I love French food. Perhaps it’s because I grew up snacking on crêpes, taking French class, and reading Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking as if it were literature (each of my parents had their own stained copy). Or maybe it’s just all the butter oozing from every bite.
What I don’t love is the French reliance on meat, specifically beef. My pescatarian tendencies usually limit me from gorging on the most succulent dishes at French restaurants, but Bistro Vendôme, the Larimer Square spot with Parisian flair, must not believe in restrictions. Thanks to the new five-course vegetarian tasting menu from chef de cuisine Adam Branz, I feel thoroughly indulged.
The menu changes monthly and it’s available Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. Branz’s new lineup (which runs through the end of January) rolled out last week. I dined in late December, here’s my lightly ranked take from that evening:
First course: cauliflower, watercress, brown butter, pink peppercorns
Note: I’ll be honest, I don’t love cauliflower. That said, the vegetable was tender and the spices complemented its mild flavor well. But by the end of the meal, I’d already forgotten what my first course was. Least Memorable
Second course: parsnip, leek, orange, vadouvan, garlic
Note: In contrast to the cauliflower, my dining companion and I commented on how difficult both the parsnips and the leeks were to cut and eat. Most Disappointing
Third course: Brussels sprouts, radish, turnips, rice variations
Note: When Brussels sprouts are cooked well, they’re crisp, earthy, and delicious (with none of the sulfuric taste). Bistro Vendôme’s were all those things, but the broth, strained from rice that Branz overcooked, was the true star. It was so creamy and buttery that I wanted to slurp it up like soup. (I restrained myself.) Best Broth
Fourth course: farrotto, acorn squash, oyster mushrooms, kale, Parmesan
Note: Farrotto is essentially risotto with farro (a hearty grain) standing in for rice. Considering I’ve never met a risotto I didn’t like, I knew from the outset that this course would probably be my favorite. It didn’t disappoint: It was perfectly cooked, had the right proportions for each ingredient, and was nicely textured. I could have eaten this entrée for every course. Most Delicious
Fifth course: sweet potato beignets, crème fraîche caramel, Bastille whisky
Note: The adage goes that you save the best for last, and this menu was certainly no exception. I’ve rolled authentic New Orleans beignets in powdered sugar, and this slightly healthier version was almost as good as the original. Most Memorable
Lasting impressions: I’ll definitely go back to see what Branz cooks up. I would, however, love it if Bistro Vendôme included the monthly menu on its website.
Bistro Vendôme offers its vegetarian tasting menu Wednesday through Friday for $40 per person or $65 per person with wine pairings.
Follow editorial assistant Mary Clare Fischer on Twitter at @mc_fischer.