A native of Paris, Executive Chef Christian Nam-Hee sharpened his knife skills and his palate at l'Ecole de Paris des M?tiers de la Table. Today he lets his know-how blossom and wander in the kitchen of Bijou Restaurant & Bar, blending the culinary traditions of his homeland with the flavors found in northern California's seasonal organic ingredients. From his pans and cutting boards spring forth sweet-potato frites, quail stuffed with napa cabbage, and other dishes that embody the menu's inventive fusion spirit. To complement such an aesthetically poignant dining experience, the space itself?designed by DesignPlus's Pia Thomas?remains sleek and focused. The centerpiece is the bar, which glows a dreamy, iridescent amber that's complemented by ring chandeliers and absorbed by Italian leather chairs, a lounge area's plush velvet cushions, and tabletop black holes.
Francophiles will appreciate Bistro Maxine's casual approach to dining, with pretention-free lunches and carefree dinners in the flavorful form of authentic crepes, soups, salads, sandwiches, espresso drinks, cocktails, and ice cream. Those hampered by hunger will find the pièce de résistance of soft, warm crepes freshly scooped from imported griddles. Whether savory or sweet, each crepe is stuffed with a winning combination, such as goat cheese, mushrooms, and spinach ($9); banana and Nutella ($5); or the devilish blend of sautéed apples, Calvados, and rich crème fraiche known as the Normande ($7). A number of Continental potables are on hand to escort eats down dappled gullets—sip a kir royal (blackcurrant liqueur and champagne, $8) or a glass of house wine ($7), or drown sober worries with a bottle of chardonnay or Cote du Ventoux ($19).
Most people don't expect to identify their career path at the age of five. Jared Gallagher, Chez TJ's executive chef, is not most people. A second-generation chef, Jared started working in his father's kitchen at the age of five, and he knew he wanted to stay there. A sous chef at 19 and an executive chef by the age of 21, Chef Gallagher pursued a passion for French food by training at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and London, an experience he parlayed into a stint in the kitchen of acclaimed chef Michele Bras. Jared was also raised to appreciate farming, fishing, and hunting, and Chez TJ—a Michelin Guide-rated establishment—reflects his early communion with nature. Each morning, Jared walks through the restaurant's 30'x50' edible garden, combing through beds of currant tomatoes, zucchini, leeks, arugula, and other fresh produce for ingredients to use on the custom, chef-prepared menu du jour. When possible, Chez TJ also relies on local farms and markets to supply their meat and other ingredients. Housed in an elegant Victorian home originally built in 1894, Chez TJ boasts four distinct, cozy dining rooms that can be closed off for more intimate occasions. Guests are also free to roam through the garden to enjoy the scenery or brush up on their pollination skills.
All day, chefs here griddle impossibly thin crepes and fill them with creative ingredients. The result is sweet crepes such as the Half Moon, with sliced peaches sweetened with a honey-orange glaze and sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar; and savory varieties such as the A La Jack, stuffed with spinach, jack cheese, roasted almonds, and sour cream.
The expert crêpe-rollers at K's Crêpes & Café ladle organic batter onto the griddle, sizzle until golden brown, and adorn the ensuing concoction with savory toppings or house-made whipped cream. Delight a savory-toothed uncle with naturally gluten-free buckwheat crêpes such as the Chelsea, a delectable mound of chewy swiss cheese, sautéed zucchini, and crisp spinach ($6.95). Morning-time diners can wash down a whole-wheat sweet crêpe with a cup of Mr. Espresso and a dash of powdered sugar, or bite into the New England Revolution, which arrives laden with peaches, vanilla gelato, and chocolate sauce like a camel being ridden by Santa Claus ($6.75). Omelets ($4.50+), lunch-friendly sandwiches ($5.25+), and house-made soups ($3.50+) are also available throughout the day.
Forget the days of using crêpes as tea cozies and pogs. Today's Groupon finds a new use for them—food. For $7, you get $15 worth of quality crêpes and treats at Bonjour Crepe Company in Cupertino. These francophone foodstuffs are served inside an accurate simulacrum of a French café, making it a great place to wear your beret, introduce your wife to your various mistresses, and ruefully observe how le mort adds a deliciously bittersweet edge to even the most sugary crêpe.