Bistro Laurent is located just off the downtown park in Paso Robles and offers a wonderful tasting menu.

The 19-year-old French restaurant is diagonally across Pine Street from the park. It is owned and operated by Laurent Grangien. He ran Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe and, after moving to California to open a Los Angeles-area restaurant, came to Paso Robles to open the bistro in 1997.

The restaurant serves lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday and offers both its “Bistro” menu for both sittings. However, going for dinner and selecting the tasting menu is a guaranteed treat.

The patio at Bistro Laurent is on the east side

The patio at Bistro Laurent is on the east side

Ian Adamo, the Maître d’ and Sommelier, said that more than 90 percent of the dinner guests order the sampling menu.

It is a bargain at $77 for four courses paired with wines.

The menu offered a sampling of each course, but Ian simply advised us to close the menu and let Laurent surprise us with each course—they likely are different for each table.

It was a slow Friday night with only three couples at tables on the cozy patio. All of our meals started with a crostini topped with blue crab, a tomato slice and chives. Wonderful way to start the meal.

We then received a home run as Laurent prepared a lobster salad with a citrus dressing. Four warm slices of lobster claw surrounded mixed greens. Ian paired it with a French Chablis that was 100 percent Chardonnay. Wow.

By contrast, the couple at the next table enjoyed a first course of fresh tomato soup.

The second course was striped sea bass. For two tables, including ours, it was served over smoked lentils and paired with a 2013 Deovlet Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County. Deovlet made just nine barrels of the Pinot and it complemented the sea bass filet perfectly. I am not a huge fan of fish, but I finished the entire portion. The table next door was served the same sea bass, but it was over a mushroom, tomato ratouille with a red wine reduction sauce.

Laurent then hit it out of the park for us—serving two chops from a roasted rack of lamb over pureed potatoes with garlic jus. It was paired with a Rhone-variety GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre) from Paso Robles, Tasty, tasty and another perfect pairing.

Laurent offers a fresh variety of dishes

Laurent offers a fresh variety of dishes

We had not ordered the cheese plate, but readily accepted Ian’s offer. The six selections  ranged from a creamy goat cheese that was wonderful with the Chateau Neuf De Pape to those with stronger flavors.

We concluded with a chocolate pot de cremes paired with a Madeira sherry. Again, I am not a fan of chocolate, but this was wonderful and a fitting finale to a wonderful meal.

Laurent wine shop offers a wine club

Laurent wine shop offers a wine club

Incidentally, the restaurant is coupled with a wine shop next door with a collection of half Paso Robles wines and half French that is overseen by Ian. One of the more interesting concepts is the store offers a wine club—given what Ian selected for our dinner that would be an interesting club to join.

After one visit, we will be back when we are down in Paso Robles. Given the price point on tasting menus paired with wines in the Bay Area, it was a bargain.

Tim Hunt