La Sen Bistro, Concord CA
Once upon a time there was a Californian-French restaurant on Shattuck in Berkeley called La Rose Bistro. Then, not too long ago, La Rose was transplanted to Concord, and is now named La Sen Bistro. Todos Santos Plaza has a decent bevy of varied restaurants already, and La Sen Bistro is a great addition. Of all the Todos Santos Plaza restaurants, this one likely has the best wine selection, also.
Instead of butter in an American restaurant or olive oil and vinegar at an Italian restaurant, we were surprised with a cilantro sauce for our bread. With garlic, olive oil, rice vinegar, and a hint of sugar it was like a mild chimichurri. The bread was rustic and fresh from Semifreddi’s, and we like businesses that support other local businesses. Zach was super impressed as he hadn’t tried something like it before, so well balanced with the sweet, the herbs, the rich olive oil, and the tang that complimented the bread.
A traditional soup and one of the most well known dishes from French cuisine, onion soup is a true classic. What set this one apart was the garlic croutons and broiled Emmentaler cheese (a variant of Swiss cheese). The beef broth base was a rich backbone for the other ingredients, like the super tender savory and sweet onions (Zach “can’t believe how tender they were!”). The croutons soaked up the surrounding flavors, including the gooey cheese with a caramelized top.
Escargot served in shells can be scary if the dishwasher doesn’t do his job in cleaning out the reusable shells. Fortunately, we enjoyed our snails tonight without any hindrance. Served with garlic, butter, and parsley, our six helix snails were very large and tasty. The menu didn’t call them helix snails per se, but Zach believes they were helixes due to the size and flavor, and August believes they were because of the name – “Bourgogne” is French for Burgundy, and “Burgundy” snail is a nickname for helix snail.
This was likely the fanciest pork chop August has had. Garlic confit, a white balsamic reduction, polenta cake, eggplant, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and a caramelized apple joined the moist and tender pork chop. The polenta cake was deliciously crispy and crunchy on the outside, but delicate and smooth in the middle. It soaked up the sweet and tangy sauce, but August sopped up any remaining drops with some of the Semifreddi bread. The vegetables were al dente yet fork-tender. She could have had a bowl of veggies on the side, they were that good.
Zach’s duck confit came with many of the same vegetables as August’s pork, plus mushrooms, an assortment of roasted potatoes, and ratatouille with red pepper and a trio of squash. The duck was, in a word, phenomenal. Beyond fork-tender, there were no grissly or inedible pieces. Zach ate the whole thing and wishes he could have eaten the bone somehow. The Madeira sauce was delicious; there are many restaurants that will make it too sweet, but this one at La Sen was balanced correctly and went really well with the ratatouille and potatoes. The potatoes themselves were roasted beyond perfection, which resulted in flavorful caramelized sides and edges. For the vegetarians, ratatouille with potatoes is something you could be very happy with here.
This was our first time at this new restaurant, but we both want to go back. There were two other dishes that August and Zach each wanted to try, and we can imagine that they’ll be amazing just like tonight’s dinner was. Everything tasted scratch-made, so hopefully next time we’ll have room for a dessert, as well.