Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Sometimes when the weather or the world is a little too harsh, I get a craving for something I call "Mom food". Most people call it comfort food. Stew is the quintissential mom food, and Bistro Provence in Burbank serves a beef bourguignon just like mom would make, if mom were an award-winning French chef.
Executive chef Miki Zivkovic, formerly of Pinot Bistro, uses the most tender of celery and fresh carrots. We are all so used to supermarket baby carrots that it is easy to forget the intensity of a real, fresh-out-of-the-ground sweet carrot. Only the best, meaty parts of short ribs are used, so they are almost unidentifiable. But the way the meat flakes apart at the touch of a fork, it is clear this is not the top round my mother used.
The bourguignon is not served in the usual bowl. Instead a circle of piped mashed potatoes with horseradish keeps the stew and its rich juices in place. It is that kind of little spin that sets a dish apart and lets you know the chef really put some thought into it.
The room is small and comfortable, decorated in late uber-bistro. The handwritten menu on the requisite mirror behind the bar is a cute touch. But it always messes with my head because it is part of an ever-changing menu that sometimes includes only one of the written selections. Psyche!
Bistro Provence's corner tables have banquettes that are practically couches, and after a few glasses of a nice brut, you will be lounging as if you have always been there. Start with the ahi tuna, make yourself at home, and I promise not to tell your mother.
BONUS: Overheard conversation
Sommelier: You see, the white wine is the same grape, but with the skins removed...
Drunk girl: "Wow, you know a lot about wine."
Sommelier: Well, yes, I am a sommelier.
Drunk girl: You're from SOMALIA???