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Artisan Bistro, Lafayette CA


This restaurant was recently awarded Best of the East Bay by Diablo Magazine.

I was intrigued by the restaurant for a number of reasons.  First, I grew up in Lafayette, and the location where the new restaurant was had been a monumental restaurant while I was growing up [Kaffee Barbara].  I wanted to see how the new owner would compete with the old location of a much-loved restaurant.

I read the reviews on Yelp and was concerned about how the service may be, especially since I predicted that many people would be coming to the restaurant since the recent edition of Diablo Magazine.

I went to the restaurant on a workday lunch, at about 1:15 p.m.  I walked up the path and towards the door, taking in the sparse exterior eating area.  [When it was Kaffee Barbara, there were many seasonal flowering plants outside, which gave it a lovely garden appeal.]  I walked through the front door and was immediately greeted by the manager/bartender.  I was also greeted by the host, whose name was not offered, who asked me if I wanted to dine inside or outdoors.  I chose inside.

I was seated at a small table for two against the wall.  I also was under the air conditioning vent, which I normally would have protested.  It was only in the early 80’s outdoors, not upper 80’s or low 90’s so the air was a little intense for a relatively mild summer day.

I loved the interior.  The walls were done in a dark mustard color, which is very fashionable in homes right now.  There was dark wood furniture, tables, and wood accents throughout the restaurant.  The interior was very contemporary, compared to other California/French restaurants.

I appreciated that the owner paid attention to detail in putting up the acoustic “plates” (see pic) which were clearly to absorb/deflect sound.  It will be interesting to read future reviews regarding the sound levels in the restaurant.

Since I was working, I didn’t order wine when I sat down, but instead ordered ice water.  The menu was brought to me, and I requested to see the wine list nonetheless.

My first course was the gazpacho.  The menu described the dish as follows: chilled heirloom tomato gazpacho: avocado king crab, olive oil.

I was brought bread, and had only time for one small piece (it was warm, and the butter was sweet, lightly salted).  When the waiter brought the gazpacho, he stated, “Heirloom gazpacho, king crab, and olive oil.”  I said, “Oh!” and waited until he left to take a picture.  The olive oil and avocado were obvious, but the gazpacho was pureed.  I had had gazpacho only once in the past and it was  finely minced, similar to a salsa, versus this one.

Chilled Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Avocado, king crab, olive oil

I was under the impression that the king crab was an essence to the gazpacho, and could taste the faint briny-ness of the shellfish as I slowly sipped the soup off my spoon.  However, once I began to cut at the at the avocado with my soup spoon, I discovered *surprise!* there was minced king crab underneath.  What a pleasant surprise!  It was delicious, and the three flavors of the tartness of the tomato, the creaminess of the avocado and the saltiness of the king crab were in synchronicity.

My next dish was the organic beet salad.  Again, this one was full of surprises.  The crunchy beets were hidden under a layer of frisee greens and chopped apple.  I love fruit in salads, but don’t remember the apple in this salad.  There were sugar-roasted walnuts, and their sweetness, along with the relative sweetness of the golden beets, was unexpected.  Also, the goat cheese along the sides with the pureed golden and red beets was delicious, adding an earthiness to the crunchy sweetened walnuts.

Marinated Organic Beet Salad

Herbed goat cheese, toasted walnuts, Fuji apples, shallot vinaigrette

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About hkremer

San Francisco East Bay

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