For October, Pat Sharpe selected Boulevardier, a modern French bistro in Dallas, as Pat's Pick. I spoke with Nathan Tate, executive chef of Boulevardier, about his brand new restaurant, French food, and his favorite dishes on the menu. (In case you haven't heard, Pat's Pick for November is Salty Sow in Austin.)
When did you open Boulevardier and what was the inspiration behind it?
We opened about two months ago, so we're still pretty new. We've been in the works for over a year though. My partners and I came together and thought we could fill a niche by doing a French bistro down here in Bishop Arts. There is really nothing quite like it out here. We also wanted to add some modern touches to it and not get stuck in the bistro identity, but that's not to say we don't have classic French dishes on our menu. We just didn't want it to be too boring, honestly.
When I think of a bistro, I think of classic, gourmet French food. What you're doing is pretty casual, right?
Yeah. I take a pretty rustic approach to my cooking. I don't like to use a lot of microgreens. I don't plate my food with tweezers. I'm a little more old school. I use a lot of modern techniques, but I like to make food that your grandma would serve you at a Sunday dinner. With that said, there is a lot of prep and technique that goes into our food. It might appear like you're Grandma made it, but it's probably going to taste a lot better. [laughs]
Would you tell me a little bit about your background and how you came to French food?
Cooking is in my blood. My mom was a great cook and had a restaurant when she was older, which was a big undertaking for her at the time. My grandma was always a big inspiration in Southern cooking. I went to culinary school in Dallas, but as far as French food, I don't have a huge French food background. I've never worked in a French restaurant, honestly. I've always felt like you get out of this business what you put in it, and a lot of what I've learned has been through self-teaching, researching, looking in books, and eating at restaurants. The fundamentals of what you learn at culinary school is all French, but to get to that next level I had to embrace self-teaching.
How is the cuisine at Boulevardier unlike any you've done before?
We're going back to rustic cooking. At Ava, our plates are a little more refined and the dining room has white tablecloths. We really wanted to get away from that at Boulevardier. We wanted to serve high-quality food in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. In that way, I think it's different than any other place I've worked at or done before. We're getting back to the roots of cooking. I don't want to say we're going against the whole molecular gastronomy movement, but we definitely knew we didn't want to go in that direction. That's not the way I like to eat anymore, and I like to cook the way I like to eat.
What are some of the dishes that are finding a strong following?
Our steak frites is by far our biggest seller. That's a classic bistro dish, and we cook ours over a wood-burning grill, which adds a lot of character to the beef. One thing that has surprised me with its popularity is the lamb neck daube, which is a whole lamb neck that's braised in a classic daube style with lots of aromatics, cinnamon, orange peel, and niçoise olives. For something that could sound a little creepy to most people, it sells really well, and I'm really proud of that. I was hoping that would become one of our signature dishes and it has.
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