boulevard would have questioned her vision; but it turns out Pidgeon, the force behind Bobo Noodle House and I Fratellini, knew what she was talking about. The space itself has been completely transformed: Gone are the dingy counters and shelves and decades of dust. Now, there are warm red walls, ornately framed paintings and just a dozen or so tables with a couple of seats each, some with rehabbed antique love seats for seating. Lighting is low and romantic, and the vibe is upscale and refined with a definite French feel that belies the menu offerings. The most striking design feature is the dozens of antlers hanging from the wall behind the bar and in the restrooms—an interesting organic design element that lends an oddly rustic note to the space. Sipping on an Aperol Spritzer ($9) and a Sazerac ($11)--poured from its cobbler shaker table-side--under a chandelier dripping with baubles it almost seemed we could have been in Paris for the evening.
The menu at Bar Les Freres is elegantly simple and oh-so delicious. We began with an hors d’oeuvres of Potato Blinis with Caviar and Creme Fraiche ($9). Texture was everything in this dish: the dense potato pancakes provided a solid base for the light cream and the firm caviar. The Lobster Bisque ($9) was a thick, rich and flavorful take on this traditional soup, with plenty of chucks of lobster to go around; while the Bibb Salad ($9) carried off the simple-yet-delicious theme forward with aplomb—just a plate of gorgeous, deep green leaves dressed with a subtle herb shallot vinaigrette.
On to the entrees, we indulged in a Mushroom and Leek Tart with Roasted Asparagus ($14) and the Toulousse Sausage with Potato Pancake and Red Cabbage ($18). The tart was another study in textural interplay, with the smooth, mushrooms playing off the flaky pastry crust. The pair of sausages, the kind that are traditionally part of cassoulets, were fairly mild spice-wise, and were paired subtly with the potatoes, which were crispy on the outside and almost creamy on the inside. The cabbage was also mild to taste and almost a gorgeous blue that really made the plate pop; while a dollop of creme fraiche had the same effect on the flavors on the plate, adding just a bit of a sour accent. We finished up with a thick Chocolate Grand Marnier Mousse ($7), topped with a bit of fresh orange.
A perfect place to pop in for a drink—especially now that patio season has begun—or an intimate tête-à-tête, we suspect Bar Les Freres soon will become the place for first dates, milestone anniversaries and everything in-between. No reservations are taken and the handful of seats get snapped up quickly, so get there early. We're told plans are in the works to expand operations into the antique store directly next door. We can't wait to see what Pidgeon will come up with next!
--Bar Les Freres, 7637 Wydown Blvd., 725-8880