When Kir wine bar closed last year, I went through a period of great mourning, and was certain I could never go back and patronize whatever replaced Kir, even if what replaced it was a dollar store that sold real champagne and perfectly ripe mangos. Or you know, a chic crêperie run by a lovely Frenchwoman.
But a couple of weeks ago, I finally ventured back onto the hallowed ground at 22 NE 7th Avenue, and checked out the ooh-la-la new tenant, C’est Si Bon crêperie. And although there were no dollar mangos (there was real champagne, although it was slightly more than a dollar), I loved what I saw—and ate.
The space is now a deep, thoughtful shade of slate, with a wine-rack facing wooden slat bar, cheerful street-facing window bar, handful of two tops and a couple of larger tables, and a patio table to help you take advantage of this ethereal spring weather we’ve been having.
The wall chalkboard remains, bearing a neatly printed menu of bulles, blancs and rouges by the glass ($6-$9), and speaking of nice things written on the walls, there is a simple crepe recipe inscribed on the back wall, in case you’re inspired to go home and make your own.
As to be expected, the menu’s divided into crepes both sweet and savory, but opens with a brief selection of bites like pork liver mousse and sardine butter served with baguette, an herb-dotted green lentil salad tossed with caramelized shallots and fresh arugula, and baguette toast spread with orange zest butter and ribbons of rich fat-edged smoked duck.
The savory crepes range from simple to stuffed, and while I do love the ham with gruyere and béchamel, and roasted cremini mushroom and spinach-filled Veggie, my favorite is the smoked wild Coho salmon, folded into a blonde or buckwheat crepe pocket with mascarpone, capers, lemon zest, and dill, and served with a handful of perfectly-dressed organic greens.
It’s hard to choose between the sweet crepes, but they’re so reasonably priced, and everyone knows that like Chinese food, it’s technically impossible to get full on crepes, so just order one of each. I fell particularly hard for the lemon curd with fresh blueberries—on the day we went, the server explained that as the Meyer lemons are so luscious of late, the curd was made with them. I shared the crepe with my friend Marnie, and it’s a testament to our friendship that I didn’t poke her with my fork and quickly eat the entire thing while she was tending to her tine wounds.
Chef Gabrielle Esbeck brings many of the dishes to the table herself, and I think she could easily stick a hefty Food Served With a Genuine French Accent surcharge on my bill and I wouldn’t utter a peep, I’d just say merci! and order more sparkling rosé so I could continue hearing that exquisite accent.
If French accents are one of your favorite sounds as well, stop in Tuesday nights; from 6-7pm each week, the creperie hosts a free all-levels French conversation group. I have been practicing my French on Duolingo in preparation, and being a natural language learner, I am ready to contribute many highly sophisticated sentences to the conversation, such as: Je mange une pomme rouge et un chat noir. Translation: I am eating a red apple and a black cat.
Gabrielle is Bordeaux-born, but came to San Diego years ago for school, then loved the sunny California lifestyle so much she stayed far longer than expected, especially after she met her now-husband John Esbeck, who handles the sipping and front-of-the-house end of their operation.
The duo’s current concept was born after they had children and Gabrielle wanted to start a business that was flexible—after racking her brain for the perfect idea, a crepe-shaped lightbulb went off and C’est Si Bon was born. She and John first set up shop at farmers’ markets, and can still be found around town at seven different markets, including the almighty PSU Saturday market. Note: If you are keen on hearing the sweet strains of the didgeridoo while you eat crepes, you will have to go to the PSU market.
John, a long time sommelier and wine director, is in charge of beverages, and the list has everything you could want, including a superb rotating selection of wine, beer and cider, Courier Coffee, and Teri Gelber’s gorgeous Portland-made small batch T Project teas.
A cup of which would be perfect paired with the raw buckwheat honey-filled crepe, the housemade hazelnut chocolate and banana crepe, or a perfectly ripe dollar mango. I mean a house caramel and caramelized-apples stuffed crepe.
And now, Il est temps pour le déjeuner. Je vais manger une crêpe au caramel et une giraffe. Rendez-vous mardi! Translation: It is time for lunch. I am going to eat a caramel crepe and a giraffe. See you Tuesday!
22 NE 7th Ave. * 503.935.3761 * Lunch M-F 11a-3p, Dinner Tu-F 5-9p, Sa 6-10p * www.cestsibonpdx.com