Restaurant review: New Chez du Bon offers wild look and sophisticated cooking

By Columbus Alive
From the January 2, 2014 edition

That thing about a book and its cover? Yeah, that describes Chez du Bon, a newish Downtowner related to Manifesto and de-NOVO whose “design” aesthetic is wildly incommensurate with the best food it serves. Let’s look at CdB’s “cover.”

Outrageous, flamboyant and garish come to mind. It’s like the two-floored ex-Wendy’s in the Fifth Third Bank building was reimagined by someone who’s a fan of Paris — but a bigger fan of Tim Burton flicks.

Along with three distinct dining areas, there’s a “market” section and square bar. Throughout this multi-spaced enterprise, thick and gaudy black and fuchsia chandeliers mix it up with a hodge-podge of fleurs-de-lis, huge curved-back silver chairs, gold-and-white-striped banquettes, harlequin forms plus neon green and electric purple accents. There are also murals of curlicues, the Musee d’Orsay clock and the Eiffel Tower. On a recent evening, a movie was silently looping on a large screen — Jean-Luc Godard’s jump-cutting, new wave classic, “Breathless” — while the theme from “Last Tango in Paris” played over the house speakers. Yeah, it’s quite the, uh, never-boring scene in there.

Now contrast that with artfully composed dishes in which every element counts as it coherently and synergistically relates to everything else on the plate. Sense some dissonance? Right. But you know what? Given the terrific food I had here, in the “big picture” sense, I really don’t give a flying you-know-what.

To gear up for the great grub, CdB has a tres francais wine list with lots of winners (plus an above-and-beyond $6/glass cheap red from Domaine de Montrabech misidentified as a “cabernet blend”). Cocktail-wise, the potent and refreshing Tenure ($9; bourbon/lemon/fizzy vino) outperformed a somewhat soapy Ultra Violet ($10).

Appetizer-wise, the gracefully flourished Seared Foie Gras ($15) was a wowzer. Its wows emanated from perfect foie nuggets, crazy-great savory bread pudding padded with duck confit, caramelized fruit, a unifying root veggie puree and Chef Bill Fugitt’s skillful presentation.

Like that rockstar-starter, CdB’s modernized Duck Confit Cassoulet entree ($25) was a light-handed rendering of a heavy-handed classic. Instead of a huge bean dish, it was huge beans (marrows) glazed in a sorta tangy gravy and teamed up with garlic-scented homemade mild sausage, perfectly salty pieces of crusty-skinned and succulent duck confit plus dices of sweet potato. Really nice.

Actually more impressive was the colorful Top Chef-like Coriander-Encrusted Tuna ($22) — a contemporary and beautiful ode to the old-school Salade Nicoise. Sashimi-grade slabs of edge-seared ruby fish centered a striking composition that included a delicate “mustard custard,” pickled radishes, roasted beets, tender haricot verts, a swath of marvelous mashers and piles of ephemeral “tarragon powder.”

Everything wasn’t perfect (a few things arrived lukewarm) or so fancy. On the latter matter, I also sampled a Croque Madame ($9) — an insanely rich, egg-topped grilled cheese and ham classic French sandwich that was delicious and approximately the size of the Pyrenees mountain range. If you’re eating for five, you might tack-on sides like a-little-greasy but otherwise fantastic biggie fries served with a kicky malt aioli or deeply roasted and excellent Brussels sprouts partnered with a bright and wonderful herbed aioli.

If you didn’t save room for dessert, eat one anyway. Because you deserve hits-a-lotta-spots showstoppers such as a brilliant take on pineapple upside down cake ($7), with its intense and tingling topping playing off a sorta pine nut brittle, big cubes of almost marshmallow-y coconut semifreddo (think pretty ice cream) and melt-in-your-mouth lime pate de fruit (jelly candy). Unlike this restaurant, it looks like it tastes.