Gallic Goings On: The Newly Reopened Café Adam and Chez Nous
I haven’t been to Paris this spring and, what with husband Edgar always going off on business trips and my increasingly busy schedule as a freelance journalist and fundraiser, it doesn’t look as if we will be able to any time soon. All the more reason I’m pleased to be able to get our fix of French nearby, which we usually do at two of the region’s best local restaurants—places that have been noticeably absent the last few months due to either refurbishment or relocation to bigger and better premises across the “rue.”
Through the handiwork of chef/owner Adam Zieminski, Café Adam has long been a Great Barrington staple for French and Continental style dining. It’s always been one of my favorites, with a reliably Gallic menu of items such as Parisian-style hangar steak and fresh seafood bouillabaisse. Edgar particularly likes the “Burger à la Française,” Northeast Family Farms pasture-raised beef served with Gruyère, homemade fries, and garlic aioli, on a Berkshire Mt. Bakery bun, while I myself always look forward to inventive specials such as grilled sea perch with hummus fritters. Until this week, Café Adam had been located on Route 7 between Hammertown and The Meat Market. In the past, the L-shaped room could be a bit, shall we say, “cozy” on a busy night. But this is no longer a concern now that they’ve moved across Rte. 7 to an elegant and beautifully decorated space in the Jennifer Commons complex. The new space is relaxingly roomy and far less crammed when crowded, which it often is. Another addition, which is really going to make a difference, is the spacious and relaxing bar area, likely to become a destination in its own right. (Above.)
This is all good news. But has it affected the food and service? As always, we were greeted by Sylwia Orczykowska, Adam’s wife, and although we saw some new faces amongst the staff, much of the old team was there working as hard as ever. A large portion of the menu is new, but has been built on their tried and true staples. (My only disappointment was the absence of artisanal sausage, one of my consistent favorites over the years.) We tried the light and moist black cod, which came with a sauce that had a subtle hint of lemon. The chicken breast was stuffed with a delicate mix of herbs and came with a mix of fresh al dente peas and vegetables.
Meanwhile, just ten miles up the road in Lee, Chez Nous Bistro has taken advantage of its traditional winter break to refurbish and rebuild its bar area. Before the renovation, it was very traditional and had room for only three small tables. Now the room is more open and the wood paneling lighter. The bar itself is lower and more inviting. This is a great place to have a drink while waiting for friends to join you for dinner or even to take a relaxing and less formal meal.
Owned by two chefs, Franck Tessier and Rachel Portnoy, Chez Nous may be located in Lee but once inside definitely has enough of a Francophile vibe to feel transporting. This chilly week, I particularly enjoyed their cassoulet with crispy duck leg and the braised lamb prepared “Basque” style—dishes I certainly would never have the time and patience to prepare at home. And save room for dessert: Portnoy, a pastry chef who learned her profession in London and at “The Point” up on Saranac Lake, NY, offers goodies such as French almond macaroon strawberry shortcake with macerated fresh berries and lemon curd cream, and a warm apple and raspberry crumble with vanilla gelato. I dare you to resist.
All in all, with both of these refurbished and renewed dining spots, I am now able to put Paris out of my mind and look forward to summer, chez ici. —Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
420 Stockbridge Rd Ste 3
Great Barrington MA, 01230
150 Main St.
Lee, MA 01238