There is nothing like the comfort of “la vie Française” while sipping a cappuccino in a tiny red-roofed café near the Galarie Lafayette in Paris.
That is, until stepping foot in Au Revoir Bistro.
A small French bistro nestled in a corner of Hillcrest, Au Revoir (which translates to “see you soon”) is a little piece of la France right in San Diego’s backyard.
The bistro is owned by Antonino Mastellone, the same restaurateur behind Italian favorite Arrivederci Ristorante. However, where Arrivederci is like the rotund grandmother who’s always giving hugs and pounds of pasta, Au Revoir is the cool aunt showing off black-and-white photographs of all her lovers and freely offering wine to her nieces and nephews once they turn 16.
The bistro’s “les Classiques” menu is for those interested in more traditional French plates. Start with the Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinée, a classic French onion soup topped with melted Gruyere cheese.
For those new to French cuisine, chef René Herbeck’s favorite Coq au Vin, a chicken dish slowly simmered in red wine, is a perfect introduction. Diners also can’t go wrong with the filet mignon, which means “cute tenderloin,” served in a port sauce with lavender fries and haricots verts.
Herbeck said his goal for the restaurant is to combine French comfort food with locally grown seasonal ingredients. This is perhaps best shown through the “en Saison” menu, with dishes such as the delectable Noix de St. Jacques Flambees, fresh seared sea scallops, which are lit on fire right at the table and served on a bed of spicy ratatouille.
Every item on the menu is written in French, which allows for a fun opportunity to guess exactly how to pronounce some of the words. However, those who are not French savvy need not worry — there is an English translation underneath each description, which means never having to accidentally order something not desired.
The service at Au Revoir is quiet but attentive. Water glasses will never be empty and the tableside bread, served with a side of delicious homemade garlic butter, will always be refilled. However, diners won’t likely learn their servers’ names, birthdays or favorite clubs for dancing after dinner.
This type of quiet service is reminiscent of a true Parisian bistro or café, where servers are only seen when bringing drinks, food or the check. It’s a perfect situation for those who desire to be left alone while enjoying their meals, rather than being pestered by an “Office Space” Chotchskie’s-style server with tons of flair checking in on the table every three minutes.
The atmosphere of Au Revoir is warm and inviting with a stylish flair that can only be described as true French chic. The “en Saison” specials are hand written on dusty chalkboards, which hang on mustard-yellow walls alongside tiny black-and-white illustrations of kitchen utensils and a painted mural of le Tour d’Eiffel on a brick wall.
It may not be that fondly remembered red-roofed café off le Rue de Provence, but it’s about as close as anyone can get to “cher Paris” without purchasing an $800 ticket. Viva la vie Française, indeed.