Over the past decade, French restaurateur Jean Michel Sakouhi has pushed French and Mediterranean flavors on Cowtown, first with The Balcony, then with the recently departed Vault. His new So7 Bistro quietly has occupied the back space on the corner of West 7th and Stayton streets near Trinity Park for about three months. You might have missed it, with the brightly colored Chuy’s going in and all.
So does Fort Worth really need a new French restaurant? Sakouhi has hedged his bets a little on the lunch menu. There are familiar sandwiches, including a grilled chicken club and the Bistro Burger –– both come with your choice of fries or a salad. There’s quiche, and every cowboy knows what that is, even if he won’t eat it.
But why dine on the familiar when you could have something more exotic, like a ham and brie sandwich or classic coq au vin (braised chicken in red wine)? Or the moules pomme frites (mussels in a Provençal sauce, served with garlic fries). The mussels were steamed perfectly, and the slightly chunky, sweet tomato sauce was redolent of roasted garlic and as salty as the sea. The bivalves were excellent, but my lunch date and I kept diving back into that sauce with the crusty French bread that came along with the appetizer. The fries also are known as “So7 Bistro frites” on the menu. Sliced thin and coated with salt, pepper, and garlic, they were good, but we wanted a little more garlic or whatever secret spice makes them the menu-proclaimed specialty of the house.
Part of the problem with choosing what to order is that the food all sounds good, especially the stuff I’d never heard of. Take the chicken forestiere: a plump, moist sautéed chicken breast smothered in mushrooms and delicate artichokes, all bathed in a brown demi-glace. The best part was the sauce, a perfect balance of salt, spices, and meat stock, and the artichokes were absolutely delicious as well. I wished for mashed potatoes to mop up the demi-glace, but the ratatouille served alongside the lunch version of the chicken was a tasty, and probably healthier, substitute. Roasted tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, and zucchini came together in a little stew of goodness. And the side dish was garnished with a dollop of the Provençal sauce that also augmented the mussels.
My more adventurous foodie companion was torn between the gruyere-and-prosciutto-laden macaroni and cheese and the veal liver. Ordinarily, I’d question the use of liver anywhere, but the bistro’s pâté has received rave reviews. The restaurant’s Lyonnaise-style dish is definitely not your grandma’s liver and onions. Caramelized, pepper-infused onions covered a generous portion of meat that, frankly, didn’t taste like liver. The meat was pan-seared, not breaded, and the whole dish was coated in more of that luscious demi-glace. The plate came with a side of the ratatouille, although I think we’d have been happy with an extra portion of the caramelized onions, the kind that take hours to cook to get the bitter out and the sweet in.
Although it’s not absolutely necessary, there is a choice of five desserts on the menu. It seemed imprudent not to try the classic chocolate mousse. Presented in a chilled parfait glass, the mousse was more soft-serve and less dense than I’m used to, almost like melted ice cream. However, it was still an insanely rich, heavenly chocolate treat. The bread pudding was actually our favorite. No day-old stuff here: The bread was some kind of brioche or other egg bread studded with raisins and dried cranberries, drizzled with sweet icing, and served warm atop a bourbon sauce. Sweet and comforting, the dish knocked the socks off the idea that French food has to be snooty or excessively fancy. Julia Child would have approved.
The inside of the bistro is lushly painted in appetite-inspiring colors of pistachio, cranberry, and lemon. Upstairs, there’s a beautiful loft with a giant bar. Open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, So7 Bistro is a welcome, slightly exotic addition to the neighborhood.
2401 W 7th St, FW. 817-878-4311. 11am-3pm Sun, 11am-2pm Mon-Fri, 5:30-10pm Mon-Wed, 5:30-10:30pm Thu-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Mussels w/fries $11.50
Chicken forestiere $13.50
Veal liver $14.50
Bread pudding $6.90
Chocolate mousse $6.90