French Market

Food: () Delicious recipes may be new to Bend palates, but portion sizes are small.

Service: () After confusion in satisfying a reservation, the service staff was very professional.

Atmosphere: () The quaint, country-style cottage would be more attractive with soundproofing.

More Info

Location: 285 NW Riverside Drive, Bend

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday

Cuisine: Southern French bistro

Price range: Lunch $7 to $9, pizza $11 to $14; dinner small plates $4 to $16, ent rees $18 to $26.

Kids’ menu: On request

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Small plates include an heirloom tomato salad and warm escarole with beets.

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: Patio and garden

Reservations: Highly recommended

Contact: frenchmarketbend.com, 541-241-2926

For more area restaurant reviews, visit www.bend bulletin.com/restaurants

The French Market is a charming new addition to Bend’s ever-broadening selection of restaurant options.

Well off the beaten path, yet less than a mile from downtown and only a stone’s throw from the new whitewater park, the Riverside Drive bistro has earned a steady following since opening on June 9.

Central Oregon’s first dedicated French restaurant since Bistro Corlise closed in 2009, it focuses on the Provençal cuisine of southern France, as well as Catalan stylings of northeastern Spain.

Owners Philip and Judy Lipton lived in these places in Europe for five years before settling in Bend in 2016. Veteran restaurateurs who had previously lived in the San Francisco Bay area and Idaho’s Sun Valley, they bought the former Riverside Market and Pub, a long-ago service station, and converted it to the sort of place one might find in the countryside between Marseille and Barcelona.

Fresh flowers adorn the outside of the bright-blue restaurant, from the front door to a side garden where Chef Luke Mason, formerly of Aziza in San Francisco, harvests tomatoes, zucchini and other vegetables on a daily basis. The inside is painted a rose color beneath open rafters, while wine display cases and glass cases display beverages, European cheeses and specialty smoked meats on sale.

After three months, there are some hitches still to be worked out. While the food is excellent, portions are not as large as what I’d hope they’d be. (One might argue that they are offered in the amounts we should be eating.) The acoustics need work: As the restaurant filled for the dinner hour, my dining companion and I could barely hear ourselves across the table from each other.

And while the hosts are insistent that reservations make a difference, ours had been inadvertently canceled before our arrival. (I’m sure it had nothing to do with keeping the critic out.) We waited 10 minutes as they scrambled to find us a spot — which, eventually, they did, after giving us a complimentary glass of wine to assuage any impatience.

Dinner choices

For our dinner, my friend and I shared four small plates and a single entree. When we found that we were still hungry, we requested a charcuterie and cheese board to complete our meal, which we accompanied with a bottle of Italian nebbiolo from an extensive and very reasonably priced wine list.

Some of the small plates weren’t exactly what we had expected. We did, however, enjoy each one.

“Avocado” ($9) was blended like guacamole, served with thinly sliced summer squash and peaches, seasoned with smoked onions and a Turkish chili powder called urfa.

A duck confit basteeya ($12) reminded me of a savory baklava. Minced duck, cooked in its own fat and blended with currants, was wrapped in filo pastry, drizzled with a not-too-sweet cherry sauce, and served with a salad of wild purslane, cherries and almonds. It was delicious; but, alas, there was only one roll, and we had to saw it in two.

Cumin-roasted carrots ($8) were served cold (not chilled) and al dente, and the cumin flavor was nearly nonexistent. Instead, the half-dozen carrot slices were topped with preserved lemon, almonds toasted in brown butter, and strained yogurt (or lebni).

An arugula salad ($7) was a toss of peppery arugula greens with shaved fennel and heirloom beans, along with preserved lemon and creme fraiche.

Our shared entree was a braised beef crèpinette ($25). Shredded meat was stuffed in a thin sausage-like casing made from membrane and sauteed in butter. It was topped with chopped nectarines and green peppercorns and served with a cauliflower puree and florets. We found it unusual and wonderful.

Cheese heads

Our charcuterie and cheese board was offered in several sizes; we opted for the five-selection plate ($20), served with a tapenade and a grape mustard. We chose two meats — a French-style pâté de campagne (country pâté), a coarse but soft pork blend, and a Spanish chorizo dulce, a sweet-and-spicy hard sausage.

Each of our three cheeses was distinctive. Manchego is a hard sheep’s cheese from northern Spain; firm yet buttery, it benefits from nine months of aging. Cafia de Cabra is a considerably softer Spanish goat’s cheese. Pierre Robert is a robust French triple-cream cow’s cheese.

We must have still had those marvelous cheeses in mind when we returned for lunch the following week. Other than a couple of salads, paninis and pizzas comprise the midday meal list, so we had one of each.

The croque monsieur panini ($9) is the French Market version of the classic, toasted French ham-and-cheese sandwich. Here, the cheese is Swiss Emmental, and a creamy béchamel sauce provides dressing.

A fresh sausage pizza ($13) showed off the bistro’s soft, yeasty crust, topped not with mozzarella but with smoked provolone cheese. Broccoli florets and pickled chilies complemented the juicy Italian sausage, and a slightly undercooked egg floated in the middle of the pie. Our culinary technique demanded that the crust be used to soak up the yolk.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com.

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