Cyril Blacha and his wife, Kelly Smith-Blacha, have more than earned that confidence. Party Chic Café and Catering, Roswell Provisions, and Provisions for the Home are all products of this dynamic duo’s taste and business savvy.
So when they and their partner, Lorry Kemp, decided to put Party Chic to rest and combine the space it had occupied with the remainder of the second floor of the building for a full service restaurant and bar, I knew I would have to check it out, despite those pesky stairs.
The first thing that struck me was how Kelly had combined comfort and vintage chic in the décor. A self-admitted scavenger who can see potential beauty in the most unlikely objects, Kelly has furnished the dining and bar areas of Le Bistro with eclectic furniture, lighting and accent pieces, several of which she has designed and some she even built herself.
The overall effect -- with a nod to my college French classes -- exudes a certain je ne sais quoi that is right in keeping with the thoroughly Gallic nature of Cyril’s menu. Handwritten, with the dishes’ names in French and the descriptions in English, it contains the classics from Cyril’s homeland that he grew up with.
In fact, many of these dishes he learned to make at an early age by watching his mother, Coco, a former restaurateur herself. There are still the occasional transatlantic phone calls to jog his memory or discuss technique, and once a year, maman spends a month with her son and daughter-in-law at their Roswell home and cooks for their customers.
We were fortunate enough to eat some of her cooking on the last weekend she was in town, which was our first visit to Le Bistro. In her hands, a deviled egg bursts with piquant flavor; cauliflower, cheese and crumbs attain rock start status.
A few days later, we climb the stairs again to sample some of her son’s work. As it is one of the first truly warm days of spring, two cool salads seemed an appropriate beginning.
A bowl of tabouleh with bulgur, chopped tomato, cukes, black olives, lemon and mint was pleasingly light and fresh. The salad Nicoise (nee-swaz), one of Coco’s recipes, combined the usual crisp green beans, cooked potato wedges, Kalamata olives, hard cooked eggs and lettuce with zingy lemon-based vinaigrette.
What sets this Nicoise apart from the ordinary is the slices of ahi tuna, grilled medium rare, subbed for the more commonly used canned tuna. Already one of my favorite hot weather salads, this Le Bistro version zoomed directly to the top of that list.
The quintessentially French sandwich croque monsieur is always a reliable way to ascertain the kitchen’s credibility. Cyril puts together one of the best. Essentially a grilled ham and cheese, the quality of ingredients is critical to this sandwich’s success. Rather than a French ham, which he deems too salty for this, Cyril uses Polish ham from Patak’s Meats in Austell, sliced wafer thin, and gruyere, a creamy, nutty Swiss cheese favored for its meltability.
Pan grilled on buttered brioche with nutmeg-kissed béchamel, this sandwich is just about perfect. You’ll never be satisfied with plain old ham and cheese again.
It’s not for nothing that one of the world’s finest beef sandwiches is called French dip. I’ve eaten a few in my time, but few as satisfying as Le Bistro’s. Cyril said he experimented with several different cuts of cow before settling on beef knuckle for his version.
That gave me pause, as I don’t think I have ever tasted knuckle and it sounds so…..odd. It took just one bite to convince me I’d been missing out on something quite wonderful. Slow roasted to medium rare, sliced thinly, dripping in jus and piled on a crusty baguette with a light smear of horseradish cream, with a side of long-simmered jus of beef ribs, broth and red wine for dipping, this is an eminently craveable sandwich.
Crepes, both savory and sweet, are on the bill of fare, as are more sandwiches, salads, starters and an entrée special each weekend. It’s important to note that Cyril and crew either make everything in house or purchase from the best local vendors, such as Patak’s or Artisan Breads, just a few blocks north on Canton Street. His favorite seasoning blend, herbs de Provence, is shipped to him by his mother directly from France and makes an appearance in a vast majority of his cooking.
Kelly still makes her famous chicken salad and cupcakes for Le Bistro, with even more sweets such as lemon meringue tart, chocolate mousse and strawberry shortcake to choose from.
Once you’ve finished your meal, stroll to the back of the restaurant to the room where all manner of home décor and functional items like glassware are waiting for a discerning buyer. Cyril and Kelly moved their Provisions for the Home shop up here from its former Elizabeth Way site. Everything in this room, as well as every piece in the restaurant itself, is for sale.
955 Canton Street, Roswell