This wrap-up of our French Ambassador at Bistro Les Minots is written by Joe Howansky of What Joe Ate fame. Thank you, Joe.
Remember that part in Stand By Me when Jerry O’Connell says that if he could only have one food for the rest of his life, it would be cherry flavored Pez? Well if I was sitting at that idyllic campfire, I would responded that Pez is nice, but I would prefer the cuisine of south France. If he were to insist on the superiority of cherry Pez, I would simply direct him to Bistro Les Minots, the establishment of French cuisinières Yann and Henri where a group of friends and I recently had dinner.
Our dinner was presided over by co-owner Henri (who awesomely looks EXACTLY like one of my all time favorite metal singers, Martin Walkyier). During our meal, he lamented on the state of the gastronomic world in that most food reviewers have no culinary background whatsoever. Some are even ex-film reviewers whose only experience is their writing technique. They therefore have no basis on which to judge the food. So in that light I am not going to review the food. Besides, I never really care about someone else’s description of if a particular thing is good or bad. “This was crunchy, that was moist. It needed more pine nuts.” I don’t really give a crap. I have no clue what you personally like so I have no basis on which to judge if I too will like it. So I am going to talk about something indisputably quantifiable – their integrity.
Henri explained that, to him, French cuisine is more than just the stuff you put in your mouth. French cuisine is defined by a style of cooking that reflects seasonality (they completely change their menu four times a year). French cuisine is defined by a style of cooking that celebrates the products of the surrounding environment (they use local ingredients except for a handful of things that can’t be found locally like snails). French cuisine is defined by the way in which it is eaten. It is important to Yann and Henri that eating is a valuable social event that takes time (we were there for four hours, but because we wanted to be). It is an event marked by familiar people and places. (They make it a point to personally cook for, serve to, and learn the names of customers.) A truly French restaurant is a neighbor-supported approachable establishment which in turn supports the neighboring growers and suppliers. There are Manhattan restaurants that are owned by faceless chefs who own 10 other restaurants, rush you out in an hour, boast ingredients flown all the way from France under the guise of luxury, and cater to those who wish to utilize their patronage as a status symbol. Despite their steak tartare, those places are only French in name. Bistro Les Minots, however, is French in spirit.
Yann and Henri don’t want to be rich, famous, on TV or in Manhattan. Their highest aspiration is to cook good food which makes people happy. And that is what separates food from cuisine, and “French” from French.
We ate warm onion tart with anchovies and olives, le escargots de Bourgogne (Sautéed snails served in a puff pastry), Henri’s signature Moroccan influenced Les Moules Marocaines, and coq au vin that takes them three fucking DAYS to make. Then we had crème brûlée, cappuccino crème brûlée, dessert crepes, and an ice cream topped mini kind of apple tart pie. THEN complimentary homemade dessert wine. I could tell you what they were like or if they were any good, but by looking at the pictures and by basing your judgment on the integrity of the chef, I think you can infer all you need to.
Oh and by the way, next time you are in a restaurant, anywhere, ask the chef for explicit instructions on how to cook a venison heart. Oh, wait, sorry, he has no idea? Then he doesn’t know his shit as well as Henri. — Joe Howansky
Bistro Les Minots
47-16 30th Avenue
Astoria ,NY 11103
Tel:718 606 2535