Saturday, September 26, 2009


Occasionally swayed by the trends of popular culture, I saw Julie and Julia, renewed my interest in Julia Child, and planned a trip to France. I think it would be safe to declare that this fall, French food is back.

Bibou seems to be leading the pack of this renewed interest, thanks to favorable press (including New York Times coverage) and an outstanding pedigree. Housed in Pif's former digs (where I did, on one night long ago, enjoy frog's legs prepared by David Ansill), Bibou's Chef Pierre Calmels, formerly of Le Bec Fin, and his wife Charlotte preside over the tiny dining room and kitchen.

By preside, I should clarify that the clientele Bibou draws is, for lack of a better descriptor, my parents. It seemed that everyone else in the tiny space were repeat visitors, all in their mid-60s, all very interested in the food, being there, and talking to the Chef and his wife. I confess I felt out of place.

Which is not to say the food wasn't delicious. It did make me think twice, however, when the service felt rather rushed with one dish brought on the heels of another, we were chided for not bringing wine, and not offered the tasting menu as the party next to us was. Chef Calmels did greet us, though, prompting my fame-induced shyness, speaking French and English in a charming, genuine way. I stuck with the more classical French dishes, ordering the pig's head terrine, which the Chef explained to me was fresh. He had purchased it yesterday, cooked the head overnight and then made the terrine that morning. Its flavors were indeed fresh, rich and exquisite, as was the accompanying fresh mayonnaise. I was obligated to try the foie gras, served that evening with peaches (or was it pears...) and a sweet ginger bread that was as fantastic as you can imagine, with a silky smooth rich texture and sweet offset.MCRF ordered the mahi mahi, happily perched on a bed of sauteed vegetables garnished with a rich unobstrusive foam.The desserts were lovely, once our server sorted through that the apple pie was actually the tarte aux pommes and the pie of the day was a separate offering (again making us wonder how we got this server, over others that appeared more competent). The limoncello ice cream was amazing, however, served with said tarte aux pommes, as was the chocolate cake. Most touching, however, were the tiny madelines, served hot.They helped make up for a wrinkle at the end of the meal when our server seemed inconvenienced to bring us ones as part of our change, making me feel awkward despite my leaving a 20% tip.

In short, Bibou offers delicious food in a cozy 32-seat rowhouse patronized by a very specific clientele, to whom they appear to devote much attention. If you can get past the second point, the first presents a great dinner.

Bibou is located at 1009 S. 8th Street, Philadelphia, adjacent to a parking lot,

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