THE MEXICAN, THE SOUTH AFRICAN AND THE FRENCH BISTRO.

The title might be a little peculiar, but so are the circumstances of my last French dinner. In a quaint part of Tijuana called “La Cacho” a neighborhood where there are beautiful houses with the smell of old money (that’s a good thing). There is a house on a corner that has been there for decades, a beautiful little house that a young couple, Susan Monsalve and Ryan Steyn converted into a French Bistro, “L’escargot”. Now this is a food blog so I won’t get into the romantics, but yes a beautiful Mexican girl met a South African born and raised boy and they ended up in Tijuana.  And that’s when it became exciting for all foodies in the region.

Ryan is a classically trained chef from South Africa specialized in French cuisine, classic French cuisine. Not that he doesn’t like or take an interest for the modern kitchen. But if you’ve ever tasted his cooking you know that classic is what he does very well.

Now I must say, last week when I went for dinner I already knew what this place was about and it was delicious. But I was in for a surprise and had one of the best French meals in my life. The menu was 6 courses. We started with a Beef Tartar, it was like being whisked away to a Paris brasserie watching the people go by, fresh and tangy like a classic tartar should be. Second course was another French Classic, French onion soup, what can I say on a cold afternoon there is nothing like the richness of a perfectly cooked onion soup with a delicious crouton with melted cheese all stirred into one bowl.

The dishes that we were getting were beautiful very delicate and French but it wasn’t until our third course that I really took notice of the plating. Bolovan filled with escargot and mushrooms. A beautiful plate, you could see every herb on the mushrooms every little oil drop perfectly executed in this amazing plate, then you tasted it and you went to heaven. You think nothing would top it and then, came  course number four.

Frogs legs, my partner for this meal was my brother in law. Just by the look on his face when our waitress told us what was coming I knew that he had never had them before. He is a trooper, but that day I could see right through him. The plate arrives, beautiful  4 breaded frogs’ legs with spices and asparagus. Absolutely scrumptious so much so that my brother in law hesitant as he was, finished the entire plate. Kudos Charles!

Number five was the Pièce de résistance or at least until the desserts arrived at the table. My favorite, a perfectly cooked duck.  When you are from a city that isn’t used to eating duck its very hard to be served a perfectly cooked one and this one was amazing. And on top a beautiful duck jus  with orange and herbs. It would melt in your mouth, who could ask for anything more.

To finish this wonderful meal, a plate of three desserts for our sweet tooth. Chocolate mousse, a dulce de leche éclair and  a wine and spices poached apple in phyllo pastry. The plate beautiful and a dessert wine from the Baja region. We took our dessert out to the patio where we talked a bit with the chef and his wife. One of my questions was about their wines, not many famous labels but each pairing we had was wonderful. Who was taking the time in buying these wines? Susan owner and trained sommelier talked about how she went out of the norm and the big distributors to actually take the time to taste the wines a bring their customers the best product for the best price, after all this is a bistro. And they want to keep it that way.

I’ve said it many times there are few ingredients to a great restaurant. An L’escargot has it all. There is passion in its chef, the service is excellent I must thank our waitress Nancy for that. The place is beautiful and the food is amazing. Next time you are in the neighborhood,in Tijuana. Let them whisk you away to Paris for the evening, you won’t be disappointed.

See you next week.

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