BITE-SIZED

When in France …

Or at this French restaurant, savor the cuisine and save room for dessert

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A plane trip to France may be too far away for lunch or dinner, but JJ’s Bistro, with two area locations, is a good way to get your French fix.

Upon entering the Gate Parkway location, JJ’s Bistro de Paris, my eyes grew wide as I noticed the huge dessert case. These tempting goodies, which include pastries, tarts, tortes, éclairs, cheesecakes and other sweets, are all created fresh. Breads are also baked in-house.

We were quickly greeted and seated, passing by a tall metal replica of Paris’ famous landmark Eiffel Tower. I’ve been in the real tower twice, so this was nostalgic for me. Despite being located in a strip mall, JJ’s puts great detail in its mood-setting décor: A large painted mural of a Paris city street scene spans the main wall, and high ceilings and striped awnings over the doorways further enhance the Parisian feel.

I started my lunch with a cup of JJ’s French onion soup, which didn't disappoint. Peeling back the melted cheese layer unveiled piping hot soup with thin caramelized onions and pieces of cheese-covered soaked baguette.

The menu boasts several French favorites like salad niçoise, croque-monsieur, bouillabaisse, escargot and moules provencales et frites (mussels and fries), so there’s truly something for your inner-Parisian.

Several daily specials are listed on a small chalkboard at the table. We went with two from the list: a warm turkey, brie and green apple sandwich on brioche with raspberry aioli and chicken Florentine crêpes tarragon, topped with sun-dried tomato cream sauce and almonds. Each comes with a side, so when our waiter explained that the French fries are hand-cut and made fresh, we ordered those and a side salad. The fries were thin and crispy, and we gobbled them up quickly.

The sandwich won us over: creamy brie melting over tart green apple slices on bread topped with sesame seeds and aromatic garlic. The two thinly rolled crêpes were good, but the almonds were inside (not outside as described) and added too much crunch. The cream sauce and sun-dried tomatoes on top, however, were delicious.

Both locally owned JJ’s spots offer a vast assortment of authentic homemade-style French desserts. We selected a slice of the cookies-and-cream torte, presented on a black plate which contrasted the beautiful sprinkle of white powdered sugar — a simple but noticeable detail. Tortes differ from cakes in that they’re usually filled with alternating textured and creamy layers like whipped cream, buttercream, mousse, jams and fruits. Often, tortes are made with ground nuts or breadcrumbs instead of flour, finished with a sweet icing. I expected ours to be très riche, but it was lighter and full of flavor and texture.

So when you're yearning for French cuisine, head to JJ’s. Just save plenty of room for a dessert — or two.

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