The last time we’d heard the famous French entertainer Charles Trenet perform his signature “La Mer” (The Sea) was over the sound system at Piano Bar Zinc in Paris. Imagine our surprise when we entered West Hartford’s Ávert Brasserie to hear that same song wafting throughout the restaurant.
It was noon on a Wednesday, and the charming hostess greeted us with a genuine sing-song “Bonjour!” as our hungry little trio hoped to get a booth, because the restaurant takes no reservations. Fortunately we were early enough, and were seated immediately – well, almost, because we did take the time to walk around to look at the authentic Parisian white ‘Metro’ tiles behind the bar, and to study the fun posters, printed banners, the day’s menu on mirrors, and brass trimmings that are so familiar to travelers who have experienced the same ambience in bistros, brasseries and cafés all over France.
When friendly server William arrived at the table to take our drink orders and recite the day’s special dishes, he too gave us a warm ‘bonjour’….so be sure to practice your French while dining at Ávert. For drinks we chose a couple of glasses of crisp Cote Mas Blanc from Languedoc and a freshly made iced tea – which came with extra ice and a bonus refill in a beautifully designed glass mini bottle.
Each of us chose a different lunch entrée – the braised beef short rib “Bourguignon” was deliciously tender and cooked with pearl onions, bacon and button mushrooms. The Prince Edward Island mussels “Moules Frites” came in a delicious sauce of white wine, Dijon crème and saffron along with a half-a-loaf of bread to sop up those succulent juices. A French baked ham and cheese sandwich - “Croque Monsieur” was accompanied, as were the mussels, with the world-renowned, twice-fried pommes frites, a substitution that we requested instead of the offered baby green salad.
As in most French bistros and brasseries, hurrying is never on the menu. Our lunch was casual, peppered by fun conversation, and the service was lively but not rushed.
Co-owner Dorjan Puka (who also owns the innovative northern Italian-cuisine-inspired Treva around the corner on Farmington Avenue) and co-owner Chef David Borselle toured Paris and Lyon brasseries for several weeks before embarking on opening Ávert some nine months ago. It’s been a welcome addition to the Connecticut restaurant scene from the beginning, and an especially Parisian touch is the ‘sidewalk café’ in front of handsome façade on LaSalle Road. Being quite a humid day, we opted for a handsome, and comfortable indoor booth, but with the cool September days upon us, the next time we visit we hope for a cooler day to enjoy an al fresco lunch or dinner at this outstanding restaurant.
Getting back to our lunch, we closed the meal with a shared dish of three profiteroles -small vanilla-ice-cream filled éclairs with caramelized almonds and chocolate sauce. Once that was ordered, we realized that there was an in-house-made pistachio ice cream which we just had to try. As the French say, “C'est magnifique!” The abundance of shared ice cream treats proved a sweet finish to a first-rate French eating experience.
As we were leaving Ávert we heard an accordion solo repeating the theme of “La Mer” followed by the sublime Piaf who sang that she had ‘No Regrets.’ Nor did we have any regrets about Ávert in elegant West Hartford Center.
Here’s a handy hint: There is plenty of parking all around West Hartford Center and the Blue Back Square area. Ask any parking attendant for a free copy of the beautiful and comprehensive “2014 Guide to West Hartford – The Center & The Square.” It is the essential tool for finding the best shops, restaurants, salons and services – complete with a walking map to help you find all that West Hartford has to offer. C'est bon.
Ávert Brasserie 35 A LaSalle Rd, West Hartford, CT 06107. Phone: 860-904-6240
Fax: 860-904-6629 www.avertbrasserie.com
Reviewed By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin’