Bistro du Glace and Patisserie, Deep River
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The restaurant world has been playing fast and loose with the term bistro, borrowing allure from the legendary bistros of France, small, chef-owned neighborhood establishments serving delicious meals made from simple ingredients, dishes somebody's grandmère in the provinces might serve-in short, some of the best home cooking in the world.
By this definition, Bistro du Glace is one of the most authentic bistros in Connecticut. It is also one of the most atmospheric. A storefront on Main Street in the quiet little town of Deep River, with plate-glass windows facing the street and a pizzeria next door, is not a place where one expects to be transported to Paris. But ooh-la-la, here we are. And Toulouse-Lautrec, aka Rick Silberberg, a local artist who painted the walls with scenes of cabarets, cancan dancers and music halls, has been here before us.
The paintings look gently old, but du Glace is new. Fresh with the enthusiasms and gaucheries of youth, the place rollicks along, approachable, fun, occasionally missing the mark (only in terms of service), but the chef is talented and confident, and Bistro du Glace, more often than not, is right on the money. Speaking of money, not the least of this bistro's young charms are its prices-hearty soups and salads for $6, satisfying entrées like coq au vin for $19 and desserts for $6. The most expensive entrée, Tournedos Rossini with truffle sauce, is $29.
But du Glace's real claim to fame is its focus. It's not aspiring to be haute, nor is it straining to be au courant with Asian twists, nuevo anything or drop-dead presentations. As in bistros of old, luscious stews and ragouts are ladled onto the plate, probably by the chef himself. Potatoes, rice or lentils go alongside to soak up the juice. When your dish arrives, your first inclination is to dig in-not reach for a camera. Appetizers are small, entrées are large. And the best appetizer by far was a bacon leek tart.
It figures. One of the chef-owners is a pastry chef and du Glace is actually a dual operation, a bistro with an adjacent pâtisserie. One bite of that bacon-leek tart-so light, so fluffy, so flavorful in its short, tender crust-and I began thinking about dessert. My anticipation was warranted, but more about that later. We had a lot of good eating to do first.
Quail arrived crisscrossed with charcoal grill marks, juicy within, swamped with lentil salad (which we happily shared around) and sparked by a dollop of cranberry compote. An appetizer special of garlicky pork sausage and a richly flavorful duck sausage I encountered later on in a cassoulet made me think how nice it would be if du Glace would sell its wonderful house-made sausages as well as pâtisserie in the shop next door.