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Bistro Provence, Fairmont Avenue in Bethesda - Chef Yannick Cam comes from Le Paradou


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I'll erase this post at some point, but for now, I can't resist poking fun at their nascent website, which is obviously nothing more than a template.

Click and have a chuckle.


Silly website aside, I wonder if will be in the same league as his Provence, which was brilliant.

Mashed potatoes with a ladle of rosemary-infused olive oil where the gravy goes....mmmmmmmmmmmm
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Silly website aside, I wonder if will be in the same league as his Provence, which was brilliant.

Mashed potatoes with a ladle of rosemary-infused olive oil where the gravy goes....mmmmmmmmmmmm

I only ate at Provence once. It was pretty amazing.

Mr. BLB and I were wondering if it might be a bit like Le Jardin. We really liked it back in 2001.

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On Fairmont Avenue, across the street from the space that has been YinYankee and Relic in recent memory. A few doors down from Black Finn.

Correct. It is in a weird tall brownish-purplish brick building that is about 4 stories tall. Right next to a parking garage. On the end closer to Old Georgetown Rd.

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I am so glad you wrote that the website was a template. With the photo of someone not at all resembling Yannick, with a dot org website address instead of a dot com or dot net, and with a menu not worthy of Yannick Cam, not to mention the misspellings all around, I was wondering what had happened! Thank you. BTW, Bistro Provence's address is 4933 Fairmont Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20815, and the phone number and email address that I have had for some time are 301-656-7373 and Suzana9113@gmail.com

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I love Yannick .. I remember when he first came to DC and opened the fantastic Le Pavillon .. the food was exquisite and beautifully presented .. I also remember when he was in Virginia and prepared a dinner based on the movie, "Babette's Feast" .. it was such a delicious, fun evening and, at the end of the spectacular meal, we noticed that it was snowing outside .. it was a magical!

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Got a phone call a couple of hours ago that Yannick Cam's new place in Bethesda will (finally) open tomorrow night. Hope he cooks at the level he is capable of - Bethesda could use a really good place to eat.

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Got a phone call a couple of hours ago that Yannick Cam's new place in Bethesda will (finally) open tomorrow night. Hope he cooks at the level he is capable of - Bethesda could use a really good place to eat.

I stopped by and stared. There are drapes up and all of the lights are on. I think I even saw tables with linens on them, but I didn't want to walk right up to the window. The parking garage next door is undergoing repair/maintenance, so the sidewalk nearby is a little tricky, but man it is right across the street.

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Well, last night was about what might be expected- chaotic! Not all the ingredients to make what was on the carte were delivered, nor all the wines on the list. There was a fair amount of standing around by servers clearly not ready for prime time. The room is rather awkward - long and narrow - six or so tables opposite the noisy bar, and another six or so opposite the kitchen, where Yannick and his crew were also running behind and rather frantic. Not sure how relaxing it was to sit opposite the kitchen at this point. The one thing that looked great was an outside terrace with 12-15 tables - but it was too cold to use it last night.

And the food - up to Yannick's standards, which after all is the point. I had grilled shrimp atop a crepe of fennel and tomatoes ($13.50), then beautifully cooked duck breast with small pieces of turnips and diced olives, nicely sauced ($25.50). Spouse had calamari with mushrooms, gently accented with garlic ($10.50) and monkfish on a delicious (she said) bed of lentils de puy and veggies. ($26.00) The prices may not be correct - they are from my memory - but they are close to accurate.

I'd give them a few days to settle down, but definitely a very welcome addition to Bethesda. Go on a nice evening so you can sit outside.

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They seem to be open for lunch. Also, on Thursday, they had their front sliding door/window things way wide open to take advantage of the gorgeous weather. It looked quite inviting. Still have to decide when to try it out.

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Two recent dinners were mildly disappointing, though perhaps comparing them to the dinners at Le Paradou is a bit unfair. I think Yannick Cam is at his best when creating appetizers and my dinners at Le Paradou usually consisted of multiple appetizers in the bar area until he allowed a la carte ordering in the dining room. Though good, the several appetizers I tried were not up to my expectations. Let me explain by example. The crab cakes, which I shared, were very good but there was nothing that made me swoon as did his lobster purses at Le Paradou. The first night, I had to return the salmon, ordered rare, because it was fully cooked. They were gracious and the service was lovely. I look forward to when they open upstairs, which I was told would have a price point somewhere between Bistro Provence and Le Paradou. My hope is that the appetizers will be as stunning as they were at Le Paradou.

