Z Bistro offers a kaleidoscope of cuisines.
WRITTEN BY SANDRA MACIAS
PHOTOS BY SHEA EVANS
Carson City gourmands have kept a tasty little secret for way too long. But the secret is out: It’s Z Bistro, which in November of last year celebrated its 10th anniversary. When it opened in 2006, the restaurant offered only lunch, specializing in crêpes. Since then, it has evolved into what it is today: a dinner bistro offering a menu of zestful cuisine. It’s high time to get acquainted.
Meet owners Gilles and Tina Galhaut (pronounced Gallo — the haut in French is pronounced as o). Galhaut, born in France, is the chef; his wife, “a California girl,” works the front. She’s the greeter in the crisp, white bistro apron, welcoming many by name — it’s overwhelmingly a Carson/Gardnerville/Minden crowd here. She also takes your order while Chef Gilles (his familiar nickname) works his culinary magic in an open kitchen.
So what kind of food can you expect?
“You might think it is French because Gilles is French,” Tina says.
And yes, some dishes are French. But the menu expands from there, stretching all over the map from the Mediterranean to Asia, including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free dishes, too. All are approached with a decidedly French bent.
The seasonal menu changes weekly … except for one classic French item: frites (french fries, to the rest of the world). Galhaut’s frites require two days of prep, including two soakings, blanching, and low-temperature baking before frying them to order in peanut oil — “the best oil for frying frites,” he swears. They are offered with house-made aioli, balsamic drizzle, and Sriracha sauce. Or just with aioli, a purist’s preference. Served in a paper cone, the frites are hot, crisp on the outside, soft inside, with nary a spot of grease. Flawless.
It is nearly impossible to spotlight any one dish because of the weekly changing menu, influenced by seasonal ingredients and, as the chef says, “What I’d like to eat that week.” But to give you a taste of Galhaut’s creativity, here is a sample based on a winter visit, at the time of this writing: haricots verts mixed with pea shoots, dressed in a light, fresh herb vinaigrette (a salad of green elegance); perfectly grilled and seasoned lamb chops with tomato chutney; and Persian saffron rice studded with dried fruit, pomegranate seeds, and za’atar-spiced spinach (mouthfuls of textures, fruity sweetness, and spicy pungency). And the finale? Brioche bread pudding with dried figs and dressed with crème Anglaise (light and so happily yummy).
A chef and his kitchen
Galhaut, who works alone in his kitchen, is a chef of from-scratch conviction. Several different stocks simmer on the stove on Tuesdays, his prep day. Salad dressings, crème fraîche, Creole sauce, curry paste, and more … all are freshly made. He has close to 75 spices on hand — some, such as za’atar, curry, and barbecue rub, he blends himself. And all desserts, each fabulously French, are made in house.
In spring and summer, Native Plant Farm & Tree Movers in Washoe Valley provides Z Bistro’s produce and herbs (though this year, the supply is a bit uncertain because of losses suffered in the Little Valley Fire last fall). The bread on the table is from Truckee Sourdough Co. And the French wines on the bistro’s small but selective wine list are supplied by local distributors, Southern Wine and Spirits and Crooked Wine Co.
Z Bistro is small but feels roomy, having the advantage of lots of windows in its corner space in a compact mall. Meyer-lemon-colored walls, rustic burgundy-red accents, and French posters add to its warmth. It is casual and cozy, especially when all 32 seats are filled. Fragrant kitchen aromas mingle with animated camaraderie. At this moment, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Sandra Macias, a Reno-based food writer, loves the discovery of an under-the-radar restaurant that welcomes you warmly and offers creative food that’s done well. Such is Z Bistro. Well worth a trip to Carson City.
725 Basque Way, Ste. 1, Carson City • 775-885-2828 • www.Atzbistro.com
Visit the website to find out what’s for dinner this week.
Open for dinner 5 – 9 p.m. Wed. – Sat.
(Note: the restaurant will be closed May 28 – July 15. During that time, the owners will be in France for their annual tour.)
