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Bistro debuts new French menu

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At the Kenmore Petit Robert Bistro, there are still a few tables available on a recent Saturday afternoon for brunch, timed just before the Red Sox crowd so as to find street parking. Down the stairs from the street, past a mini Eiffel Tower, and voila, you’re in a Parisian bistro, complete with walls of wine bottles and red brick, French music, red banquettes, white tablecloths, and cherry wood accents. A huge photo of a Citroen hangs over the mantle by one table.

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Like its sister restaurant in the South End, the bistro is offering a new brunch and dinner menu by their new chef, Stefano Quaresima from France. Stefano earned his culinary degree in Italy, and worked at two-Michelin-star restaurants in Lyon and Oxford until he arrived here in March. Stefano, who started in the South End, and is taking over the Kenmore restaurant soon, is keeping Kenmore’s classic-French menu, with a few tweaks, while the South End is more gourmet, he says.

He is walking a fine line, he says, in order to recognize what his regulars love, but also introduce more local, organic and pastured foods, with a European touch, in order to try again for a Michelin Star. “We have many wonderful guests who have been coming regularly for years,” he says. “They are what makes this bistro feel like a family restaurant and are what makes it great to work here. I want people to feel like home here, to be comfortable.”

His mission: “More quality, less quantity. Everything must be homemade. We try to do everything here. My goal for the moment to is to prove myself, and to use all natural food.” This is also a slow-food experience, so be sure to allow a few hours, from appetizer to dessert. Go the full round, order a cocktail, the wine, the after-dinner liqueur. Don’t forget to order dessert. Stefano recommended some of his favorite Brunch and dinner dishes: Quiche Lorraine, with bacon and onion, served crusty and hot. The French toast, (which isn’t actually French, but you knew that) were made from fresh baguettes, making for a buttery, chewy toast that crisped at the edges, served with a delicate amount of syrup. The chef also raved about the croissant with salmon.

Not feeling brunchy? Order from the dinner menu, starting with lobster bisque, delightfully heavy on the rich lobster flavor, thankfully light on the cream, for a ginger-colored bowl. The onion soup is the real deal, a deep, sweetly beefy onion broth sealed with a golden cap of roasted gruyere. On the specials board was also a vegan butternut and ginger soup, flavored with garlic and onion.

For entrees, the chef recommended the risotto, maybe because he’s Roman, but he added goat cheese for a French accent. Topped with roasted asparagus, the rice was a lovely green, and so lusciously creamy. Upon request, you can order scallops, which were seared but tender inside. The rice was nicely chewy, cooked with a great balance between the “bite” of the rice with the creaminess of the goat cheese. For the meat lover, the chef recommends the skirt steak, which he says “is famous here.”

On the specials menu, pillowy mini gnocchi were tossed with tender calamari smoky with bacon, lightly bathed in a creamy sauce. It’s fairly light, but you don’t want to finish the dish. You want to save room for dessert.

The kids’ menu – yes, you can bring kids! — offers a well-rounded selection: soup and salad, pasta with parmesan on the side, a croquet-monsieur (grilled ham and cheese with fries), a giant hot dog in a baguette, a burger shaped like a hot dog in a baguette, fish sticks, chicken fingers, and grilled skirt steak with fries. Sides include ratatouille, spinach, and potato croquettes; dessert is chocolate mousse, vanilla ice cream with fudge, three cookies of their choice, or fruit salad. As a nice touch, proceeds from kids menu orders will go to Chefs Feed Kids (run by the Executive Chef, aka the Jacky Robert Foundation), an organization that feeds underprivileged kids in the Philippines. www.chefsfeedkids.org.

Desserts from pastry chef Yenifer Osorio are amazing. There’s apple tarte, with apples sautéed in sugar and butter on a tart; colorful macarons, chewy cookie sandwiches, in peach and pistachio; they are gluten free, FYI. People couldn’t stop talking about the passion-fruit brulee, bursting with bright fruit, and served with a palmiere cookie so buttery and crispy.

The white chocolate bread pudding, the pastry chef’s favorite, served with crème fraiche and vanilla ice cream, was crunchy, chewy, not too sweet. Creamy mousse au chocolat with a crispy langue de chat cookie, was just sweet enough. The Gateau chocolat cake is a favorite of many customers, with a candy-bar center and a hint of espresso, topped with white chocolate shavings, and accompanied by a spidery chocolate Eiffel tower.

There are also trays of cheese, cookies, and sorbet, pear tart, a giant profiterole with ice cream and fudge, and a soufflé du jour, which should be ordered 25 minutes ahead of time. Many customers just come in for dessert and cappuccino. The wine list has a long list of French wine, sparklers, and featured Bordeaux.

Wine, dessert, and romance? Happens all the time here. The night before, by the Eiffel Tower? A man got down on one knee, and they pretended they were at the real deal. “It was so romantic,” said the Kenmore manager, Melanie Berent. “He was in a suit, and she was in a gorgeous dress, with a scoop back.”

Also see: Recipe for Bluefish here.

Petit Robert Bistro – Kenmore Square
468 Commonwealth Avenue,
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 375-0699

Petit Robert Bistro – South End
480 Columbus Avenue,
Boston MA 02118
(617) 867-0600

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