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Venue Review: Bistro La Bon

An unlikely, delightful mix
Bistro La Bon
By "Helen Schwab"
The Charlotte Observer

1322 Central Avenue

More info about restaurant

The last time I pulled into the Family Dollar lot in Plaza Midwood, I needed dice, Pepsi and chips. About right, expectation-wise, for a pocked stretch of asphalt leading to beauty supply and uniform shops and stretches of empty storefronts.

So wheeling into that lot for a Mediterranean-inspired dinner challenged my sense of probability. As in, I figured I probably wasn't going to be nibbling pan-seared branzino or passionfruit mousse.

And yet - just so.

Bistro La Bon is the improbable product of more improbable circumstances than its location: a native Iranian executive chef who did his formative cooking in Sweden, who completed stints at Charlie Trotter's as well as Noble's and Sonoma and Blue in Charlotte, and has a taste for both the cooking and pastry sides of the business. A name chosen because it could be cobbled together from the original, discarded name's red-block-letter signage. A website done by Swedish nephews. A menu focused on in-house production and midlevel pricing, executed with old-school utility. A Sunday brunch smorgasbord.

And it works.

Beautifully.

Majid Amoorpour is executive chef, with chef de cuisine James Swofford and Brandon Robasciotti also in the kitchen, producing an elegantly edited lineup of small plates, a few mains and lovely desserts. Amoorpour was the best thing about Ballantyne's Table restaurant, where he crafted intricate desserts. That attention to detail is evident here.

Grilled halloumi cheese (a white, substantive sheep's milk cheese) comes with lush figs and a port reduction over housemade brioche. Mussels are steamed and served with leek confit and saffron cream (Amoorpour's mom bought him the expensive spice the last time he was home, where it's moderately cheaper). A special of steak frites is done with flank, sliced and buttery, with fat, square-cut, golden, perfectly cooked fries.

The branzino fillets come with corn veloute sauce and dill-spiked potatoes; Scottish salmon arrives with Asian greens and a distinct honeyed edge - one of Amoorpour's tells, culinarily speaking.

And desserts are as significant as you'd want, yet unfussy: Bread pudding is luxurious, chocolate cake simple and spectacular, a special of baked meringue and passionfruit mousse garnished delicately with chocolate.

The spare lunch menu runs $8 (salads, cold sandwiches) to $10 (pastas, fish, meats such as Swedish meatballs or beef tournedos, and hot sandwiches such as a burger or house-smoked-salmon BLT).

Servers rave gently about the menu and work to be quick, while taking time to trumpet the Sunday smorgasbord, but in a warm way. It's $14 and includes a range of housemade pastries and breads, cured salmon, roasts, waffles, salads, vegetables, fruits and more.

Nits: A handsome open-faced vegetarian sandwich is next to impossible to eat - press with utensils and things fall out. A few service details should be tightened. And the décor feels slightly unfinished - as it is, says Amoorpour, who calls it a work in progress.

Still, the arched windows and lounging area, golden walls and views of the city opposite the front door will shock you if you're not prepared.

Improbable, and all the sweeter for it.

Reviews & Comments
CRITICS REVIEWS
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7/16/2010 - The Charlotte Observer - Helen Schwab

Even in a nondescript locale, Bistro La Bon rises above with elegant main dishes, old-style care and attention to detail.

(Full review)
USER REVIEWS
Aug 23, 2010 - mbjoh
Noisey noisey noisey

We went to Bistro La Bon because of Helen Schwab's wonderful review, and because we want to support restaurants in Plaza-Midwood. I wish I could write about the food, but the Sunday buffet was not memorable, but what was, was a miserable experience of noise and distraction. The space is one long, large room with no baffles to catch sound. Three of us could not hear each other, even when yelling. Instead of fine dining, it was like a visit to Chucky Cheese. Literally, children running wild... where was Mgmt? 3 children where running circles around our table and theirs next to us and in the space leading to the bathrooms... their Mom was ignoring them. Then when Dad stood to talk, he was shouting over our table to others... food? what food?

Those sitting on the patio, and Central Avenue, had a more quiet spot. There were so many staff last week; how come NO one stopped this circus? 1) the space is LOUD 2) the staff walk around like zombies. The noise was there when we were seated; we stayed, but we should have left.

Jul 21, 2010 - EyeInsideCMS
Not True RedSox2

Dear RedSox2,

Liar, liar!

What an interesting tail you spin. Do you work for Bistro? We too were there and saw the looks of derision the staff were showing towards DarnYankie2. DarnYankie2 was absolutely correct. We wouldn’t have sat where they were trying to seat him. There was no profanity whatsoever. What part of “No, this table is not acceptable” is profane? In fact, I distinctly heard him ask for a bench. I also heard the staff continually parrot to him that they were over booked and all tables were pre assigned. So since you were there, you know that there was more than enough other tables like the ones requested. Why was it necessary to stuff him back in a corner or on top of the buffet tables? What happened to the customer is king?

They didn't miss much. The meal was mediocre and very slow to be served and restocked. Not the fantastic image we were expecting.

Jul 20, 2010 - redsox2
DarnYankie2's review

To DarnYankie2:
I happen to be there when the staff was trying to seat you, twice. It was hard to miss your foul language! Maybe you shouldn't use profanity toward the staff in the middle of a restaurant. Even your poor wife seemed embarrassed of your behavior. You missed a very delicious brunch. The rest of us enjoyed our brunch.
C'mon man, just be nice. It’s not your home, it’s just a newly opened restaurant. Give them a break! They may let you enjoy their awesome food next time.

To EyeInsight:

it's ok if you think I am a liar. You are certainly entitled to your own opinion...The guy said to the staff: "Are you a F#$&ing idiot?" right in front of our table. I am glad you didn't hear it. it's just not cool to do that. You don't like it, just don't go there man. The rest of us, the regulars, want to enjoy our food and do not need to hear such language.

Jul 18, 2010 - DarnYankie2
Amateur Hour

No idea how the food is, as we didn't even make it to the table. Just left there. We had a reservation and were led to a looser/crappy table in the traffic flow of the buffet line. Asked for a “booth-style seat”, were promptly shown to a table crammed up against a window--the second crappiest table. There were at least 6 other tables that would have worked for us that were unoccupied. When we still said no thanks, we were told by the owner, “We’re overbooked and have too many reservations and all the tables are assigned already”. SO WHAT! We were one of the reservations. That was at 11:00 (Sunday-opening) and the floor was empty. The correct answer is to RE assign a table for someone who isn’t even there yet. Hope they get a clue before our lunch group tries again in a few weeks.

RedSox2,
I'm saying you're a liar too. Those words were never used! Since I'm the one whom you claim said those words. Now I'm certain that you're a plant for this poor excuse of a restaurant.

(no rating) Jul 17, 2010 - mudmagnate
desserts to die for.......

Creme brulee yes Carrot cake really rich
Bread pudding I want a whole table full. un believable..
Sunday brunch huge with chocolate waffles.
and the white tablecloth lunches for 10 bucks!!! ya gotta go to this new treasure in plaza-midwood on Central

Jul 16, 2010 - elfboy90
Great restaurant

Go there all the time. Fillet Mignon is perfect. Lots of great appetizers too. Wonderful mix of customers as you would expect in this neighborhood.

Jul 16, 2010 - jimmywt
If you love beautifully prepared healthy food, you need to visit Bistro La Bon

I have been eating dinner twice weekly at this new Plaza Midwood Gem, and have never been disappointed. Quality ingredients, cooked impeccably, with a wait staff that is committed, and professional. Unpretentious surroundings where the focus is purely on the food.


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