Tasty tour with Gilles Galhaut
Travel to Southwest France this June with chef Gilles Galhaut to Figeac, a medieval town in the Midi-Pyrénées, where he grew up. Michelle Palmer, former chef of the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City, will be joining Galhaut in the kitchen of a fully renovated 1700s-era barn, which will be your lodging. There will be informal cooking lessons as well as visits to farmers’ markets, neighboring villages, Roman ruins, and the cave in Pech Merle.
Z Bistro’s annual tour offers a choice of three one-week stays. For details, visit Atzbistro.com and follow the link for France, June 2017.
House-Made Boursin Cheese
(courtesy of Gilles Galhaut, owner-chef, Z Bistro in Carson City. Makes 3½ cups)
Plan on making this easy recipe for Boursin-style cheese a day ahead of serving it, giving the ingredients time to develop their full flavor.
16 ounces organic whipped cream cheese
2 cloves organic garlic, finely chopped or grated on a Microplane
1 teaspoon shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons organic fresh parsley
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh seasonal herbs, finely chopped, from your garden (or supermarket):
1 tablespoon dill
1 tablespoon mint
1 tablespoon tarragon (optional)
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon chives
1 tablespoon basil
Have all ingredients at room temperature for better incorporation. Combine all ingredients in large metal bowl and whip with whisk or hand blender until combined. Taste for balance and add additional salt or fresh herbs, to taste.
Make a day ahead to allow ingredients to fully settle into each other. Refrigerate and store in closed container until needed. Bring to room temperature and serve in butter lettuce cups or with your favorite crackers. (Chef Galhaut also serves them with crostini or cucumber coins.)
Kale, Arugula, and Radicchio Salad with Yogurt-Ranch Dressing and Pommes Pailles (Matchstick Potatoes)
(courtesy of Gilles Galhaut, owner-chef, Z Bistro in Carson City. Serves 4 – 6)
Chef Galhaut makes his matchstick potatoes from scratch (recipe follows). But if you don’t have the equipment to make them, you may substitute frozen matchstick potatoes, also known as shoestrings. Galhaut adds potatoes to the salad for a crunchy touch (and also as a gluten-free ingredient for those who avoid gluten). Another option, he suggests, is adding croutons.
Pommes pailles and equipment
Mandoline slicer fitted with ⅛-inch julienne blade
2 large, organic russet potatoes (about 1½ pounds)
4 to 6 cups peanut oil
Peel potatoes and cut lengthwise with slicer to make ⅛-inch julienne strips. Soak potatoes in water to pull out excess starch, at least an hour. Rinse and thoroughly dry before frying. Heat 2 inches peanut oil in wide 5- to 7-quart heavy pot (at least 4 inches deep) over medium heat to 375 degrees F. Fry potatoes in small batches to ensure even heat and crispness, stirring, until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon and dry on paper towels. Season with sea salt, to taste. Return oil to 375 degrees between batches. Continue until all potatoes are cooked. You may store any extra pommes pailles in a zip-lock baggie or sealed container.
½ cup European-style, plain, full-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon organic fresh dill
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 clove organic garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients, except extra-virgin olive oil, in metal bowl (or food processor) and blend until smooth. Slowly add olive oil so it emulsifies. Set aside and refrigerate until needed.
1 bag organic baby kale
1 bag organic arugula
1 small, organic radicchio head
1 medium organic pear or apple
Feta cheese, crumbled
Balsamic reduction (buy your favorite or make your own)
Pommes pailles (matchstick potatoes)
Thoroughly wash and dry first four ingredients, and set aside. Shave pear, or apple, into thin slices. Cut radicchio head in half and thinly slice. Break it apart to mix with baby kale and arugula.
In large serving bowl, mix together kale, arugula, radicchio, and shaved fruit; toss with yogurt-ranch dressing. Finish salad with shower of crumbled feta and drizzle of balsamic reduction syrup. Top with pommes pailles. Serve immediately.