Restaurant DuVillage

Restaurant DuVillage — Famous French Cuisine


Today I am reflecting on the meaning of the numbers. 25 years ago, the restaurant opened through the great vision of Charlie van Over and Priscilla Martel. 15 years ago, I sat with my knees shaking on the banquet while I signed the mortgage. 2005, with 27 points for food, we are the top ranked restaurant overall in the Zagat guide. Thanks to 14 loyal people who work side by side with us and who make all things possible. 2 Kellers in a daily balance of passions and personalities, sweet, salty, and often spicy. Number-One, the most important number represents you, our guest.

Thank you for allowing us to create your meals and dining experience, for truly it is you who make a restaurant, just as without an audience there is no theatre.

Bistro! Bistro! Bistro!

Bistro is the hot new buzzword on the restaurant scene. All the finest restaurants have or wish for a bistro sibling, French Laundry’s Bouchon for example. Restaurant du Village is, and has always been, a bistro. One definition of bistro is a café-bar serving a limited selection of simple cooked meals in an informal atmosphere, or the local bar or pub. A popular origin for the name dates back to 1814, when occupying Russian Cossacks in Paris used to demand quick service by shouting “bistro!,” the Russian for “quick.”

At the turn of the 19th century bistros were the gathering place for thinkers and artists to while away the hours in intense conversation and the exchange of ideas. It is a place where wine and beer are meant to be drunk with friends, where foods akin to moules marinière and duck confit beg to be picked up with dainty fingers, and where there are no dress codes or fussy rules. A bistro by nature, like a mischievous little brother, is allowed to be fun and playful. Twenty-five years ago in the United States, when Restaurant du Village opened, French cuisine was considered foreign and exotic, the food of the ultra sophisticate. Indeed, some might still perceive a 4-star French restaurant to be prissy as a prom queen, stiff and perfect.

Nothing can be further from the truth about Restaurant du Village, indeed our labors to create perfect country terrines, crisp baguettes, hearty braised cassoulets, and summer fruit tarts have brought this little joint many accolades and fame. But rest assured in true French fashion, though trendy it’s not, this hearty, home-style cooking is simply great pub grub, served with a warm and friendly familiar smile. So on your next visit feel safe in knowing that you don’t have to speak French or wear a tie, you may enjoy a beer, and it’s ok to skip dinner and head straight for chef Michel’s decadent desserts, if that’s your fancy

Restaurant du Village 25th Anniversary Celebration

In honor of Restaurant du Village’s 25th anniversary, we are offering a special prefix menu for $25-.This menu will change nightly and feature Parisian bistro classics; soupe à l’oignon, salade Lyonnaise, steak au poivre, blanquette de veau, poulet à la moutarde, crème au caramel and the like. Call that morning to see what’s on the menu, and come early because the “plat du jour” is made just for the day and might sell out. This menu will be offered nightly (excluding Saturdays and holidays) in addition to our full à la Carte dinner menu.

Salade Niçoise

Julia Child once told me the first thing she would order upon her arrival in the south of France was a Salade Niçoise. She said “They make a pretty good one at the airport in Nice.” In her opinion several things were key. The tuna must always be the best quality, packed in olive oil, not water. The tuna must never be grilled tuna, a new fangled American idea she just simply didn’t agree with. And the anchovies must be absolutely fresh or they will ruin the taste. I think this is the perfect summer salad to enjoy anywhere and find that it is a great way to use lots of fresh ingredients from the local farm market. It makes an easy picnic lunch with friends or a simple supper on those summer days when it is just too hot to use the stove.

Ingredients: Serves 4

  • 2 6-ounce tins tuna, packed in olive oil
  • 8 ounces scrubbed new potatoes, boiled and then quartered
  • 6 ounces blanched haricots verts 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into halves
  • 2 nice vine-ripe tomatoes cut into wedges
  • 1 head of crisp salad greens, such as romaine, well washed and dried
  • 1 small bouquet of basil leaves 1/2-cup of Niçoise olives
  • 1 small tin anchovy flat fillets
  • 3/4-cup virgin Olive oil
  • 1/4-cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 clove garlic, minced Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Method: In a bowl mash 4 of the anchovy fillets with a dinner fork, add the garlic and mustard and stir to combine. Add the red wine vinegar stirring again. Then using a whisk pour in the olive oil slowly while whisking vigorously to create an emulsified dressing. Season with freshly ground pepper.

