Greetings at Bonvivant.
When the bistro Bonvivant opened in 2015, it got great reviews. It took me a while to get there, and, when I finally did, I wondered if it is standing up to the reputation of its early days.
When we arrived, we were immediately charmed by the enthusiastic reception we received and the bustling atmosphere of the place, decorated with framed prints of old French ads.
Our waiter was a real sweetheart, patiently explaining the menu and waiting for us to make up our minds. It wasn’t easy with so many offerings on a menu that seemed to want to be everything to everyone, with choices ranging from bistro classics like entrecôte with homemade fries to cheeseburgers, burrata and piquillos.
There is certainly nothing wrong with updating traditional dishes with a little foreign influence, but if you are going to do it, do it well. Take
the onglet de bœuf with saté sauce and “wok de légumes” as an example. We can ignore the mixing of Indonesian and Chinese cuisines, but we can’t ignore the abysmal stir-fried vegetables, criminally overcooked into a soggy, colorless, tasteless mess. My friend Michael enjoyed the meat, but I thought it was a tad overseasoned.
I had ordered two dishes I was unfamiliar with.
The first was “pastorma de Mr Roger” (cured beef) with eggplant caponata. It was fine, but the two elements were piled on top of each other, making it hard to distinguish their individual flavors.
My main course was Tocomen sausage made by Emmanuel Chavassieux. I was intrigued when the waiter explained that its name stood
for three of its ingredients: tomato, coriander and mint (menthe in French). It was pretty tasty, but I was not convinced by the mint, and the lentils it came with were lacking in punch.
Of the other dishes sampled, one stood out: the
carpaccio of asparagus with aged Parmesan and carmelized walnuts, which was the only dish that really held together harmoniously. The octopus with yuzu, pink grapefruit and
black radishes was fresh and refreshing, but only because it had good ingredients strung together, not because they went together
particularly well. The same could be said for the soft-boiled egg with baby spinach and fresh peas with chervil.
These are dishes that require not so much a chef as an assembler. The quality of the ingredients is fine, but not enough imagination goes into putting them together.
Now to the bright spot of the meal: the desserts. I had a luscious, thick hunk of French
toast smothered in salted-caramel sauce, the latter a treat found everywhere these days (in fact, all three desserts we ordered came with it). The delicious lemon tart was marred by a
soggy crust but came with a brilliant lemon
sorbet. My friend Susan loved her soft-centered Valrhona chocolate cake. It was a fine specimen of the genre, but I must say I tired of them long ago.
Overall, I was quite disappointed with our meal. The menu is incoherent, with no real identity. Bistro? Fusion? Wine bar? Burger joint? All and none of the above. On the plus side, the place has a happy, lively (but noisy) buzz and a welcoming, super-friendly staff (whom we forgave for some over-long waits because they were working so hard). And the prices are fairly reasonable.Favorite