Encore, encore!

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French cuisine has a reputation for being fattening, what with all those cream sauces and all that butter – or “but her” as the French Chef herself, Julia Child, liked to pronounce it.

“That’s absolutely right,” says David Masliah, owner of the divine Encore in Rye. And absolutely wrong.

“It’s very hard to change the way people think,” he says. “But that (reputation is) not always true.”

Encore Bistro Français, which will be a year old in April, certainly has its share of rich, hearty, wintry fare like its cassoulet, a crock pot teeming with sausages, smoked bacon, duck confit and white beans. But what was particularly delightful about the enchanted evening we spent there recently was how light the food was – and how flavorful. We sampled a range of it, from escargots to the Tuna Tartare featured in the recipe here to Chocolat Fondant and Crème Brûlée, washed down with a B&G Bistro Pinot Noir from Corsica (Napoleon’s hometown) and a Domaine Chandon Champagne from California. But what we may have enjoyed most was the marvelous interplay of fish and vegetables.

Or the vegetables alone. The ladies who made up the quartet for our Ladies’ Night Out flipped over the Tatin de Tomates, a baked tomato and feta cheese tarte tatin, or upside-down tart. (More about the traditional Tarte Tatin in a bit.) This one features red and yellow tomatoes.

“Three years ago, we tested it on the menu in Larchmont,” David says of the Encore restaurant he has owned there since 2000, “and people liked it so much that it stayed. But you have to come back in summer when the tomatoes are in season.”

The phrase “melt in your mouth” is overworked but OK, the dish really did melt in your mouth, the cheese and tomatoes happily marrying one another. It did not distract us, however, from trying one of the special appetizers, Rouleau de Saumon Fumé à la Chair de Crab (crabmeat wrapped in smoked salmon with pomegranate vinaigrette), also tasty.

Nicolas Marilhet, who provided the attentive but unobtrusive service, had recommended the Sole Limande en Papillote, lemon sole cooked with lemongrass and lime sauce on a bed of couscous with slices of tomato and zucchini, all baked in foil. The juices and flavors flowed together, giving this dish a delicately delicious integrity.

We also savored sweetbreads, bouillabaisse, homemade French fries prepared just right – and the desserts. We dove into them all, including the special peach brioche pudding with vanilla ice cream and coffee sauce. But the favorite may have been the traditional Tarte Tatin, a carmelized apple upside-down tart that has an equally scrumptious history. It was created in the 1880s at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, 100 miles south of Paris, by sister-owners Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin. There are many versions of how Tarte Tatin came to be. Stéphanie, who did most of the cooking, either dropped it in a hurry, or burnt it on the stove or made it by mistake. Anyhow, she served it, guests loved it – and you will, too.

Like les soeurs Tatin, David is French, born and bred in Lyons. When he was a teenager, his family moved to central France, where his father, Victor, worked in his uncle’s restaurant business. Soon David was in culinary school, in Thonon-les-Bains on the Swiss border near Geneva. After military service and a stint in London, he came to America when a culinary school friend who worked at La Panetière, the noted French restaurant in Rye, told him there was a job opening there. David held various positions there for five years before striking out on his own in Wilton with Bistro le Trocadero in 1998. (He sold it in 2003.)

From his Trock days, David has worked with chef Erwen Perez, who’s with him now at the new Encore. It has the look of a classic French bistro – red banquettes, black and white-tiled floor. David says he did all the work with his father.

It’s just another ingredient in Encore’s recipe for success.

Encore Bistro Français is at 67 Purchase St. in Rye. For more call 914-481-8833 or visit encore-bistro.com.

 

Tuna Tartare

  • 16 ounces of sushi grade tuna
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 4 anchovies
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 squeezed lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of capers
  • Salt and pepper

Mince the shallot, anchovies, parsley and capers. Cut the tuna meat with a knife into small cubes. In a bowl, mix the tuna meat with the other ingredients. Place the tuna in a 3-inch pastry circle on a plate. Remove the circle and dress with olive oil and toast points or thick homemade potato chips. Serves 4.

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