As someone who has traveled extensively, I will admit that I avoid French food in America as much as possible. I usually find that the flavors, portions, and service at French restaurants, especially in Florida, do not justify the astronomical prices. My family owns two homes in the south of France, and I visit there frequently, so I have experienced French food as it should be. I enjoy the fresh seafood, complex sauces, and decadent pastries in Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon, but usually reserve my enjoyment of these delights for when I’m actually in France.
That’s why Bistro Cloclo, a new French restaurant in Orlando, is such a breath of fresh air. From the moment I entered this cozy, warm little bistro in Dr. Phillips, I felt right at home. The owners and staff welcomed me warmly, leading me to a table in the striking dining room, painted a glossy red with black accents. Elegant, but without pretension, this restaurant’s décor strikes a balance that allows guests to feel comfortable, yet uplifted and inspired.
To begin, I enjoyed a delicious Hibiscus Cocktail, which featured a hibiscus flower soaked in syrup and delicate champagne. Light and fruity, it set my taste buds aglow in anticipation of a culinary adventure. I tasted several items on the menu, and was impressed with the unusual ways that Chef Julien Bouchet makes each dish his own.
The fromages et charcuterie plate changes seasonally, and pairs several French cheeses with delicious smoked meats and sausages. I paired the house-made peach jam with several of the cheeses, atop a crusty baguette, and truly enjoyed the flavor combinations. For an appetizer, Chef Bouchet wraps escargots in flaky pastry with a garlicky sauce, which I thought was an interesting way to serve them. My entrée, Scallops à la Cloclo, paired plump, perfectly sauteed scallops in a delicate, sweet cognac and apple cider sauce with a divine black risotto. The sauces of each dish were complex and richly flavorful, with exotic spices like saffron and coriander adding depth. I love how Chef Bouchet doesn’t just rehash the classic French dishes, but instead he makes them better by creatively enhancing the flavors.
Each dish was paired with a complementing wine, and I especially enjoyed the restaurant’s signature Carinae Cuvée Cloclo, a Malbec Cabernet blend produced at a boutique winery in Mendoza, Argentina, by French expatriates Brigitte and Philippe Subra. Our meal concluded with a divine crème brûlée, which my companions declared the best they’d ever tasted. I concur, and in fact I still remember the crunchy sugar crust and perfectly creamy interior of this well crafted custard dessert. I’m looking forward to a return visit to sample more items from the menu, especially their decadent-looking tarte tatin.
The bistro’s tagline is “pour les bons vivants” – for people who know how to live well, eat well, and enjoy good wine and company. I spotted many of Orlando’s who’s who and dining aficionados during my evening at Bistro Cloclo, so we were in good company in admiring this new establishment!
Bistro Hours: Open Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m-11 p.m. Happy hour beverage specials are available from 4-6 p.m.
Photos provided by Bistro Cloclo