Nestled deep in a residential area of The Mission, a new French-Tunisian bistro recently opened in early September. Going by the name of Bistro L’Aviateur (French for The Aviator Bistro), the restaurant is a family endeavor with Maha Laforge and her son manning the kitchen and husband Vincent Laforge overseeing the initial buildout and now managing many aspects of the business. We recently headed over to the Laforge’s restaurant to checkout their French inspired menu. Below is a summary of our experience.
Exterior And Interior
[maxgallery name=”bistro-laviateur-restaurant-restaurant-interior-exterior”]Situated in the ground space of an old two story building, the restaurant is located on the northwest corner of 21st and Alabama Street. With its rustic wood exterior set against nearby homes and trees, the front entrance looks quaint and blends elegantly into the surrounding area. Inside, the design takes on a slighlty different tone as the decor was inspired by Vincent’s former life as an Air France pilot. Elements of aviation abound including a floor bound chrome propeller blade, ceiling fan with rear turbine blades, chrome doors and tables, and pictures of throwback aviation news clippings. With the addition of fresh flowers, stacks of motley colored dishes, lines of wine bottles, and several menu chalk boards, the somewhat small dining room provides a quaint, comfortable, and homely setting.
Dashing from kitchen to the tables and cash register, Vincent seemed slightly overwhelmed serving a full house of patrons. A lack of rhythm is understandable with a restaurant opened only six weeks ago and we did see delays getting our drink and check. But overall, other areas of service were prompt including initial seating and serving of dishes.
Leek And Fennel Soup – 8
[maxgallery name=”bistro-laviateur-restaurant-restaurant-leek-fennel-soup”]The leek and fennel soup tasted like the ingredients were cut, cooked, and combined only moments before the serving bowl was placed on our table. We noted effervescent aromas and intense fresh flavors of dill and fennel. Overall, the soup had balanced richness, creaminess and texture.
Lamb Tajine – 19
[maxgallery name=”bistro-laviateur-restaurant-restaurant-lamb-tajine”]The lamb tajine arrived in a white porcelain tajine dish topped with a fluted dome-shaped cover. Vincent removed the covers and revealed a steaming broth of large vegetable chunks, tender lamb pieces, fruits, and fresh flavorful sausage. The fruits, which included squash, dried grapes, and dried plums, imparted the thin slightly spiced broth with a mild sweetness. A side of turmeric infused couscous accompanied the dish and paired well with the broth’s flavors. We were impressed with the meat’s quality, tenderness, and freshness.
Rougaille Creole Stew – 17
[maxgallery name=”bistro-laviateur-restaurant-restaurant-rougail-french-creole-stew”]Arriving the same time as the lamb tajine, the rougaille creole stew was similarly presented in a tajine pot and consisted of an assortment of sliced sausages in a tomato flavored broth. Although not house-made, the sausages tasted fresh and infused the stew with rich flavors of pork and anise. Overall, we enjoyed the hearty stew’s freshness of ingredients and balance of flavors and spices.
Lebanese Flan – 4 / Mango Lassi -4.5
[maxgallery name=”bistro-laviateur-restaurant-restaurant-lebanese-flan-mango-lassi”]Our separate orders of Lebanese flan and mango lassi arrived in two petite glasses on a white porcelain tray. The flan, also known as mouhalabieh in Lebanese, was presented in a fluted parfait glass and consisted of a white cream over crumbled pistachios and whole blanched almonds. A slight floral note, presumably from the rosewater extract, imparted a botanic flavor to the light creamy mixture. In contrast, our mango lassi was less impressive as its velvety texture and balanced sweetness could not atone for a slightly sour taste presumably from the use of unripen mangoes.
The Lowdown [usr 3.5]
Bistro L’Aviateur doesn’t have the expensive decor, big name chefs, or owners with Michelin star pasts. What it does have, that those restaurants sometimes lack, is a warm environment serving hearty meals at reasonable prices. The foods we were served represented a home cooked philosophy that skips the pretense and focuses on freshness, ingredient quality, and passion. Using Creole (representing people of French Carribbean and Lousiana) in the name of an entree, Chef Maha doesn’t seem to be bound by French Tunisian meals as the food represented more of a French diaspora cuisine. There were flaws, however, such as the slow service and a sour mango dessert, but these issues were considered minor relative to our overall dining experience. We’ll check out the place a couple more times to see whether they are consistent but based on our first experience the restaurant shows promise.