Line a large open salad bowl or deep platter with the salad greens torn into bite size pieces. Then sprinkle on the potatoes. Next place small bundles of the haricots verts arranging them on the outer edge of the serving dish. In the center place the drained tuna in a small mound. Surround the tuna with alternating wedges of tomato and egg. Sprinkle on the olives and place a few fillets of anchovy over the eggs as a garnish. Finish by tucking in the basil leaves. Pour the vinaigrette over just before serving. Serve with a warm baguette and a bottle of chilled dry rosé.

Chefs Go Wild excerpt from Rebecca Gray’s new book

The night of the Reneson game dinner arrived, a festive evening with a large guest list and best of all lots of game: venison, partridge, woodcock, quail, several species of ducks, goose, salmon, and trout. It had been a very good year. Michel and Cynthia arrived with no sign of a confit (she later explained to me that they add fat from domestic ducks to make a wild duck confit; a very tasty way to tenderize and preserve the sometimes tough wild ducks) and no sundry animal parts, just the duck breasts ready to grill. But the duck was accompanied by Michel’s secret ingredient: a large jar filled with a bright red liquid with small floating balls in it. It looked ominous; my mind was awhirl. Michel sautéed the duck breasts quickly and began to make a sauce with the red stuff. Dare I ask? “Cherries marinated in kirsch for a very long time,” replied Michel. Yes, he had definitely understood the temperament of this crowd. It was fabulous.

Twenty-five years ago Restaurant du Village opened its’ doors and they have been open ever since

The day after Thanksgiving in November 1979, Restaurant du Village quietly opened its’ doors to a crowd of 26 customers.To us this was quite remarkable if not a little frightening because we had not advertised fearing that we weren’t ready for a stampede.There was country terrine, roast pheasant and entrecôte au poivre on the menu that first month. How could we know that the small amount of boudin noir we bought from a French butcher in New York would sell out the first time it was offered? With a small staff in the kitchen, the orders for the sautéed lamb and garlic would keep one of us tied up at the stove for the entire evening. And the bread had to be mixed at night to be baked at dawn before the kitchen was needed for mealtime preparations.

Open for both lunch and dinner those first years, we got to know many people in town and made friends to last a lifetime.We like to think that the enticing kitchen smells- simmering stock, roasting ducks or spicy Linzer-Torte called people out of the woodwork because the Chester that exists today is a far cry from what existed then. Main Street was in dire straights, sparsely populated with businesses that would best be described as marginal. Even the little white house across the street was half burned down only to be rebuilt a year or so after ‘du Village’ opened.

Still we loved our little Main Street because of the beautiful way it curves around always offering something new. Perhaps this is the reason one sees so many artists and photographers feasting on its visual beauty.We always felt that Chester’s destiny was to become what it is today, a charming outpost where people can stroll, shop and eat or just enjoy a slice of a small New England town that hasn’t been ruined by crass commercialization.

From its beginning Restaurant du Village has always remained true to its original concept, to be a simple French Country restaurant serving fresh food, respectfully prepared. If only one word could be used to describe the restaurant it would be consistent. For some twenty-five years diners could always be assured that the cuisine would always be at a high level, the bread and pastries made fresh daily. (Maybe that’s why the first customer we served still eats there today.)

Having enjoyed ‘du Village’ for over ten years we decided to sell but were concerned that finding a qualified buyer might be nigh impossible.Thanks to our friend Jacques Pepin and his wife Gloria we met Cynthia and Michel Keller who we felt would run the restaurant at the highest level and, therefore, preserve its legacy. They have never let us down, and so after twenty-five years we congratulate them for their skill, their critical success, all of their hard work and perseverance and for a job well done

Calendar of Events

Year long celebration of Restaurant du Village’s 25th Anniversary Please see article on page one.

