Dining review

With a new name, Le Bistro Du Village offers crepes and a full French menu

For The Baltimore Sun

For a long time, I didn’t realize Crepe du Jour in Mount Washington served more than crepes. Evidently, others didn’t either, and owners Mustapha Snoussi and Donna Morris-Snoussi decided to do something about it.

They recently changed the name of the restaurant to Le Bistro Du Village after 20 years in business to reflect their broader menu, which includes classics like escargots, onion soup, mussels and steak frites.

If you’re looking for a place with French comfort food, this is it. But crepe fans, don’t worry. The savory and sweet crepes are still available.

“We’ll never take them off,” said Mustapha Snoussi, who started serving the thin, filled pancakes in a pushcart in Cross Keys in 1997 before moving to Sulgrave Avenue in 2000.

The quaint dining room with maroon-and-gold paisley tablecloths reminds me of the quaint eateries you find tucked into Parisian streets, where the proprietors cook and serve nurturing dishes to hungry tourists.

At Le Bistro Du Village, Mustapha Snoussi assumes that role, spending time in the kitchen, but also acting as the affable host, pouring wine and chatting with guests.

We were surprised by how many diners were in the restaurant on a recent Tuesday. Our server — her second day on the job, she confided — was a cheerful asset, who already knew her way around the menu.

There are several ways to begin your meal. A simple cheese plate will tempt you with choices like a creamy Brie and white cheddar, along with crunchy breads. The garlicky escargots, minus their shells, will do their best to snare you, too. And you won’t go wrong if you succumb to these buttery nuggets.

A lot of the dishes at Le Bistro Du Village are enriched with butter. Embrace it. Somewhere, Julia Child is looking on appreciatively.

And how can you resist an onion soup made with three types of onions that has a sweet, pleasant undertone and, blessedly, a cap of smooth Gruyere that isn’t awkwardly stringy?

Mussels can also be an opening act. There’s much good to be said about the pommes frites — the thin, salty and crispy potato sticks that accompany the three different preparations of the mussels. They will transport you across the ocean.

But we weren’t fond of our moules marinieres. The mussels lacked an adequate white-wine broth, had a small scattering of tomatoes and were buried in chopped garlic.

You can order “Le Cheeseburger” for a main course or any number of entrees, which are listed in French (as are all the dishes on the menu) but described in English.

The coq au vin may look like a brown mush, but don’t be discouraged. This heavenly chicken braised in Burgundy wine with bacon, mushrooms and onions deserves your attention.

We immediately fell under the spell of the trout atop abundant spinach leaves, almonds, rice and a bewitching puddle of brown butter.

The hanger steak, enriched with caramelized shallots in a red-wine sauce, while succulent, cried out for more girth. Despite its diminutive size, it compensated with a bountiful stack of pommes frites.

We didn’t forget about the restaurant’s crepe heritage and were surprised, and enamored, by the plate-size crepe Marie-Antoinette, puffed with shrimp and crab in a creamy Gruyere sauce.

Since they didn’t have profiteroles that night, we opted for two dessert crepes — one terrific; the other, not.

The crepe Suzette was drowning in an overly sweet bath of lemony sauce. The menu advertises the dish as “flambé with Grand Marnier,” but there was no lighting at the table. It’s not allowed, Snoussi told us.

The crepe Mount Washington delivered a better package with caramelized apples, Nutella and mango. A scoop of vanilla ice cream tied it all together.

With its new name, Le Bistro Du Village is getting the message out that it is not just a creperie but a full-fledged French restaurant. Still, I’m glad it hasn’t forgotten its signature staple.

Rating: 3 stars

Where: 1609 Sulgrave Ave., Mount Washington

Contact: 410-542-9000, lebistroduvillage.com

Kitchen open: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (brunch until 4 p.m.) Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (brunch until 4 p.m.) Sunday.

Prices: Appetizers, $7-$14; crepes, savory, $11-$23, sweet, $4-$12; entrees, $13-28.

Food: French

Noise/TVs: For a small room, the tone was reasonable and conversational; one TV.

Service: A lone waitress was handling at least 20 diners during our visit, with help from owner Mustapha Snoussi. She maintained a pleasant demeanor from start to finish.

Parking: Street and a nearby lot, valet service Thursday through Saturday

Special diets: Can accommodate.

Reservation policy: Accepts reservations.

Handicap Accessible: Yes

[Key: Superlative: 5 stars; Excellent: 4 stars; Very good: 3 stars; Good: 2 stars; Promising: 1 star.]

lsuzanne@comcast.net

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