Tucked in next to a bail bonds business in what appears to be a house, Le Bilig French Cafe in Auburn could be passed by. No, that’s an understatement. You will pass it by unless you know it’s there. Even upon entering, you may find yourselves face-to-face with a bail bondsman, who will happily point you toward the restaurant door. But consider the location to be part of the adventure and concentrate on what will be an exceptional culinary experience. The food in this restaurant is not to be missed.
Chef Marc Deconick and his wife Monica have owned and run Le Bilig for eight years. The night of our visit, Monica greeted some familiar customers, her 3-year-old daughter on her hip.
A visiting French friend agreed to accompany me on this adventure into local French cuisine. We began our meal with salads. Maite, my French visitor, chose ‘Salade Flamande’: Belgian Endive, Goat cheese, Granny Smith apples and vinaigrette. The tartness of the apples and the vinaigrette, contrasted with the endive and cheese, was a taste treat.
I had ‘Tartare de Saumon’, a wild salmon and avocado salad. It arrived as an artistic creation, a tower of pink salmon and green avocado, almost too pretty to eat. Delicious.
Since ‘Le Bilig’ means crepe pan in French, I chose the Brittany style light buckwheat crepe for a main course. It was filled with chicken, caramelized onions, tomatoes, goat cheese and fresh herbs. Just cooked tiny baby carrots and tender young green beans decorated the crepe, and the filling melted in my mouth.
Maite had the seared sea scallops with an orange /fennel sauce. All atop a potato puree, with young asparagus and basil essence. I particularly liked the orange sauce and potatoes on this dish. A glass of light French Chardonnay, Le Carre, complemented both entrees. Between dinner and dessert, we chatted with Marc and Monica in the clean and well-organized kitchen. Marc has been a food lover all his life, learning to cook at his grandmother’s house and making his first ‘Coquilles St. Jacques’ (a
delicious seafood dish) at the age of 5.
Marc was busy cooking and several children scurried about, quite at home in the hustle and bustle of the behind-the-scenes Saturday night dinner rush.
He talked excitedly as he turned crepes and sauteed scallops, making it all look easy. Well-meaning customers always ask when he is going to move to Las Vegas or San Francisco to become rich and famous.
“Small, family run establishments like ours are an ‘endangered species’,” he said. “We love what we do and do it for vocation, not for show.” Monica nodded in agreement.
“We’re well situated here in Auburn. We grow our own herbs, the countryside is healthy for our four children.”
“We appreciate the quality of life here.”
Impressed and appreciative to have this caliber of French cooking in our local neighborhood, we headed back into the dining room for dessert. Of the three desserts on the menu that night, we chose the profiterole and the creme brulee, having to pass on an apricot tart.
The profiterole, three airy cream puffs stuffed with vanilla ice cream, swam in melted Belgian chocolate. It also seemed too artistic to eat, but then the ice cream was melting… This decadent chocolate dessert will please all chocolate lovers.
The creme brulee, a silky vanilla custard with a caramelized sugar top, arrived decorated with ripe berries and a dusting of powdered sugar. Melts on your tongue light and delicious and, according to Maite, very authentically French.
Le Bilig may seem a little expensive, and salads are a la carte, but similar authentic French food in someplace like the Bay Area would be twice the cost. Our three courses each, without wine or coffee came to $65.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Le Bilig offers a three-course menu for $19, or $38 for two. By going during the week, you could experience the delight of an excellent French meal with a lower price tag.
Menus are changed each week, so there are always new and interesting choices.
We left looking forward to a return visit. After all, there’s the rest of the menu to try and, of course, that apricot tart.
Le Bilig restaurant
Location: 11750 Atwood Road, Auburn, California
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 5:30-9:00pm
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