- 721 E. Market St., Louisville, KY, 40202
- (502) 690-8645
- Overall User Rating:
- (1 rating)
- 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
- Official Web Site:
There’s no place quite like the province Quebec. It’s a place where you can dogsled across rugged andscapes, eat like a lumberjack in rustic country lodges, walk through the oldest fortified city in North America and dine on some of the best food on the continent — and you’ll find beautifully prepared food everywhere.
You might find a spectacular hamburger at a roadside service station; you might dine on escargot in a backcountry village, or on raw milk cheeses as you travel La Route des Saveurs de Charlevoix, a driving tour through one of North America’s most fabulous agricultural districts.
Ghyslain Maurais comes from that Quebecois tradition. At one point, his career trajectory had him cooking in embassies and resorts. But his wife and partner longed for the farm country of her home, Union City, Ind., and when Ghyslain settled there, he did what any self-respecting French chef would do. He started cooking.
He built a reputation for candies and pastries, then moved on to the casual bistro-style food he really loves. In 2011, he opened a location in NuLu (Ghyslain on Market), and he recently added a second shop (Ghyslain at Westport Village).
In America, French food has often been viewed as a complex, sophisticated, expensive cuisine that’s slightly intimidating (think of all those movies that make fun of an American rube who’s befuddled by a menu and winds up with some preposterous dish on his plate).
But in truth, French country cooking is pretty much like American country cooking — and when French cooking is filtered through a Quebecois perspective, you wind up with a cuisine that is fundamentally practical and simple, while still striving to satisfy our cravings for excellent flavor and beautiful presentation.
That’s the strength of Ghyslain’s approach, and the reason his Louisville restaurants have become magnets for diners who are sophisticated enough to appreciate simplicity.
The two Ghyslain locations have a lot in common: identical menus, identical hours, plenty of wood surfaces, bright windows, cases filled with colorful candies and pastries (including chocolate croissants and lush, layered desserts such as the Royale — a layered cylinder of bliss made from chocolate mousse and hazelnut dacquoise — the exclamatory endpoint to a recent meal.
Service is simple: You place your order, take your seat and before long — voila! — your food arrives.
It’s hard for me to get away from certain staples, including the French dip au jus ($13), a hefty stack of nicely roasted beef, provolone and caramelized onions (caramelized onions are one of life’s great pleasures) on a flavorful baguette, with plenty of beefy broth alongside for dipping.
Beef broth and caramelized onions show up again in the French onion soup (6 ounces, $4.50; 12 ounces, $7; 24 ounces, $12), along with croutons glazed with molten gruyere. There are plenty of other soups, as well, including a fine leek/potato; cream of broccoli, white chili; and a Louisiana-style gumbo that hits all the spicy notes (all soups are priced the same).
Ghyslain offers salads aplenty, including nicely composed choices that bring out the colorful elements — whether it’s the albacore tuna and haricots verts and other bright components on a Nicoise ($14) or the bacon, ham, chicken, boiled eggs, etc. on a Cobb ($12).
When things turned chilly a few weeks back, I feasted on a chicken potpie that reminded me why this is one of the great comfort foods of the world (and made me wonder why so few restaurants pull it off). Ghyslain’s version was covered with a thick slab of golden brown pie crust, and when you stuck a fork through it you found innards that looked like a bright Impressionist painting. A rich, satisfying cream sauce was as yellow as a ripening summer sun, and it was chock-full of green peas, orange carrots, thick chunks of succulent chicken, potatoes and celery ($12).
When I need respite from the snowy days to come, this is the dish I’ll be summoning — and if you prefer a vegetarian version, Ghyslain has one for you, featuring eggplant, onions and all the other goodies ($11).
There are breakfast goodies, as well, like a breakfast croissant made with ham, Swiss and fried eggs ($8), or a brioche filled with sausage, eggs and cheddar ($10).
Sandwiches, salads and soups are the focus, but Ghyslain recently added an iconic bistro item: mussels simmered in white wine with heaps of fresh herbs and croutons ($15). And if you’re looking for ever-so-slightly exotic flavors, the menu also includes naan wrapped around coconut curried chicken (a very mild, slightly sweet curry), plenty of spinach, red onions and other goodies ($12).
Take all that, add a reasonably priced wine list and a decent selection of beers, and you have one of those places that easily qualify as an excellent go-to restaurant for all occasions.