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French Twist on Veggie Cooking

Alain Guichard
Four Hits, No Fowl: Chef Alain Guichard pitches a four-course treat for vegetarians.

Bistro Parisien cooks up a meatless spring feast

By Andrew X. Pham

AS SPRING waltzes into the valley, Alain Guichard of Bistro Parisien helps vegetarians celebrate the season with a four-course meatless feast that provides an invaluable opportunity for diners who are jaded by the placebo veggie entrees available at mainstream restaurants. Drawing from his 40 years of experience in French country cooking, Monsieur Guichard gentrifies peasant legumes with rustic recipes.

Small and cozily lit, Bistro Parisien invites warmth and intimacy. The restaurant exudes a pastoral air, and French art songs coo in the background as votive candles cast a romantic glow. Guichard's easy hospitality disarms with untutored charm.

In the company of a crusty baguette, a cache of crunchy, sweet radishes, red and round like plums and flavored with salt and butter, made a fun introduction to the evening's lineup. The first movement began with a vegetable soufflé (no eggs) in tomato coulis. An alternate course, perhaps even better, featured brown mushrooms sautéed with onions and a fruity red wine reduction and served in a steamed artichoke. Both dishes blossomed with elegant flavors.

The second movement brought out an eggplant Parmesan so accomplished it could well stand on its own as a complete sonata--a definite main entree. The chef scored the eggplant to moderate the hardy texture of the purple skin, then generously filleted and breaded the slices, scenting them with fresh parsley and a light powdering of aged Parmesan. He coupled these with zucchini ellipses to offset the softness of the eggplant--a nice touch. Everything resided on a spicy, but not hot, marinara.

A balsamic vinaigrette salad, wild with hearts of romaine, carrot straws and vegetables, prepped the palate for the climax: linguine Provençale with hazelnut creme, tomato coulis, green beans, hearts of broccoli, carrots and asparagus. Each course was hugely satisfying.

Desserts needed no flowery herald. Fresh strawberries in Beaujolais, brandied chocolate truffles, fruit tarts and fresh berry sorbets stirred up a cacophony of pleasure.

A complete four-course vegetarian repast, sans libations, costs $29.95. Diners with smaller appetites can order single-course meals from the vegetarian menu for $9.95.

Service was impeccable. Each dish conveyed the aesthetic strokes of a master chef. When was the last time vegetable admirers could a enjoy a full four-course dinner in an affordable four-star bistro? Bon appetit!

Bistro Parisien, 5945 Almaden Expressway, San Jose, serves dinner Tue.­Sat. Phone: 408/268-3200. Send email tips for Vegging Out or call 408/298-8000, ext. 441.

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From the April 10-16, 1997 issue of Metro

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