In the nearer future, I am looking forward to the three reservations I have at Adour during Restaurant Week and RW Extended; I have always had remarkable dinners there!

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Just FYI, my office is almost directly across the street. There are more workmen there today doing things than I have seen in a long time. The sign is going up, too.

Correct. It is in a weird tall brownish-purplish brick building that is about 4 stories tall. Right next to a parking garage. On the end closer to Old Georgetown Rd.

Some days nothing seems to be going on in the space, and other days there appears to be further interior activity. When the place opens is still a complete mystery to me.

Plumbing contractor trucks have been out there most of this week.

I stopped by and stared. There are drapes up and all of the lights are on. I think I even saw tables with linens on them, but I didn't want to walk right up to the window. The parking garage next door is undergoing repair/maintenance, so the sidewalk nearby is a little tricky, but man it is right across the street.

They seem to be open for lunch. Also, on Thursday, they had their front sliding door/window things way wide open to take advantage of the gorgeous weather. It looked quite inviting. Still have to decide when to try it out.

There's been a couple of fire/rescue trucks outside the restaurant this morning for the last hour or so. No smoke that I can see, but I wonder what's up.

And your next post will be about YOUR MEAL there, right? :(

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There's been a couple of fire/rescue trucks outside the restaurant this morning for the last hour or so. No smoke that I can see, but I wonder what's up.

I stopped by and talked to Chef Cam's wife. She did not know what I was talking about. The emergency vehicles do not seem to have been for Bistro Provence. They are open.

Cheers!

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Had the most delicious chestnut soup tonight at Bistro Provence in Bethesda, I think it might be the best I've ever had. Also ordered the squab which was cooked to perfection, followed by almond stuffed crepes for dessert. Service was prompt and professional. I just wanted to remind everyone about this place since I don't see much notice of it. It is a real pleasure to have here in Bethesda. We are fortunate.

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I ate there recently and I would not consider it a kid-friendly restaurant. I don't believe they even have a kids menu (although I didn't actually look for one). The tables are very close together and it's a small, intimate space so unless your kids are exceptionally well behaved and quiet they would be conspicuous and I'm guessing not particularly appreciated by other patrons. The majority of the people eating around us were more mature couples and the restaurant has a far more upscale and formal feel to it than the word "bistro" would suggest.

BTW we had a really great meal there, just excellent. The only criticism was that our waitress openly admitted that she didn't know anything about the food or wine (and it showed).

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I ate there recently and I would not consider it a kid-friendly restaurant. I don't believe they even have a kids menu (although I didn't actually look for one). The tables are very close together and it's a small, intimate space so unless your kids are exceptionally well behaved and quiet they would be conspicuous and I'm guessing not particularly appreciated by other patrons. The majority of the people eating around us were more mature couples and the restaurant has a far more upscale and formal feel to it than the word "bistro" would suggest.

BTW we had a really great meal there, just excellent. The only criticism was that our waitress openly admitted that she didn't know anything about the food or wine (and it showed).

Thanks.

I don't sweat the kids menu. If there are mussels, he's happy. I had forgotten it is open for lunch so perhaps I will go solo one day.

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We went for our first time this evening, a Wednesday. No reservations. Got there at 6:15 and were lucky to be seated. There were two large parties waiting to be seated and some others who had reservations, I guess. I would reserve a table next time.

It IS small and loud. You ARE close to your neighbors. But the service was very good. Our waiter gave us good suggestions for dessert (a rum-soaked baba with roasted pineapple and creme fraiche).

The menu was larger than we expected. The tasting menu (4 courses for $68) was tempting. Chestnut soup, scallops, squab, and a crepe for dessert. Both of us would have had to get it. I would try it another night. Wasn't ready for it tonight.

There must have been over a dozen specials of the day. From that list of specials we had an appetizer of foie gras, which was delicious if a bit pricey at $26. Came with marinated plums in some kind of wine reduction. Outstanding! I expected the plums to be tart but they were sweet. Other specials included veal chop, rack of lamb, duck confit, boudin blanc, escargot, lobster bisque. Others I can't remember.

