Le Crêpe Pierre
Je suis enchanté, Chef Gozard
By Maren Tarro
Pardon my French—mostly because it sucks—but zut, zut et zut! And by that I mean Chef Jean-Pierre Gozard is making damn fine crêpes over on Candelaria and San Pedro. (Not an exact translation, but you get the idea.)
Le Crêpe Pierre opened without fanfare a week after Easter. Gozard simply unlocked the doors and started cooking. Considering the clamor that greeted me when I walked in on both visits, word-of-mouth was all that was needed to get the ball rolling.
Most Burqueños are familiar with Gozard’s previous efforts: Le Crêpe Michel (still going strong under new ownership), Le Marmiton and Casa Vieja. As I’m not a lifelong Albuquerque resident, I knew him only by reputation—a reputation I hoped to taste myself. Sometimes getting what you wish for isn’t so bad.
Le Crêpe’s atmosphere, to me, is perfect for dining with friends or alone. Voices rise above carnation and eucalyptus arrangements, creating a lively din throughout the restaurant. You can lean in a little to hear what your companions are saying, or lean back and enjoy the energy. Simple white walls, marred only by wallpapered countryside prints on either end, are broken up by blue wooden doors opening to the patio and entrance.
Front and center is Gozard’s miniscule kitchen. Normally I would object to a cacophonous open kitchen, but barely a peep could be heard from Gozard’s work space. Orders were prepared without any clatter from pots or exclamations from cooks.
Cooked on imported cr ê pieres , a simple batter is transformed into the stuff dreams are made of. Enormous and folded in quarters rather than rolled, they were beautiful and beyond filling.
For starters, definitely sip Le Crêpe’s café. Caffeinated offerings are rather simple by Starbucks standards. Frappuccinos and other corporate-created drinks are nowhere to be found. Espresso and true espresso-based cups are expertly pulled by servers, and I can’t complain about the quality.
On to the crêpes! Sweet or savory, I found every one to be consistent in texture and flavor. Light and airy, with a slight crispness around the thin edges, each bite was as close to divinity as I can hope to experience before the Rapture.
Cooked on imported crêpieres, a simple batter is transformed into the stuff dreams are made of. Enormous and folded in quarters rather than rolled, they were beautiful and beyond filling.
My hands-down favorite was the chicken and mushroom. With a filling I can only describe—to those who care nothing about the finer points of velouté—as akin to mom’s greatest homemade chicken pot pie, this dish had my number. Magnifique!
The crêpe Florentine was also tasty, but impossible to finish with its heavy béchamel. Unfortunately, the spinach was difficult to pick up against the rich sauce and additional cream.
On the sweeter side are cinnamon-and-sugar crêpes—simplicity embodied. Buttery and just touched with sugar and spice, they're suitable on their own or as dessert. Alternatively, the bread pudding was firm and moist, not too sweet and not at all mushy.
Over the years, I’ve been subjected to scary amounts of straight-from-the-freezer quiche. You know what I’m talking about: Those crimped, round little egg-and-cheese pies that make a thick paste in your mouth as you struggle to swallow. Gozard makes the real deal. Vegetarian quiche tasted straight-from-the-garden with colorful veggies standing out against pale custard. Très bon!
The croque madame also makes good use of eggs. Freshly baked crusty bread was stuffed to overflowing with ham, cheese and that weighty béchamel—this dish is sturdy enough for it—then baked and topped with a sunny-side-up egg.
Beyond crêpes and eggs, French onion soup was right on the money. Gozard uses stocks he makes himself (though he admits to sometimes fortifying with base) along with caramelized onions. It was rich with barely perceptible hints of herbage. Covered with melted Swiss cheese—Gruyère, perhaps?—this soup makes up for every crock of merde I’ve been served, from canned broth to rehydrated cubes of bullion crusted with Kraft cheese.
The evening menu features additions to lunch. Chef Gozard offers a special every night, usually a beef, chicken or fish entrée. He explains that specials "vary by what’s available and by the capabilities of my very limited kitchen.”
Service still has a couple bumps, so allow for a leisurely meal. Gozard is aware that the pace is slow and attributes this to a larger-than-expected volume of customers.
To sum things up, I’ll defer to The Beatles. Chef Jean-Pierre Gozard and crêpes sont les mots qui vont très bien ensemble.
The Alibi recommends:
• French onion soup
• Chicken and mushroom crêpe
• Croque madame
• Bread pudding
Le Crêpe Pierre, 3000 San Pedro NE, Suite F, 872-9097. Hours: Tues-Sat 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Sun brunch 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Closed Mondays. Price range: inexpensive to moderate. Credit cards accepted and catering available.
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