The Perfect French Kiss
By Nancy Powell
Christophe is the master of this domain, the Jean-Luc Picard of his eponymous culinary starship located in historic downtown Upland. Christophe’s is a hip and trendy brasserie gussied up in deep burgundy and honey, with black linen-covered tables and black high-backed booths to complement the lounge-y feel. Jazz plays tastefully in the background—the trumpet-rich kind, mind you—as diners, dressed in their Sunday best, nosh on an eclectic fusion menu of French, Italian and Asian influences.
At its heart, Christophe’s is an upscale steak house with a French twist. Sure, there are dishes—hors d’oeuvres like escargot (snails) and foie gras (Christophe himself will tell you it stays on the menu despite the politics), and entrees like Beef Bourguignon, pan-seared duck foie gras, Chateaubriand and black truffle sea bass—that should keep diehard Francophiles loyal to the cause, but there are a host of other things—a page dedicated solely to pastas and a separate page for meats, of which the Chilean sea bass and blackened bass are notable for their abundance. And nothing that comes out of Christophe’s kitchen lacks for seasoning.
Our first course of the evening is the baked escargot Bourguignonne, snails baked in a compound herbal-butter bath that soaks up the fat like any good mollusk would. At first, the idea of eating snails is intimidating, but once the meat is removed from its shell, eating escargot is akin to eating clams. Next up on the list is the toasty sampler—a delectable plate of sun-dried tomato and mozzarella bruschetta and whipped goat-cheese persillade. The goat cheese spread is tangy, creamy and undeniably the best of the trio, although the juices that soak into the bread from the sun-dried tomatoes comes in at a close second.
Next up is a creamy and earthy mushroom and Brie soup that we lap up in record time. Our entrée, the fettuccine Riviera with its rich white wine sauce and well of fresh seafood, cements our allegiance to Christophe—al dente noodles mixed in with scallops, shrimp, and crab cake crumbles to give the dish interesting texture.
The smoked salmon, which I don’t normally like, works well with this dish, and the fresh button mushrooms and tomatoes give the pasta some levity. We dust off the evening with a chocolate crepe, simple yet satisfying to the sweet tooth with its caramel and chocolate drizzle and homemade whipped cream.
Christophe’s succeeds in reinventing fine dining for the masses, providing a winning combination of middle to high-end entrees that have earned his restaurants five-star distinction. For this happy patron, bon appétit indeed!
Christophe’s Restaurant & Lounge, 296 N. 2nd Ave., Upland, (909) 256-4327; www.christophesrestaurant.com. AE, D, MC, V.