The regular menu had several fish dishes: whole branzino, roasted Dorade, grilled salmon, roasted monkfish with lentils, sea bass, bouillabaisse. Meat choices included hangar steak, NY strip, roast chicken. My wife had the monkfish and I had the Dorade, which came with a wonderful potato gratin dish with parmesan cheese, toasted well on the exterior. That was probably the best part of my entree. I don't know how it would compare with the potato dish mentioned upthread from the chef's previous restaurant, but I think I would try potato dishes here again. Didn't notice if potato was on the list of vegetable side dishes you could choose for sharing family style. Wish I could do that potato dish justice in my description!

I hope this place does well!

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Lovely dinner last night in the courtyard. Had not been there since the chaotic opening weeks when the place was clearly overwhelmed by the crowds. No evidence of those problems now, service was warm, efficient and accommodating, and the food ranged from very good to excellent. My wife ordered the bouillabaisse, which is an amazing rendition, with a depth of flavor that had me reaching my spoon over again and again. There is some sticker shock when you sit down -- no sign of a recession here -- and the menu if anything contains too many choices (12-15 special apps and an equal number of special entrees in addition to the regular menu). But the bouillabaisse is a relative bargain at 28 bucks and then you can focus on the apps (I had the morel soup with mini crab cake to start and it was terrific; this guy clearly has a way with soups).

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Lovely dinner last night in the courtyard. Had not been there since the chaotic opening weeks when the place was clearly overwhelmed by the crowds. No evidence of those problems now, service was warm, efficient and accommodating, and the food ranged from very good to excellent. My wife ordered the bouillabaisse, which is an amazing rendition, with a depth of flavor that had me reaching my spoon over again and again. There is some sticker shock when you sit down -- no sign of a recession here -- and the menu if anything contains too many choices (12-15 special apps and an equal number of special entrees in addition to the regular menu). But the bouillabaisse is a relative bargain at 28 bucks and then you can focus on the apps (I had the morel soup with mini crab cake to start and it was terrific; this guy clearly has a way with soups).

You are talking about the work of one of the best chef in this area!!!! Chef that cooks serius good food !

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You are talking about the work of one of the best chef in this area!!!! Chef that cooks serius good food !

Totally agree that Yannick Cam is one of our finest chefs. That's the whole reason I went there and posted what I thought was a pretty glowing review. If I gave the impression I didn't know who was cooking for me, nothing could be further from the truth -- the sight of Yannick cooking in the open kitchen when I walked in gave me goose bumps.

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No one has posted about Bistro Provence for quite some time, so thought I would give an update. I was there recently and fell in love with the bouillabaisse. I am always saying that there is no where really good to go in Bethesda, but this one dish has given me a new perspective. It was close to brilliant- chock full of sea scallops, shrimp, and sea bass. The seafood is plentiful and perfectly cooked. But it is the broth that distinguishes this dish with notes of pernod and fennel. Each dip of the spoon brings forth something just a little bit different than the taste that comes before it. The memory makes me want to immediately head back to Bistro Provence for more.

I will say that service was a little stiff and our waiter seemed to lose patience with us as we took our time picking our wine and we didn't order dessert. It's loud and it's expensive. But I can't say enough good things about the bouillabaisse and this one dish makes it all worthwhile.

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This place should get more love than it does. Had a wonderful dinner there tonight. My wife had the asparagus salad with quali egg and the Bronzino entree; I had the clam app and the bouillabaisse; my sister-in-law had a spectacular halibut with fennel purée and wild mushrooms. We shared the tea-infused creme brûlée for dessert. Everything was cooked perfectly. What makes it really special is that Yannick is there, day-in, day-out working the line and checking every dish that goes out. The maitre d said that if Yannick isnt there cooking, they don't open. That's a personal commitment. True, it may not be the most challenging food. But there's also a reason that the classics are the classics. In the hands of a master, they're hard to beat.

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Went late last summer for lunch. I was seated back near the kitchen so got to watch Yanick do his thing which was fun. Food was very good. An expensive lunch though. Lunch crowd is generally pretty light from what I have seen walking by though. Good to very good food, but it did not wow me. That said, one visit does not always an impression make.

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Good to very good food, but it did not wow me. That said, one visit does not always an impression make.

Bistro Provence, based on my limited experience, gets my "Least Meets Expectations" prize.

