BYOB; Cash Only
1009 South 8th Street
(just North of Washington Avenue at Kimball)
(215) 965-8290

“Bibou” is the French nomenclature for a man whose alcoholic imbibing has limited his bumbling ability to speak, except to whine for a baby-bottle-nipple so that he may continue drinking directly from his wine bottle into “infantasy.”

This petite dining room is one in which to rendezvous with daringly authentic bistro cuisine. The French Foreign Legion ambiance is enhanced by verdant green paneling, Provence sunshine-yellow walls and pink cushions wrapped around touts les chaises.  Tablecloths (doubled) are treated to candlelit tiny baskets near which have been placed faux-hammered silver utensils, so that Gallic shadows shine and sparkle on everyone.

The Calmels, Pierre and Charlotte, who own the shebangerie, scramble their immense talents to make each meal as provincial and as exuberant as Madame Bovary. The handsome husband, former executive chef at Le Bec Fin for half a decade, provides a pensive plight to his creations; and Charlotte is enchanting and expeditiously business-savvy when it comes to making sure patrons are pleased.

Edith Piaf sings in the background as Escargots ($13) and Fois Gras ($16) are served as Appetizers. Let me speak of the latter first. Imagine a hypertrophic mahogany cloud seared by a setting sun to crust in a sky almost crimson. Now confirm by blinking that that formation is plated in front of you. One’s knife and fork seem like astronomer’s tools as they graze the universe, cutting the infinite into morsels. Piaf sounds pious as you place one of the pieces upon your tongue. Your lips quiver as the fois gras vanishes mindlessly and effortlessly into another dimension. The silken aftertaste creates dimples to appear, indenting your cheeks. Date chutney and red wine duck jus seem to coat your medulla, making you voluptuous with indolence.

The escargots swirl in a snail ragout, made earthen by emerald green fava beans and Chanterelle mushrooms, served in a porcelain white concentric-circled platter. Darkly hypnotic in appearance, the tastes are thick and similar to soup de turtle.  This is not your usual Parisian buttery snail concoction laced and burbling with parsley and garlic for dipping bread.  What is provided instead, is a rooming-house concoction from Rouen envisioned by someone who’s just re-read Flaubert’s “Père Goriot.”

You may also wish to venture toward a pastry-caged cupcake of Gravlax ($11), chopped bits of smoked arctic char topped with creme fraiche, orange caviar eggs and see-through thin chips of cuumber and radish. There was nothing finer served at Versailles. Or more toward bourgeois, have a try at muddling through a thick layer of floating cheeses, toward steaming caramelized onion soup. Sliced loaves usually supplant soupspoons, and are to be dunked to sogginess with abandon.

The Entrée offerings may include “Pied de Porc” ($25), braised pig foot, or “Boeuf” ($30), usually a sautéed NY strip steak, or even “Moules” ($24), steamed Blue Bay mussels studded with duck confit and, inter alia, cured black olives until you’re “bleu” in the face.  Many swear by all of the above with grand gestures of palatable pleasure. I studied the looks of all of them as if I were Madame DeFarge taking notes while knitting through the menu.  I hastened to order “Espadon” ($26), a grilled swordfish, whose filet is presented in the shape of Haman’s hat, pompously reveling above white lentils, preserved lemon, scraped string beans, and surrounded surreptitiously with dried apricots in brown butter vinaigrette.  Mon Dieu!  Voilà!

I can’t describe the moistness, the tenderness of fish flesh, nor the charred charisma of its triangular body which had been seared in cross-hatches on top, bottom and sides.  Blessedly and brazenly swollen, the swordfish evolves into a heartwarming masterpiece, denuded into impudicity.  The lentils underneath are sopping in the flavor of sweetened butter, swimming among glowing golden candied apricots.  An added slim pat of pure French buerre, the only type this careful café would serve, onto a baguette, for devouring the tinge of lemon scent, merely sanctifies every bite and breath.

If you’re able to conquer dessert with French resistance, you ought to completely surrender to chocolate.  Bibou’s Chocolate Plate supplies ice cream and enough chocolate cake to satisfy an Antoinette.  They are served on a long white platter dotted with blueberries and blackberries; and include what seems like a glass magnum of molten rich mousse.  “Non, je ne regrette rien.” claims Piaf.

Nespresso Ristretto or French-pressed Kahwa coffee mimes an audible “Le Fin” to the repast.

Service is incredibly kind, alert, thoughtful and unobtrusive.  Parking, moreover, is provided adjacent to the restaurant.

Copyright 2011 Richard Max Bockol, Esq. Back