22 Challis Ave
Potts Point, NSW 2011
I’ve never been a huge fan of French food, but Bistrot 916 single-handedly changed my mind. Instead of the usual stuffy, overly-heavy business seen in super traditional French fare, Bistrot 916 has a lot more fun with their menu, whilst still maintaining a distinctly French feel with classic techniques and ingredients. Amazingly, that difference even extends to the staff, who are chatty and easy going despite their starched white coats, and genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves. Highly recommended in pretty much every way. Yes, even the salmon-pink tablecloths.
Rating: 16.5/20 – ooh la la.
The must-orders: beef fat fried potatoes (comes with the tuna tartare), crème caramel.
Hot tip: apparently one of the three head chefs are happy to do you a full serve of just the beef fat fried potatoes if you ask nicely, so try your luck!
The Tuna Tartare with Beef Fat Fried Potato ($28) is a tuna tartare done cheekily in the style of traditional beef tartare, and I’ll be damned if I don’t find the irreverence highly charming. But it’s not just the subversiveness that gets me; this is also a cracker of a dish. Despite being delicately umami and melt-in-the-mouth tender, the fish still retains enough richness to balance out the sharpness of pickles and onion, especially with a coating of egg yolk. And the beef fat fried potatoes? Heaven. So crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle that it deflates when you poke it with a fork, this is for everyone who misses the days where Maccas cooked their fries in beef tallow.
The Escargot & Boudin Noir Vol-Au-Vent ($26) is another twist on a classic. The timeless dish of snails cooked in parsley butter sauce (served with baguette, of course), is given an upgrade with the rustic addition of black pudding. The crisp shell and earthy flavour really add an unexpected depth to the traditional flavours, and it’s worth soaking up every last bit of the garlicky, herby melted butter with the bread.
The Veal Tongue ($23) is a special, but I would’ve taken it for brisket if you hadn’t told me. Braised until it falls apart with the prod of a fork, then grilled a la plancha for a seductive char, this succulent cut is served topped with a traditional sauce gribiche, made with eggs, olive oil, mustard, and pickles. It’s super rich yet never cloying, this dish was where I realised just how skilled the kitchen is at balancing their flavours.
Boldly, the mains boil down to just two options – a fish of the day, and a variety of proteins with fries. And as tempting as 1.5kg of lobster or the traditional steak was, the Duck Frites ($46) was what I ultimately decided on. This was a study in the perfection of simplicity; blushingly pink duck with crisp skin rendered expertly of fat, golden, salty fries, and a generous pool of herb sauce that complemented everything on the plate.
The Mandarin Sorbet ($12) was just lovely, the tiny ice cold crystals infused with a gentle citrus flavour, and a hidden dollop of cream at the bottom for extra richness.
But it’s the Quarts de Chaume Custard ($18) that I will be dreaming of. With the texture of freshly-churned cream, and topped with the double threat of bitter toffee and dessert wine, the image it conjures up is one of pure luxury – spiced fruits, wood fires, and strong, creamy cocktails made with the finest liqueurs.