THE SOUL OF FRANCE
Discover la grande cuisine at Lake Tahoe.
WRITTEN BY DAVE PRESTON
PHOTOS BY SHEA EVANS
The restaurant was born in post-revolutionary Paris, and by the 19th century, London had advanced the concept and an emerging America embraced the idea. The food of French culinary masters, haute cuisine, was the epicurean standard of the world.
When you dine at Le Bistro Restaurant and bar in Incline Village, you experience the tradition, passion, and modern-day evolution of haute cuisine. With wonderfully rich sauces, delicate fish dishes, exquisitely prepared meat and fowl, and artistic and sumptuous desserts, this country French establishment offers a true gastronomic experience for the discriminating palate.
You enter a timeless room with burgundy leather booths along its perimeter, the white linen-topped tables elegantly set. The room’s ambience, with its wallpaper featuring imprints of spices and herbs, bespeaks the style of the Burgundy region of France, which sets the stage for what is to come — the artistry of chef Jean-Pierre Doignon.
Trained in his birth town of Chagny in Burgundy, at the renowned Michelin three-star restaurant of Maison Lameloise, Doignon was awarded the Best Apprentice Chef in France by Maîtres Cuisiniers de France. Following his passion, Doignon continued his career in Paris, Montreal, the Bahamas, Mexico City, Atlanta, New Orleans, Redwood City, and San Francisco. Then, a quarter of a century ago, drawn to its beauty and renowned skiing, Doignon came to Incline Village with his wife, Sylvia, and set about fulfilling every chef’s dream: owning a restaurant.
As a consummate French chef in the Escoffier tradition, Doignon is not one to follow culinary trends or nouvelles cuisines.
“People are very demanding,” Doignon says. “There are so many more cultures of food today, but the French style of cooking is still the best.”
The five-course, prix-fixe menu ($55) offers each guest soup, an appetizer, a salad, an entrée, and dessert.
He understands the value of sustainable products because it really is all he knows. His potato, roasted onion, and pea soup exemplifies this understanding. Each vegetable has a purpose and makes a statement in your mouth. The onion has a savory, subtle sweetness while the peas add an herbaceous saltiness, and the potato brings texture and balance.
Dressed in a starched white chef’s coat and pressed apron, Doignon says he loves to cook “fish from the cold sea.”
A signature dish is his fresh wild halibut with Champagne, broiled and served with saffron mousseline and pesto. Atop a layer of aromatic pesto, the fish is finished to a golden brown, then topped with a rich, Hollandaise-based sauce. The subtle sweet-tart of saffron provides a delicious contrast to the creaminess of the Hollandaise.
Bread and wine
With all dishes, Doignon serves bread from Acme Bread Co. in Berkeley, Calif., which is made from all-organic flour, at a bakery credited with leading the artisan bread revolution, and a leading supplier of fine dining establishments in the Bay Area.
Doignon cooks with wine, of course, and he offers flights to pair with the food. His list is international and fairly priced, and, for the wine connoisseur, offers hidden gems. For the time you are there, you are not rushed, and you have the opportunity to try many different dishes.
“I think tasting many different dishes is a more enjoyable way to eat,” Doignon says. “Cooking is my passion. I read a lot about food, and something I find interesting I may try to incorporate into my dishes. I like the traditional five-course meal with small portions, and that way people will enjoy the food and talk.”
This soft-spoken, accomplished chef has mentored other local chefs, including Bill Gilbert of Beaujolais Bistro in Reno and Billy McCullough of the former Dragonfly in Truckee. And Doignon was a partner at La Cheminee at Kings Beach with Tommy Cortopassi. These chefs will tell you, as will anyone who has enjoyed Doignon’s food, that he is a class act, a master artist of his craft, pure and simple.
Dave Preston is an epicurean lifestyle journalist, food and wine educator, and Nevada’s Guru of the Good Life. With his discriminating palate, he has dined on six continents during his 35-year career and written more than 1,000 articles as a food and wine writer. His Saturday morning show, Weekend Magazine on KOH radio, carries on his sojourn of reporting on memorable cuisines and life’s pleasures.
Le Bistro Restaurant
120 Country Club Drive, Ste. 29, Incline Village
775-831-0800 ● http://www.Lebistrorestaurant.net
Open for dinner, 6 – 9:30 p.m. Tues. – Sat.
Reservations suggested on weekends
Pommes de Terre Soufflés
(courtesy of Jean-Pierre Doignon, chef, Le Bistro Restaurant in Incline Village. One potato serves 4)
Use slicer to cut peeled potatoes (amount of your choosing) into ovals 2 to 3 inches in diameter and about ⅛ inch thick. Wrap in damp towel to prevent discoloration. Put potato slices in cold water.
Pour vegetable oil into two heavy, 8-inch saucepans, filling each at least halfway. Heat oil in first pan to 320 degrees F, checking temperature with thermometer. In second pan, heat oil to 375 degrees F.
Put handful of sliced potatoes into first pan, dropping them in slowly and carefully to avoid spattering. Keep potatoes moving in pan by gently moving pan back and forth, so potatoes don’t stick together and will cook evenly. Do this for about 6 minutes. Potatoes will gather in center of pan and start to blister, a good indication they are ready to be transferred into hotter pan. Using skimmer, transfer potatoes to hotter pan. They will almost immediately puff into oblong pillows. Remove with skimmer and place on paper towel to drain.