  • Thursday May 26th: French Day A statewide celebration of the French language for high school students
  • Sunday June 19th: Father’s Day
  • Saturday June 25th 11:00 AM: New Haven Arts and Ideas Festival: Cooking on Stage with Chef Cynthia Keller Chef Keller will represent the Culinary Arts in a live cooking demonstration of French country classics.
  • July 2nd-24th The First Annual Tour de France Fête This festival will feature a special combination of menus in 3 weeklong stages, each week featuring the foods and wines of the regions of the actual bike race. Complete all three stages and earn your maillot jaune; special bonus incentives and prizes, along with same day race results along the way.
  • Thursday July 14th Bastille Day! Celebrate French Independence Special menu for this celebration and the music of Alma Loiseaux

Cellar Insights: Beaujolais Tasting Notes

Pierre Chermette, Le Vissoux Beaujolais 2003. The deepest red color, a big aroma of banana and tropical fruits, a full body and pleasant acidity and ripe fruit flavors. This wine is non-filtered and had a small amount of sediment.

Jean-Paul Brun L’Ancien Beaujolais Vielles Vignes 2003. Grown on old vines, a light ruby color and cherry aroma, with a nice body, flavors of ripe plums and dried currants with a dry finish.

Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2003. Deep ruby color with aroma of apple, light body, crisp and tart like biting into a Macintosh apple.

Georges du Boeuf, Morgon 2003. Of the wines I tasted this was my least favorite, light in color, with a strong aroma of banana, I found it light in body, and somewhat unbalanced with a bitter finish.

Georges du Boeuf, St. Amour 2003. Dark jewel tone, with ripe melon and berries on the nose, round fruit in the mouth reminiscent of Bing cherries on the 4th of July with a full finish, crisp and dry.

Georges du Boeuf Moulin-a-Vent 2003. Deep red tinged with the slightest brown tinge on the edge, big aromas of ripe pear and plum, medium to full body, nicely balanced acid and dry fruit finish, flavors of cherry, bubble gum, grape, and wood.This was the only wine tasted that was cellared 6 months in oak, giving it more structure and it was the most full bodied.

Domaine Clos des Fers, Fleurie 1999. Bright ruby red, aroma of grape and mint, even body with a long finish and balance of acidity, still bursting with ripe fruit.

The Quintessential Bistro Wine

Beaujolais is perhaps the most widely know French wine, thanks to its fresh fruity qualities, the fact that it can be particularly thirst quenching especially when served chilled, and the fact that it marries well with all sorts of food. Indeed Beaujolais is designed to be drunk rather than discussed or collected.

Beaujolais is the southern portion of the Burgundy wine region; it comprises 42,500 acres between Macon and Lyon. The topography is quite similar to this area of Connecticut: hilly with rocky granite soils. The wines are primarily red made from the Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc grape, with a small amount of Beaujolais Blanc made from Chardonnay. The Gamay grape has a bluish purple skin and a white flesh; it produces a wine that is a pale ruby color with blue undertones. It has a relatively high acidity and vivacious aroma of ripe red fruits making it a perfect partner to foods. It might be said to be a white wine drinker’s red and a red wine drinker’s white.

The grapes are fermented in a special process, carbonic maceration, where whole bunches of berries are gently packed by hand into closed wooden or concrete fermentation vats. The fermentation takes place in an anaerobic environment inside the skin of the whole grape without the addition of yeasts. Carbon dioxide gas is added to the vat to displace any oxygen. On the bottom of the vat the grapes are crushed by the weight of those above them and the juice seeps out contacting natural yeasts on the exterior of the skins. Therefore the juice on the bottom ferments in the more traditional manner. This style of fermentation gives the wines of Beaujolais their distinctive flavors and aromas, banana, bubble gum, ripe strawberries and cherries. All wines are light to medium body, with soft tannins. The wines are rarely aged in oak, but when they are they evolve and begin to resemble the Burgundies from whence they hail.The reds are classified as Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Village, and Cru Beaujolais, comprised of 10 specially designated growing areas, yielding a smaller quantity of higher quality wines.

If you have comments or have reviews your would like to share on Restaurant DuVillage or any other establishment feel free to drop the Restaurant DuVillage team a note on the contact us page.  We typically will respond within 48 hours however if we don’t get back to you drop us friendly reminder note.  Hopefully you have found this post both interesting and helpful.  Happy cooking and eating.