Rising like a phoenix from the ashes, Palo Alto’s new French bistro, Les Bizous, is a strange bird. The restaurant was taken over by a relative of the owners of Crawfish Fusion, which recently closed. To go from serving finger-licking crawfish out of a plastic bag to delicate foie gras is quite the leap.
Some of the menu items seem to have an identity crisis like paella (Spanish), egg rolls (Chinese) and clam chowder (American), but this is a non-issue when they’re delicious. The kitchen knows its way around these different cuisines. Just don’t consider Les Bizous to be strictly French fare, and the meal will be great. The restaurant has kept its seafood roots, with a strong number of offerings for appetizers and entrees.
For now, reservations are strongly advised, although this is not stated on the website. We still managed to get seats as a walk-in party of two on a Saturday night. More than half the appetizer menu contains surf options like oysters, mussels, and Dungeness crab salad. The grilled octopus ($13) caught my attention. I’m in a phase. Octopus is a must-have, and I can be particular about the texture, amount of char and seasoning. Generally, a minimalist approach with a high quality catch are best. Les Bizous passes the test with their cross sections of soft tentacles on a bed of lemony arugula and cherry tomatoes.
Our small seat by the sidewalk started getting heavy traffic around dinner time, when a reservation would definitely come in handy. The dimly lit dining room begins to fill and the noise level rises with the added chatter. The quaint ambiance gives way to a lively, vibrant setting, though the outside patio guests are somewhat removed from this. Just before the rush, we were served our first entree.
My friend ordered the Saffron Paella ($26), which was a goopy scoop of goodness on a plate. Remember when I said it doesn’t matter that a French restaurant serves Spanish paella? This is why. It was teeming with clams, mussels, scallops, calamari and prawns, all cooked in a savory lobster broth flavored by saffron rice and littered with tomato chunks and peas. It was everything a paella should be.
Venturing to turf territory, I ordered the Roasted Rack of Lamb ($24), my other current culinary obsession. The medium-rare cook on the lamb was a beauty. Beneath the lamb was a bed of ratatouille-inspired vegetable mix including zucchini, eggplant, red peppers, and nicoise olives in lamb jus. Overall, the lamb was a very satisfying dish that is one of the more French-leaning items on the menu.
Crawfish Fusion was actually received well by its patrons, which makes the change to Les Bizous surprising but also promising. Even if the website is not informative and the menu a bit off from traditional French, the food is very good. And after all, isn’t that the most important reason we dine out?