08/25/2006 — Le Café De Paris has evolved from a simple bakery to a full-service restaurant in the past few years.
Burgundian chef Mathieu Choux brought the idea of freshly baked French baguettes (on a daily basis) to a city with a French name that desperately needed it.
As of five years ago, Boise was the epicenter of bad bread in the Northwest.
Choux came to the rescue in 2001 by opening a quintessentially Parisian bakery.
Now several businesses around town bake fresh European-style bread for the masses.
Le Café De Paris started out baking baguettes, brioche, croissants and fruit tarts.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner menus were eventually added, helping to distinguish the place as a bistro with a great bakery. French standbys such as steak frites, quiche Lorraine and Burgundy-style escargot are now menu constants.
The bistro-inspired interior design features black-and-white tiled floors and a hodgepodge of French landscape photos, set off by Dijon-hued walls and a ceiling that's as dark as chocolate pot de creme.
But most impressive is the pastry case packed with sweet creations and baskets of rustic loaves that greet diners when they walk through the front door.
Crisp white linen comes out at night, so do the whimsical French tunes and Algerian ditties.
Servers in the evening are young, stylish and knowledgeable (at times) about standard French fare. Service during the day, however, is a crapshoot.
One stormy night, our waitress, who resembled a tattooed version of a young Liza Minnelli, started us out with six perfectly chewy snails ($6.50/Escargots de Bourgogne) stuffed into flaky vol-au-vents (puff pastry shells) and drizzled with garlicky herb butter.
The escargot played well with glasses of Luis F. Edwards Sauvignon Blanc ($6), a crisp French white wine with a dry finish.
We then committed to a selection of three French cheeses ($7).
A long platter came with an arrangement of tangy goat cheese (chèvre), creamy St. André Camembert, sheep's milk blue cheese, sliced pear and toasted walnuts, next to a basket of hard-crusted baguette.
We washed the cheeses down with glasses of fruit-forward Montpellier Viognier ($5.50).
This California wine also worked with a palate-cleansing bowl of gazpacho de melon ($5), a pureed and chilled soup of ripe cantaloupe and zucchini perfumed with fresh basil leaves.
Also delicious was an entrée of confit de canard ($16), an ultra-tender duck leg and thigh redolent of buttery duck fat and fresh thyme adjacent to sautéed slices of golden apple.
With the exception of the bed of greasy fried potatoes on which the duck sat, this dish was a delicious interpretation of a French classic.
We closed the deal with a slice of choco-nougatine ($5), a decadent yet airy torte of dark chocolate mousse and crushed almonds on a Frangelico-kissed crust.
During a day visit, we sipped cups of Tully's French roast coffee ($1.70) while perusing the menu.
At lunch, expect to see lots of entrée salads, assorted quiches and sandwiches.
We chose the salad Nicoise ($7.50) and a Swiss cheese-smothered croissant ($5.50) packed with smoky ham and a liberal stroke of Dijon mustard.
The sandwich was served next to mixed greens tossed with creamy blue cheese dressing.
The salad Nicoise was a fresh pile of mixed greens flecked with diced avocado, red bell pepper, tomato, Nicoise olives, hard-boiled egg and extremely dry pieces of albacore tuna splashed with zesty balsamic vinaigrette.
We finished with a caramelized slice of pear-almond tart ($4) zigzagged with creme anglaise.
Like a good French wine or cheese, Le Café De Paris seems to get better with age. And we're as grateful to chef Choux for fine-tuning the once-inconsistent dinner menu as we are for him introducing French baguettes to the people of Les Bois.
James Patrick Kelly is the Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.