Bonjour: Le Mistral

March 24 2011, 11:30 AM

The Orchards Shopping Center at South Holly Street and East Orchard Road in Greenwood Village—home to Venice Ristorante & Wine Bar, Rice Bistro & Sushi, and the Dusty Boot Steakhouse & Saloon—has become a go-to dining destination in the south metro area. Now, with the addition of Le Mistral, a French restaurant and piano bar (in the space formerly occupied by Mel's), there's one more reason to make the drive.

Chef and co-owner Maurice Couturier used to own La Provence in Snowmass and the Ute City Bar and Grill in Aspen—and he still operates Golden's Grappa Mediterranean Bistro and Cafe. At Le Mistral, he offers classic French cuisine such as escargot, foie gras, coquilles St. Jacques, and bouillabaisse.

At dinner last Friday the space was packed, a good sign for a restaurant that's been open for just three months. I started with the succulent lobster ravioli: fresh, oversize pasta squares stuffed with juicy chunks of lobster, creamy mozzarella, and spinach. The ravioli came nestled in an aromatic, light curry broth and accompanied by several juicy and sweet sun-dried cherries.

I followed with the striped bass en papillote. The fish, cooked in parchment paper and unsealed tableside, was deliciously tender and topped with thinly sliced Yukon potatoes, baby spinach leaves, braised fennel, capers, and tomatoes. The dish was rich and buttery, thanks to the addition of a lemon beurre blanc, but not overly so. I could still taste the licorice in the fennel and the sweetness in the tomatoes.

5970 S. Holly St., Greenwood Village, 303-770-5664