La Bonne Table Now Serving Sunday Brunch
by Wendy Lemlin
Mesdames et Messieurs, welcome to brunch, French-style. Well, not precisely, because brunch isn’t really a thing in France, but if it were, it would taste exactly like the offerings on La Bonne Table’s new Sunday Brunch menu, available at the Hillcrest bistro on Sundays from 10-3, with a special Post Pride Parade Brunch on Saturday July 15.
The welcome antithesis to the overrated brunch behemoth down the block (at which I’m always amazed to see long lines out the door waiting for mass quantities of totally mediocre food), La Bonne Table is intimate, sophisticated, and très French. The seating is comfortable, the atmosphere convivial, and you don’t have to shout to converse with your dining partner.
On a recent visit, brunch started, as most often do, with a long, tall Bloody Mary. A wake-up bit of heat on the tongue was the result of a pleasing touch of horseradish, far preferable in my opinion to the use of Tabasco in lesser versions. At $6, it was enough of a bargain to order a second. Another bargain—$15 bottomless mimosas! Other beverage options included several French inspired cocktails, wines, champagne, and beers—all French imports—and of course fresh squeezed OJ, coffee, espresso, tea and sparkling water.
As for the food, well, after sampling a number of dishes, all of generous portion size and excellently prepared, my tastebuds were ready to shout “Vive la France!” To experience a fair representation of the menu, my friend and I ordered several dishes to share. I had arrived with a hankering for crepes, and with three to choose from, I decided on the deliciously rich Crepe Forestiere. With a filling of wild mushrooms, cream, shallots, and gruyere, and served with crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside breakfast potatoes, the large crepe was one of the best things I’ve eaten lately, even without the bacon that normally would be a component of the filling, but that I asked to omit because I don’t eat meat. (Note: I don’t usually ask to have a recipe altered because I know how every component has been thoughtfully included for balance or texture. But dammit, I wanted that crepe, and chef Sandra assured me that it would still be delicious without the bacon. That being said, I don’t doubt that the bacon would have enhanced it even further.)
My friend ordered the Nid d’Oeuf. Piled on top of the breakfast potatoes that accompany most of the brunch dishes were a plentiful portion of fresh asparagus covered in melted gruyere and two poached eggs. Simple, yet elegant. And, yes, delicious.
We were both intrigued by the Haricot Vert Brouilles, so we shared one of those as well. French green beans mixed with scrambled eggs, savory tomatoes, sweet onions, lardons, and, yes, breakfast potatoes, were flavorful with just the right interplay of the smokiness of the pork fat lardons (I “ate around” the small lardon cubes) and the sweet/acid profile of the tomatoes.
As soon as we saw the Pain Perdu Nutella, we knew we HAD to have some! Very decadently rich, this is an excellent choice for sharing. The French toast, made from thick slices of house-made brioche, is stuffed with Nutella, topped with slices of banana and pecan, and drizzled with organic maple syrup. Calories, be damned!
Renaud Tristan and his wife Sandra Cugusi—he’s from Paris, she grew up in Rome—opened La Bonne Table about three years ago to bring classically authentic French bistro food to the Hillcrest neighborhood. Normally, Chef Renaud does all the cooking, but brunch is Chef Sandra’s baby, and she does it all, from the homemade brioche for the pain perdu, to the silky, cheesy mornay sauce, using organic eggs and dairy products, real, organic maple syrup, and locally sourced organic vegetables.
“Love is on the menu at La Bonne Table,” Sandra smiles. “I met Renaud when I was working for Sysco —he was building a wine bar here at the time— and I came in to try to get his account. We became instant friends, and eventually fell in love and married a few years later. The atmosphere here is conducive to romance, and we see it all the time, but our bistro isn’t just a ‘couples place’.”
And really, what better way to extend the romance of a Saturday night, than at a “French kiss” of a brunch on Sunday?
La Bonne Table * 3696 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103 * (619) 260-8039