Making the familiar seem new

Photo by Susan France

Opened earlier this year, Louisville’s Bistro 4 provides an unexpectedly elegant venue to enjoy a thoughtfully prepared breakfast or lunch. Tucked away in a strip mall a waffle’s throw from the local multiplex, this eatery’s ambience easily rises above its prosaic location. White tablecloths, stone tiles inset with colored glass, and a bar featuring such top-shelf liquors as Leopold Brothers’ gin are but a few of the fine-dining trappings here.

At lunch, sandwich selections range from a grilled cheese featuring swiss, cheddar and brie to a Bistro burger highlighting natural beef and blue cheese. There’s also a meatless sandwich adorned with mushroom, tomato and pesto goat cheese. Less typical choices include braised chicken thigh on ciabatta and poached shrimp salad with aioli atop a Kaiser roll.

The menu also offers soups like artichoke heart and tomato bisque, entree salads such as Nicoise with seared tuna, and a Caesar variant with white anchovy dubbed the Napoleon. It’s unclear whether consuming this salad results in eventual banishment to the remote isle of Saint Helena. What is less ambiguous is the bill of fare quietly pays homage to French cuisine without getting all prétentieux about it.

Of all meals, breakfast is the one where diners seek the most predictability. We aren’t looking for restaurants to take eggs to strange new places — we simply want a decent omelet with a side of toast. On this score, the Bistro delivers with such items as pancakes, French toast and malted vanilla waffles. Egg dishes span from omelets to Benedicts, including one made with crab. More adventurous options are represented by corned beef hash drizzled with truffle oil and a bagel topped with house-smoked salmon.

My choice of $10 chicken and biscuits featured a crisp and moist fried chicken breast atop light buttermilk biscuits swimming in herbed white gravy. I suspect the not-at-all dry poultry had been brined to preserve moisture, but the downside was that the chicken was a touch salty, as was the gravy. Otherwise, the sauce carried a pleasing sage aroma, and the bird’s breading was second to none. On the side, baby spinach leaves arrived simply dressed with a subtly sweet vinaigrette suggesting fruit. These salad greens provided a lighter counterpoint to the rest of this preparation.

Friend Mara’s $10 huevos rancheros was a standout interpretation of this south of the border classic. Instead of the expected sunny-side-up oeuvres, this version featured expertly poached egg, and tender pulled pork upped the heartiness quotient. Smoked tomato salsa made for a fresher, more complex flavor than the expected Ranchero sauce. Another touch that distinguished this interpretation was the addition of a thick house-made tortilla, which contributed heft and corn flavor that put its store-bought cousin to shame.

While one certainly finds most breakfast classics on the menu here, what stands out is Bistro 4’s fresh take on many of these dishes. Indeed, the huevos had many of the elements of a textbook version. Yet the addition of smoky salsa, pork and an authentically rustic tortilla played the nifty trick of making the familiar seem new. Even the light spinach salad contributed a refreshing lightness to the chicken and biscuits that might be lacking in the original. This approach alone may be reason enough to visit here.


Bistro 4 is located at 1156 West Dillon Road, Unit 4, Louisville. Call 303-993-2409.