Pardon My French Bar & Kitchen

| October 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

French without Being Pretentious

Ever hear someone use “unacceptable language” while in the midst of “polite” company? Often such comments are prefaced with an exculpatory “pardon my French.”

That cute phrase has now become the name of a new and exciting restaurant in Hillcrest, on Park Boulevard near University Avenue. New owners took over the old Heat location. They actually worked there for several weeks and had the opportunity to meet the “regulars” and motivate most of the staff to stay, including a gem they found in the kitchen, the chef.

The new owners are the husband-wife team, Eric and Lindsey Fillion, who both have diverse backgrounds but who always dreamed of owning their own restaurant. Why a French restaurant? Eric Fillion was born in Montreal, Canada, where he learned to cook in his grandmother’s kitchen. Obviously, his first love was for French cooking.

He went on in life to become a professional ballroom dancer, teaching and competing, while also working for local charitable organizations. He described his average week as working 16 hours a day during the week, then spending many weekend hours flying to distant cities to appear in competitions. Will life be easier in the restaurant business? Time will tell. But, speaking about time, Eric Fillion spends a lot of time daily at the location.

Lindsey Fillion has a background in interior design….of yachts. She brings her experience in that niche field to the décor changes at the restaurant, particularly to those in the patio area.
And why Pardon My French?

“We had the name reserved,” Eric Fillion said, “We thought it was cute. After debating it for a while, we decided to use it. The name reflects my background and the overall cuisine we offer.”

“What I’m trying to achieve,” he continued, “ is to offer French cuisine without pretensions. I want my guests to feel comfortable and relaxed and to enjoy high quality cuisine in a casual setting while having fun.”

The chef – who came along with the restaurant acquisition – was a real find. Darius Szelag (he’s Polish) was trained in London at a culinary academy that has turned out world famous chefs. Since then, he worked in many Michelin-starred restaurants alongside their notable chefs, learning techniques and flavors. His experience is truly international and his focus now is French.

The clientele seems very close. Many guests seem to know each other and the Fillions are welcoming hosts. One may come in as a stranger but one leaves with hugs.

Approaching the location, a large patio runs on one side of the restaurant. This has become a favorite place for weekend brunches, both on Saturday and Sunday. The brunch menu lists pancakes, a number of eggs Benedict variations, a leek quiche and tasty chicken sandwich and hamburger. What is appealing to pet owners is that the patio is very dog-friendly. There is even a dog menu, with dishes served at pet level. And, for the adults, there is a bottomless mimosa bottle to make the weekend more relaxing.

The interior of the restaurant is comfortable, thankfully devoid of some of the frilly décor often associated with French cuisine. Large circular lights run along a far wall, near adjacent tables, which can change color and even create a rainbow effect. Service is attentive. Quickly after being seated, a server arrives with a small plate with small rolls.

The menu is short but interesting. “We make everything from scratch,” Eric Fillion said, “even bread, foie gras and desserts…everything.”

Appetizers include chicken liver pate’ and assortments of cured meats and cheeses. Citrus cured salmon consisted of four narrow strips of salmon on a plate – a little salty and fishy but good on top of the delicious roll.

Entrees featured roasted duck breast and steak frites. The roasted chicken breast was well prepared and nicely presented. The grilled Duroc pork chop was a large serving, perfectly grilled and served with a very flavorful smoky mashed potato and grilled peach.

The signature dessert is tarte tatin, a kind of upside down cake, where apple slices are carmelized in sugar then covered with pastry – well worth trying. Lavender crème brulee is another excellent choice.

The restaurant strongly emphasizes its specialty drinks and wine list. There is a large selection of cocktails, for dinner and brunch, many with colorful names. The wine list offers mostly French wines (only a few California labels) which are carefully selected by the owners. Eric Fillion suggested sampling his favorite wine but the menu made no effort to match wines with entrees.

However, the restaurant is fun, friendly and the food is good. Entertainment is featured often, especially at brunch times. Prices are moderate. The Fillions are working hard to create an ambiance and pleasing food and wine menu that will undoubtedly become more French. They deserve our support.

Eric Fillion and his wife, Lindsey, are proprietors of Pardon My French Bar & Kitchen.

Eric Fillion and his wife, Lindsey, are proprietors of Pardon My French Bar & Kitchen.

Pardon My French Bar & Kitchen is located at 3797 Park Boulevard. Call (619)546-4328 for reservations and information.

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