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Oui, c'est bon!
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
Photo by Josh Bond
Unadorned Cafe Jean Pierre delivers French standards with flair

By Justin De La Rosa
It seems that some restaurants tend to get caught up with décor and ambiance, while the integrity of the food gets left behind. Not to say that every beautiful restaurant serves subpar food, but it is easy for a palate to be distracted by visual stimulation. Sometimes, I prefer the unassuming dining experience. Such is the case with Café Jean Pierre, which I can confidently say is Albuquerque’s best French restaurant.

Tucked away on the back side of restaurant row on I-25 sits Café Jean Pierre. It is a small space that can probably accommodate about 50 people. Nothing about its appearance necessarily whisks you away to the heart of Paris — that would be too much of a gimmick. Instead, you find yourself in a warm, dimly lit room with the white-table-cloth experience, adding a romantic element to the understated charm of the restaurant.

Chef Jean Pierre Gozard opened the café four years ago this month. He moved here from Paris in 1974 and has owned several other restaurants in the Albuquerque area. The chef’s passion for his restaurant goes beyond just the food. He comes out to the dining room from time to time, making sure his customers are happy and thanking those who are on their way out the door.

Cafe Jean Pierre
Hours: 11:30a-2p,
5:30-8:30p, Tue.-Sat.

4959 Pan American, 505.345.3241
The menu is constantly being updated, but it is anchored by French standards, like escargot ($9.85), house pate ($7.95) and a variety of crêpes. Entrees come in the form of sumptuous seasonal specials, taking advantage of the freshest ingredients.

On my visit, my companion and I started with the fried oysters and house-made tartar sauce ($9.95), paired with a glass of Chateau Bellevue Entre-Deux-Mers ($11). The oysters were plated on a small bed of mixed greens and topped with capers. A light, flaky batter maintained a crisp crunch that contained a rich and tender oyster inside. Chef Gozard’s tartar sauce had a pleasing creaminess with hints of dill and a nice spice on the back end of my palate, soothing the richness of the oysters. The wine was dry and minerally with citrus notes, complementing the delectable dish.

Photo by Josh Bond
For my entrée, I chose the canard au poivre vert ($29.95) while my dining partner opted for the file de sole milanaise ($26.95). A half duck was served on top of a green peppercorn brandy sauce. The tenderness of the duck left it almost falling off the bone, and the brandy sauce provided a rich warmth that staves off the winter chill.

The sole was my favorite dish of the night. Dredged in flour and crusted with panko breadcrumbs and parmesan, it was served with a lemon cream sauce and garnished with capers. The fish was light and flakey with a perfect crust. The lemon cream sauce was reminiscent of a hollandaise sauce — savory and creamy, balanced with a slight lemony tartness. It paired well with a floral Guy Alion Sauvignon Blanc ($12).
Both entrees were served with a plate of steamed carrots, green beans and zucchini. The duck had a small side of mashed potatoes while the sole came with a rice pilaf, both of which acted as pleasing palate cleansers.

Café Jean Pierre is one of the best kept culinary secrets in Albuquerque. Chef Gozard has proven to us that you don’t have to cross the ocean to get classic French cuisine. I look forward to the many more visits I will make to Café Jean Pierre to sample more of the signature dishes that are awaiting me.
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