Yannick Cam is one of the greatest cooks to ever grace our city.

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I went here recently for lunch with a vendor. While my main course (shrimp with French chorizo (pretty mild), ratatouille and a nice sauce) was good (I was drawn by the ratatouille and it was good, but not transporting), the opener blew me away. An off menu special of crepes stuffed until almost bursting with lobster (lots of lobster specials that day). They basically stuff it, pinch it off at the bottom and sit it in a pan until the seam is closed and slightly crispy all served with a fantastic sauce. So simple, so good. I could have eaten a dozen of these!

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42 minutes ago, Keithstg said:

Sounds like the Lobster "beggars purse" from Le Paradou. If so, I have to get to Bethesda pronto. That was one of my favorite dishes at a restaurant I still miss!

The lobster beggar's purse is arguably Yannick Cam's signature dish. If my memory serves me, I had it the last time I was at Bistro Provence, which is surely one of the most underrated restaurants in the DC area when it's on its game (or used to be). I'm not willing to take the chance to go there and spend big bucks, not knowing if Yannick will be there, or *which* Yannick will be there.

*What* a waste of talent - you never know which Yannick Cam you're going to get, if you're going to get him at all.

A story about corkage at Le Paradou (which, I will add, has *nothing* to do with Bistro Provence):

Backstory: The second time I went to Le Paradou (I went to their friends and family), it was with a large party (about eight people including John Wabeck and Mark Slater). Their sommelier, Nicolas Rouet (who I last heard was sommelier at the now-closed Picholine, those poor fools), positively *stuck it to us* with the wines, recommending ridiculous choices at rip-off prices. With a foie gras course, he insisted we have a half-bottle of Sauternes. Having turned ourselves completely over to him, we didn't even question it - this half-bottle of Sauternes was priced at something like $175 and wasn't even a famous name! We got totally hosed by him, and every single person at the table left angry.

I used to be close friends with Janet Cam, and we used to dine together at Le Paradou on occasion. On a cold, rainy Tuesday evening, I went there by myself and had dinner at the bar, and brought a bottle of 1983 de Vallouit Hermitage "Les Greffières." Now, de Vallouit isn't the most well-known producer, but this was a legendary, old-school Hermitage made from 100-year-old vines! It had 20 years of bottle age, and had reached its prime of drinkability - on today's auction market, such a thing would probably sell for $200 *and* be completely undervalued at that price. It was world-class, fully mature, 100-year-old-vines Hermitage.

Okay, so Le Paradou has a $35 corkage fee which I knew about. *However*, I want to emphasize that this was a cold, rainy Tuesday, and I was - quite literally - the only person in the front part of the restaurant having dinner or sitting at the bar: completely empty. Except for Yannick, who was sitting by himself over at a corner table, having dinner. 

I poured myself a second glass of the Hermitage (which had been decanted), and sent *over half the bottle* to Yannick. Not just a glass, but *over* half the bottle for him to keep, drink, enjoy, share with his staff, etc.

And the rat bastard charged me the full $35 corkage fee. I don't give gifts expecting to get anything in return, but suffice it to say that he never got another taste of wine from me again. I never even got a thank you, or for that matter, even a hello.

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16 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

*What* a waste of talent - you never know which Yannick Cam you're going to get, if you're going to get him at all.

I haven't been recently, but each of the dozen or so times I've been here since it's opened, Yannick has been in the kitchen, and at the helm.  If you go when the restaurant is less busy -- I often went for Sunday lunch -- he's very approachable and will cook off-menu items for you if you ask.

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18 minutes ago, Simon said:

I haven't been recently, but each of the dozen or so times I've been here since it's opened, Yannick has been in the kitchen, and at the helm.  If you go when the restaurant is less busy -- I often went for Sunday lunch -- he's very approachable and will cook off-menu items for you if you ask.

I have not been there very often, but each time I have been, he has been there.

32 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

The lobster beggar's purse is arguably Yannick Cam's signature dish. If my memory serves me, I had it the last time I was at Bistro Provence, which is surely one of the most underrated restaurants in the DC area when it's on its game (or used to be). I'm not willing to take the chance to go there and spend big bucks, not knowing if Yannick will be there, or *which* Yannick will be there.

*What* a waste of talent - you never know which Yannick Cam you're going to get, if you're going to get him at all.

