Overall impression: Paris native Karim Teni is the sort of restaurateur you want to cheer on. He meticulously visits each table, chats amicably in Spanish, English or French and, with Bistro 1902, is refreshing a less-than-lively portion of Hollywood Boulevard where turnover has been too frequent. Bistro 1902 is easy to overlook due to its being next to an empty storefront, a pizzeria, a law office and a tiny bar. However, the restaurant, which opened this past October, offers a menu and ambience that are at once classy and casual. It's a nice fit for the area.
Starters: Bistro 1902 provides what may be my favorite condiment – a sweet olive butter served with slices of baguette that had me eating way too much bread. The creamy French onion soup ($5.95) comes with three slices of baguette sitting at the bottom like a sunken treasure. The Bistro 1902 Salad ($14.95) was a hit, featuring a bed of mixed greens arranged with smoked duck breast, bacon and grapes with raspberry vinegar. We enjoyed a half-dozen escargots in a butter-garlic sauce ($7.95) that wasn't very punchy but was nice, nonetheless. The seafood trio casserole ($11.95) included a small pan of calamari, shrimp and scallops in a pool of butter garlic sauce. It shouldn't be missed.
Entree excellence: Alongside its higher-end offerings, Bistro 1902 offers creative burgers, including a sea-scallop-and-shrimp burger, a filet-mignon-and-foie-gras burger and a duck-confit burger with roasted pear. We wanted to try a lower-priced option, so we went for the $12.95 ground-beef burger, grilled a perfect medium and topped with black truffle, brie and a toasted bun. The burgers are paired with a generous helping of hand-cut fries that had us yearning for more.
The restaurant highly recommends its scallops ($24.95), and with good reason. This quartet is seared just right, topped with a memorable, tangy caramel-orange sauce and paired with rice, vegetables and a spot-on tomato Provencal. Red snapper is a solid offering topped with a mild lemon-butter sauce that is easy on the citrus. Similarly, a New York strip ($22.95) had an aromatic, creamy black-pepper sauce that we enjoyed. The side of scalloped potatoes was delicious, boasting a fair amount of cheese between the potatoes without looking like a sloppy mess.
Sweet! Dessert is a highlight here. Our favorite is the tarte tatin, a French upside-down apple pie ($7.95) with a chewy crust and caramelized apples chopped just right and topped with vanilla ice cream. A close second is the chocolate mousse ($4.95), available in white chocolate or half-regular and half-white chocolate. We loved the half-and-half version, with the sweet white chocolate tempered by the richer regular chocolate. Creme brulee ($6.95) is the only mediocre offering, served with loads of berries wedged into the custard but still tasting bland. Chocolate lava cake ($7.95), with a ball of whipped cream on top, is a rich crowd-pleaser.
Service: We found our servers to be diligent and highly accommodating, with a bit of European charm. The owner even brought out a toy to entertain our daughter, and fixed up a tasty grilled-fish-and-potato item for her. However, we overheard some members of the staff squabbling near the back of the dining area. We wished they would have taken it outside, given how small the restaurant is.
Insider tip: Bistro 1902 offers a wide range of coupons on its site, including a $25 gift certificate for $10 if you spend $40, plus higher amounts. There are also daily specials, such as Wednesday's two-for-one wine and beer, and Tuesday's two-for-one entrees with purchase of a bottle of wine.
1902 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. brunch Saturday and Sunday
Bar: Wine and beer
Sound level: Quiet
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs, custom kids' items upon request
Wheelchair accessible: Yes