A French bistro has joined the lineup on Restaurant Row, and its authentic cuisine and Parisian atmosphere put it on my short list of places to recommend on Sand Lake Road.
Bistro CloClo occupies the space in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips that was previously Press 101. CloClo is a French nickname for anyone named Claude, but in this particular case it is for a singer named Claude Francois, whose song "Comme d'habitude" was reworked by Paul Anka into a little number known in the States as "My Way." (Francois was wildly popular in France but relatively unknown to the rest of the world, and he died in 1979 at the age of 39, apparently because he made the mistake of standing up in his bathtub to fix a flickering lightbulb . So then, let's just move on.)
The menu was designed by Julien Bouchet of Brittany, who is listed as a consulting chef. (John Tan, formerly of Park Plaza Gardens, also consulted, and Alvaro Delbusto is the chef de cuisine.) It features a number of classic French dishes, such as coq au vin, boeuf Bourguignon and steak au poivre, with some modern and even American twists (CloClo sliders, anyone?). I was invited to sample several dishes recently, and I found myself transported back to France with nearly every bite.
A favorite among the entrees was the scallops a la CloClo, a dish of big, plump scallops flambeed in cognac and served atop black risotto with an apple cider-tinged sauce. I couldn't resist trying the steak frites. It seems such a simple dish — steak and fries — but few places do it well. CloClo does it well. The angus skirt steak was grilled just so and topped with an herbed butter that oozed over the meat as it melted. And the fries, actually referred to on the menu as French fries, just so there's no confusion, were plump and crisp.
The boeuf Bourguignon was a hearty dish of classic beef stew, with generous hunks of meat, carrots and onions atop a mound of mashed potatoes.
From among the list of appetizers, the moules marinieres were a standout. The mussels themselves were quite good, but I was just as happy dipping the french bread into the liquor of white wine, butter and cream. The escargots were good, too, garlicky snails in tiny puff pastry boats.
For dessert there was a very nicely done creme brulee, with a glassy crust that cracked to reveal the rich custard below, and mousse au chocolat par Julien, Bouchet's take on the classic frothy delight.
The wine list features many good selections, including some not found on many local lists, such as Chateau Biac from Bordeaux.
Bistro CloClo is owned by Orlando based Intram Investments, which also owns the local Vinito Ristorante. Managing partner Paul Ardaji and dining room manager Kelly Froelich were perfect hosts on my visit, and the team of servers comported themselves nicely.
The dining room has a delightful French air, with rose colored walls adorned with bistro mirrors and small framed paintings. Tables are covered with white cloths and accented with red napkins. There is a large patio for outdoor dining. the chairs are the same that you'd find at any corner bistro in Paris, although with a strip mall locale, tables larger than a dinner plate and a view of a parking lot, it's not quite the Parisian experience. But close your eyes and taste the food, you'll be back in France.
Bistro CloClo is at 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-745-5045.