See above.

34 minutes ago, Keithstg said:

Sounds like the Lobster "beggars purse" from Le Paradou. If so, I have to get to Bethesda pronto. That was one of my favorite dishes at a restaurant I still miss!

Yes, I think that is how they described it now that you mention it. This was such an amazing dish. I need to get back over there more often, if only to have this dish again.

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5 hours ago, DonRocks said:

*What* a waste of talent - you never know which Yannick Cam you're going to get, if you're going to get him at all.

Backstory: The second time I went to Le Paradou (I went to their friends and family), it was with a large party (about eight people including John Wabeck and Mark Slater). Their sommelier, Nicolas Rouet (who I last heard was sommelier at the now-closed Picholine, those poor fools), positively *stuck it to us* with the wines, recommending ridiculous choices at rip-off prices. With a foie gras course, he insisted we have a half-bottle of Sauternes. Having turned ourselves completely over to him, we didn't even question it - this half-bottle of Sauternes was priced at something like $175 and wasn't even a famous name! We got totally hosed by him, and every single person at the table left angry.

Okay, so Le Paradou has a $35 corkage fee which I knew about. *However*, I want to emphasize that this was a cold, rainy Tuesday, and I was - quite literally - the only person in the front part of the restaurant having dinner or sitting at the bar: completely empty. Except for Yannick, who was sitting by himself over at a corner table, having dinner. 

I poured myself a second glass of the Hermitage (which had been decanted), and sent *over half the bottle* to Yannick. Not just a glass, but *over* half the bottle for him to keep, drink, enjoy, share with his staff, etc.

So much here! I agree, you never know which Yannick you are going to get - that was part of the frustration (and occasionally the joy) of Le Paradou. I did appreciate their bar menu, and actually really liked Nicolas. Sorry to hear about your experience with him - in my experience he was a good guy.

The Yannick corkage story really sums up my interactions (or lack thereof) with him as well, but when he is on - what a talent!

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Definitely a place that deserves more love when it's on. The lobster purses are excellent, but I thought the showstealer was an eggplant puree served with a few dishes, rich, smoky, and sweet, and according to our waiter prepared fresh by Chef Yannick over several hours each day. Most entrees combined a perfect classically cooked protein with an interesting and visually stunning accompaniment, such as lamb saddle with a mini mushroom and zucchini cake, or seared scallions and turbot with pea coulis and morels. Wonderful elevated French bistro fare in a quaint Bethesda townhome; the second story dining room, complete with decorative kitchen, felt like we were guests at a dinner party.

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Thanks for that steer, Shaho, on the eggplant puree! Just as you described! We were there for lunch today and I had it with my escargots fricassée appetizer and my wife had it with her salmon main course. 

I think we both liked the Lemon Torte and Blueberries in Jam the best in the end! Delightful!

Chef Yannick was there watering his flowers at the front of the bistro. Friendly service. When we were ready to order from the dessert menu the waiter asked "One of each?" That's my style! "Peut être à la droit?" (the after dinner drinks)

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I had been to Bistro Provence twice since it opened, and both times came away with the same impression...good food, but significantly overpriced. 

Having recently returned (I had a gift certificate), I have a few suggestions for the restaurant:

1) When I mentioned at the beginning the meal that I'd be using a gift certificate, the waiter may have found a better response than "you know you can't use that for my tip, right?"

2) Please update the menu on the website so that it matches the menu in the restaurant. When I asked about an onglet that was on the online menu, I was told they hadn't had that for two years.

3) Yes, I mispronounced "sancerre" when ordering my glass of wine. No,  the waiter didn't need to seem like correcting me was the highlight of his year. 

3) If you have a early bird prix fixe, include it with the menu, don't make dinners request the additional menu specifically. 

4) If a diner has a question, please provide a simple, polite answer. When asking if they had frites to substitute for roasted potatoes for my son, a waiter's response of "we wouldn't dream of it," as if the concept of frites in a French bistro was utterly preposterous, might turn off said diners. 

As for the meal itself?

The prix fixe was nice. $35 for three courses. Nothing fancy, but solid bistro fare. 

More wines by the glass would have been appreciated, and there should be one or two for under $15. 

But if you're looking for a good duck confit, or a satisfying risotto with a healthy side of condescension, Bistro Provence is a good choice. 

 

 

 

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