Chez Nous: Parisian Style Bistro in the Heart of Austin

Chez Nous, opened in 1982, is a Parisian style bistro known throughout Austin for its excellent food, impeccable service, and Parisian atmosphere.

We stepped into the bistro and immediately were swept back to France – from the background music of the soft jazz trumpet, to walls covered with Parisian posters and pictures, to lace curtains and fresh flowers in wine bottles, the atmosphere brought back pleasant memories of Paris. Once we tasted the food, we knew why Chez Nous was renowned!

Location: 510 Neches Street, Austin, Texas

Menu: Featuring classic French cuisine, there is a selection of appetizers, entrees, and crepes to suit every taste. Appetizers include pate Maison, cheese plates, and escargot de Bourgogne. Entrees include rainbow trout, scallops, duck, ribeye steak, and lamb chops. Crepe selections include chicken, mushrooms, and seafood. All the dishes have French names but lucky for those of us who are not fluent in French, the descriptions are in English!

Desserts as well  have the French flair: creme brulee, creme caramel, and mousse au chocolat. Small and large cheese plates are another choice. Also available is a “Dinner Prix Fixe Menu Gastronomique”.

Thoughts: Our lunch started with the Pate Maison: two housemade pates – salmon and duck liver-  served with french bread, cornichon and Nicoise olives. The salmon pate had a light, delicate flavor.  My favorite was the duck liver: smooth and creamy as butter, with Madeira wine and a hint of cognac.

The chef then offered us samples of three main courses. The first dish was Cotes D’agneau Manon: New Zealand lamb chop crusty on the outside, spiced with herbs de province, then seared to a tender medium rare. Served with white bean ragout and green beans- flavorful accompaniments. Next, we sampled Noix de St.Jacques aux Pleurotes- large sea scallops perfectly grilled, covered with a rich full-bodied sauce of cider cream and oyster mushrooms, served with butternut squash puree. The Confetti Conard was duck leg complemented by a tangy apricot ginger compote with a hint of ginger, red-wine gastrique, braised pistachios, and vegetables. All three dishes were cooked to perfection – it was impossible to choose a favorite!

Dessert was creme caramel. It was a lunch fit for royalty!

Our service was old-school elegance – cutlery changed between courses, sweat from ice-water wiped off the table, water glasses kept full and bread basket continually replenished.

Comments from fellow diners explain why Chez Nous has stood the test of time. One person mentioned: “This is one of the greatest restaurants in Texas! I’ve been coming here for so many years, I can’t even remember how long.”

Our server, Cameron, who has worked for Chez Nous for 18 years, backed up this thought:  “Once we (the servers) taste the food, they can’t get rid of us” he laughed!

I had the opportunity to interview one of the owners, Sybil. I asked “How has Chez Nous stayed the same? How has it changed?” Her response: “Chez Nous is a traditional French bistro, in that sense, it has stayed the same: simple, true, authentic, and soulful with a very steady and dedicated staff that has been working with us for close to 2 decades. It is truly a family owned and operated business. It has changed with the better availability of goods and farmers markets which has allowed us to expand our creativity.

Another compliment overheard was from a group of four businessmen at the next table. Stephen stated to his friends: “If I die and could have my ashes in an urn anywhere in the world, it would be on this bar at Chez Nous. I love this place!’.

Price Range: Starters for both lunch and dinner range from $8 for pate as well as soup du jour, small and large servings of escargot run $11-15. Chez Nous also serves a selection of sandwiches ($10-11), salads ($8-9) and cheese trays ($10).

Lunch entrees start at $18 for rainbow trout or pork loin or lamb and beef ragout, $19 for confit duck leg, sea scallops for $22. Crepes ranged from $10-12 with various fillings, including spinach, chicken or seafood.

Dinner sized  entrees range from $24- $39. Dinner Prix Fixe Menu Gastronomique: $34.50.

Desserts for both lunch and dinner run about $8-$10.

Disclosure: My companion and I were provided lunch at Chez Nous.

Jo-Anne Bowen

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