Traditional French Cuisine with an Occasional Caribbean- or Asian-Inspired Dish
Those who followed my advice last year, and flocked to Hotel Sofitel’s La Fougasse, likely passed by Chez Colette without a second glance. I did, too. At the time, it seemed like a hotel afterthought—a place to offer pastries and coffee for business travelers on the go.
Ah, how times have changed! A recent remodeling has transformed the space into an elegant turn-of-the-century Parisian brasserie. Complete with a more apt name, Colette Bar and Bistro officially has arrived. Its renaissance is so fresh that the staff still has difficulty remembering the adjusted moniker, but restaurant patrons will have no problem distinguishing this new place from its previous incarnation.
Award-winning Executive Chef Serge Devesa seems a little more at home here. The Marseilles native can stretch his legs, offering traditional French cuisine, along with a Caribbean- or Asian-inspired dish here and there, revealing his broad international experience.
In true French fashion, however, the restaurant takes special pride in its cheese list—one of the largest in the area. One finds imported French cheeses listed right next to artisan varieties from Wisconsin and Minnesota. To sample a few, it is most convenient to choose from one of four cheese flights. On our server’s recommendation, we choose the French Inspired Flight ($14), which pairs a tangy port salut from France with a rich Wisconsin brie, alongside flavorful Montchevré Bucheron rolled in poppy seeds. The resulting plate is exquisitely beautiful, complete with grapes, blueberries, dried cherries, and nuts to complement the flight.
To pair with our cheese, we choose two wine flights: Powerful Reds from France ($14) and Sparkling Celebrations ($25).
The Powerful Reds Flight, perhaps the best pairing with our cheeses, include Louis Jadot Pinot Noir (Burgundy)—our launching point, light, balanced with a steady finish; Parallèle 45 Jaboulet (Côtes du Rhône)—my kind of dry, filling the mouth with rounded tannins; and Chateau La Grante Clinet (Bordeaux)—laced with notes of licorice and dark fruits, absolutely lush.
Sparkling wine doesn’t always get its due here in the Midwest, and I find that the budget-friendly varieties commonly served at weddings and the like do a disservice to the industry. Strong, perhaps snobbish, words, yes, but it took a trip to Paris to change my champagne tune. My new mantra: “I do not dislike champagne—I dislike bad champagne.” Good champagne is the perfect aperitif for a special occasion.
The Sparkling Celebrations Flight highlights the tremendous diversity domestic and foreign vineyards have to offer: Moët and Chandon Imperial Brut is French, and the most floral of the three; Californian Domaine Chandon Rosé is fruity, yet dry, offering more depth; and Domaine Chandon Brut is assertive, with a finish like a firm handshake.
I couldn’t resist ordering Escargots Bourguignons ($12), just because I have had an escargots craving since I don’t know when, and one can get them in only a few places in the Twin Cities. Devesa practices restraint with the garlic. While I usually like my snails drenched in garlic to the point of a culinary obscenity, I was able to appreciate the basil and the delicate snails themselves a bit more in this way. Point taken, Devesa.
We had difficulty choosing two entrées that properly would represent Devesa’s diverse culinary talents. I eventually settled on Rack of Lamb ($27), with the chef-recommended side of asparagus ($5). The pretty little rack of lamb is trussed up in herbes de provence and dijon, which shape the dish, but do not get in the way of the gamey meat. My dining partner ordered Poached Dover Sole ($23), with risotto ($5). The delicate, mild sole filets are rolled and poached, served in a peppery lobster sauce. I could see each of these dishes easily extending into spring.
Profiteroles ($7) are recommended as dessert for two, so we indulged in towering layers of puff pastry, filled and topped with ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. This is a traditional French treat, but unlike understated crème brûlées and streamlined chocolate tortes, it is exuberantly excessive, created for the express purpose of pleasing one’s inner child. It’s a charming little regression, facilitated in no small part by the evening’s thoroughly enjoyable meal.
Colette Bar and Bistro
Hotel Sofitel, 5601 W. 78th St., Bloomington