What started as the launching pad for an all-American tavern chain is about to get a major french makeover when Bistro Voltaire opens in the original Bar Louie space in River North in early June. The restaurant's owner, Ned Boukran (La Provence Imports), enticed Parisian chef Claudine Hubert to move Stateside to create a menu she calls authentically French.
"The difference with other French restaurants is that I'm going into the real traditional French cuisine with old recipes, but updated in presentation with authentic flavors," she said. Hubert, who was born in Cameroon and lived in Seattle before settling in Paris, has created a seasonal menu focusing on local vegetables and high-quality fish and meats, much in the style of her grandmother who owned a brasserie in Paris.
Expect dishes like warm chevre and caviar d’ Aubergine (eggplant spread) on a crostini; flan de foie gras; housemade pate with green peppercorns; cod en croute with endives caramelized in orange; traditional moules marinieres (mussels in white wine, garlic, onion, parsley and olive oil) with saffron and roquefort cheese; beef filet en croute with mushrooms, cognac and mashed potato; duck with hazelnuts and gratin of potato and celery; chocolate fondue with creme Anglaise; and bergamot creme brulee.
The restaurant will import unique Champagne and wine (many from Burgundy) direct from France that they claim can't be found in any other U.S. restaurant. They'll also re-create the original bloody mary invented at Harry's New York Bar in Paris in the 1920s. In fact, the space will be somewhat reminiscent of that classic Parisian boite.
Bistro Voltaire, which pays homage to French and American authors, will be filled with dark wood, warm soft lights, black and white tile flooring, dark red leather banquettes, a large wooden bar that will seat 12 comfortably to eat and large windows that will open up to the sidewalk patio.
Despite the intimate French feel of the place, don't be surprised when you don't see steak frites on the menu. "That's French fast food," Hubert said with a laugh. We'd be surprised if Bar Louie didn't turn that into a sandwich.