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Restaurant Review: Le Bilboquet in Dallas

Salmon tartare. (Photography by Kevin Marple)
Salmon tartare. (Photography by Kevin Marple)

Remember dinner reservations? I hope so because, once again, you need them. Over the last 12 months, fine dining has made a remarkable comeback. Octopus, pork belly, and charcuterie with stunning, dramatic presentations are de rigueur. Newcomers such as FT33, Spoon, Belly & Trumpet, and Lark on the Park are booming with diners loosening their previously tightened belts. Wine prices are up, and nobody seems to notice. Or care.

The well-heeled customers who cram into the recently opened Le Bilboquet in Travis Walk are not paying attention to anything but the merrymaking going on around them. Every night, the small, 55-seat space fills with regulars who don designer duds to dine. Le Bilboquet is Highland Park’s new neighborhood restaurant and, baby, they are partying like it’s 1986.
That’s when the first Le Bilboquet opened on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. For more than two decades, the 38-seat restaurant was the rage. Bono, Lenny Kravitz, and Eric Clapton noshed on the bistro’s American-friendly French food. The fashionable spot lost its lease late last year and closed on New Year’s Eve. (It has since reopened on 60th between Madison and Park avenues; Clapton is one of the investors.)

Stephane Courseau, a manager at Le Bilboquet off and on from 1987 to 2000, moved to Dallas two and a half years ago. He and Le Bilboquet owner Philippe Delgrange are close friends and have often discussed opening other locations. Until Courseau landed in Dallas, the duo hadn’t found the right real estate. Courseau corralled a local group of the restaurant’s fans as investors and joined forces with Le Bilboquet alumnus Laurent Lesort, who is now the managing partner at the restaurant. Delgrange not only gave them his blessing but also allowed them to hire longtime chef “Momo” Sow, who willingly packed up his knives, ring molds, and family, and moved to Dallas.

They took over the space vacated by L’Ancestral, the 29-year-old French restaurant that, ironically, also closed on New Year’s Eve because the landlord refused to extend the lease. Courseau and Lesort hired a demolition crew and gutted the interior, replaced the electrical wiring, and painted the room a creamy eggshell white. They supplied the contractors with photographs of the interior of Le Bilboquet in New York and re-created it right down to the elegant pewter bar where bottles of Champagne, French white wine, and rosé rest on ice in a grand sterling-silver bowl.

White tablecloths covered (annoyingly) with butcher block paper and set with white Oneida porcelain plates create clean sight lines. The only pop of color is provided by a splashy, bright blue-and-green oil painting by a New York artist (not a $400,000 Matisse as several food blogs have reported). Woven rattan bistro chairs scream French bistro, but the food does not. “I think for most people, we are a French restaurant,” Lesort says. “Originally, the people in New York did a bistro where American people could feel comfortable.”

I understand food nostalgia and the longing to go back and re-experience a familiar taste, but what I cannot comprehend is…continued here.

  • Margie Hubbard

    Well, that’s about all I need to know about that!

  • Dubious Brother

    NN – after your experience with the foie gras and the lentil urinal cake how could you even think of ordering steak tartare? Also, did they leave a bottle of ketchup when they served your steak au poivre?

  • Nancy Nichols

    Well, it’s my job to order everything. They didn’t leave the bottle, they brought it in a small silver container.

  • Anonymous

    Such a shame. I haven’t dined here yet and was excited to given a few other reviews I’d read.This doesn’t sound like a “one off bad experience” so I’ll be skipping this French restaurant!

  • Who is NN ?

    Looks like you are still more anonymous that you thought.

  • Who is NN ?

    Looks like you are still somewhat anonymous.

  • EdPoe

    I had lunch there about a month ago. On a scale of one to ten, the food was a solid five, superbly adequate. The service reminded me of everything that is wrong with dining in Paris and New York. Haughty, on the edge of condescending. Rushed and then slow, both at inappropriate junctures. Why bother with the place when you can go to Toulouse around the corner?

  • Patti Miller

    Well, I can definitely erase that one from my list.

  • MrsT

    I thought I was the only one that found this place an overhyped bore. Highland Park oldies get fooled again. Like Javier’s down the street. Average and expensive.

  • Michael Merriman

    I love reviews that are unambiguous like this one. There’s nothing worse than bad service coupled with pretension from the waitstaff, unless of course the food is substandard, too.

  • David

    This review, as well as the comments surprise me. My wife and I had dinner on Saturday , the 26th. I had the grilled lamb chops, and my wife the crab salad as a main course. Both were extremely good. A G&T was made perfectly, and with Fever Tree tonic. The wine list had enough affordable bottles. Our service was prompt and attentive, not overbearing, as you would have expected it to be. We both thought the entire experience was great, and would be eager to return, regardless of the above review. About the only negative thing I could say is that the Creme Brulee, was just ok.

  • Anonymous

    I love Javier’s and I’m no fool.

  • marisa

    Had lunch last week with a group of ladies, sadly none of us were happy with the food and felt the price was high for very average food. High price works if there is good value. In Dallas with thousands of restaurants a second chance is not going to happen.

  • Bill Heatley

    Makes me wonder where Nancy learned to identify the aroma of urinal cakes…

  • Shamclau

    Despite reading this article I decided to try Le Bilboquet myself and form my own opinion and review of the restaurant. I respectfully disagree with Nancy; she is wrong about this restaurant! My fiancé and I began our night with a glass of champagne and the La Fomale Mozzarella El Basilic, after being graciously greeted by the owner, hostess and manager on duty. Our appetizer was as wonderfully delicious as it was eye pleasing on the plate. My fiancé being the Texas man he is of course went straight to the steaks to find his dinner selection. He ordered the L’Entrecote Beurre Maitre D’Hotel, which is a Ribeye steak with garlic butter sauce, and it was delicious! I almost didn’t even get a bite before he finished his whole plate. I decided on the Le Poulet Cajun; my mouth is still watering thinking of the perfectly cooked chicken that has a Cajun spice to it. I hope some of you read this and make the decision to go to Le Bilboquet, if I would have let my dining decisions rest solely on Nancy’s reviews I would have missed out on a memorable and delicious night! I will be back to le Bilboquet the next chance I get!