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Faultless French Dining At The Bistrot

One of Seminyak’s stellar spots for dining – The Bistrot – has a dazzling new menu that casts a fine dining glow over a traditionally rustic menu. Ondy Sweeting taste tests.

As a piece of exquisite interior design, this uber chic Seminyak restaurant has long been top of every design dope’s bucket list when visiting the island.

After all The Bistrot is the food interest of Bali-based Belgian and Moroccan design power couple Blaise Samoy and Zohra Boukhari.

The new menu matches the exquisite space accented with damask velvet upholstered antique banquettes, ancient timepieces, televisions and cash registers as wall art.

Chef Lionel Di Mayo – whose pedigree includes a couple of years as chef de partie in a three-star Michelin Hôtel Le Bristol in Paris – has spent the past 12 months at The Bistrot distilling his impressive skills into a new menu that is fresh and vibrant and deeply interesting.

The perfect starter cocktail is an apricot Bellini that matches well with an entrée of three salads. The straightforward tomato salad is dressed in lemon juice, olive oil and sprinkled with basil leaves and just a few onion rings to create a showcase of excellent produce and delicious simplicity. This is where effortless ends and interesting begins with a more complex salad of cauliflower rice, which is prepared by lightly steaming the choufleur, cooling and transforming it into, to tiny particles. It is then woven into a salad with mint, parsley, baby tomato, onion and toasted almond slivers and then drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. This delicate dish takes on the texture and appearance of quinoa and the subtle flavour of partially cooked cauliflower. The follow up entrée is a mouth wateringly delicious Carpaccio of red snapper that is lightly cooked by the citric acid in the lemon juice. With small dollops of thick coconut cream, this dish is a mélange of tropical and traditional French with thin slivers of lemon zest and emboldened with a little paprika and hot onion.

The Bistrot’s wine list supports the menu with a fresh and tasty estate bottled Chilean chardonnay – Aromo – that worked beautifully with the salads and fish, while a Naked Range Pinot Noir from Australia nicely suits the roast beef. And we must discuss the roast beef, which is seasoned with lashings of cumin and paprika that delivers a Mexican slap elevated by cooking it over coffee wood to a sensationally tender medium rare. Served in a hot skillet the beef comes with rosemary and roasted garlic and pays homage to Chef Lionel and his well-honed culinary skills.

The side dishes for the beef are a wonderful example of just how good vegetables can be. Roasted baby carrots are wonderfully tasty verging on caramelized and herb mashed potato is a creamy hit, plus a crisp salad of English spinach, crumbled feta cheese and astringent, crushed and dried black olives all dressed with olive oil and the omnipresent lemon.

“Bali has very good ingredients, says Chef Lionel, “apart from meats which we import from Australia and New Zealand. I look to Bedugul for produce and develop the menu around what is available,” he says.

He nods to the widely accepted fact that many Michelin starred restaurants around the world adapt and change their menu daily to suit what produce is available and at its best.

“I will not freeze beautiful fresh fish only to use later. It serves our clientele to change the dish to suit the fish,” he says.

Owner Blaise Samoy says the story of The Bistrot fits with the popular healthy style of eating.

“It is not easy to do fine dining in Bali, mainly due to supply lines, so we have always offered delicious rustic food that is healthy rather than heavy. We have refined it further with this new menu,” he says about the new series of dishes, which has more than a few fine dining flourishes.

Just check out the profiteroles and lemon tart on the dessert ticket. The choux pastry is feather light and comes with a big bowl of vanilla ice cream in the middle. Chunks of chocolate and crushed nuts are hidden within and a warm chocolate sauce, served from a classic silver gravy boat. It is excellent. The lemon tart is equally good with a tangy curd filling a buttery short crust pastry plated with soft meringue and crumbled raspberries.

The bread is superb sour dough while the butter is churned with smoked paprika or lemon rind to deliver a simple dish with a difference. The choice of water is thoughtful and includes a local sparkling variety alongside Italian brands that have travelled a long distance.

The Bistrot is a chic but casual restaurant with peerless style, big wooden floorboards and vaulted timber paneled ceilings. Long whirring fans keep this vast open restaurant, with a hip mezzanine dining area cool, while choice sets of music range from David Bowie to groovy Britney and Peter Frampton covers create an elegant ambience and relaxed vibe. It also has a sweet little shop showcasing some gorgeous and well-priced jewelry that make excellent gifts which you can peruse while waiting for your valet parked car. Divine.