Sometimes a signature dish earns its reputation because it is, in fact, that good. Le Poulet Cajun (that’s Cajun chicken for those of you who did not have French mercilessly drilled into your brains for four years) is a paradoxically simple, yet complex dish. A tangy, creamy beurre blanc is drizzled on tender white meat medallions, accompanied by crisp French fries.
Where can one find this magic chicken? That would be at Le Bilboquet Denver, the chic French bistro located in Cherry Creek North. Open since September 2019, Le Bilboquet features the blue velvet banquettes, breathtaking art and impeccable floral arrangements one would expect of a top-notch French restaurant, but with a distinct Denver twist.
Le Bilboquet originally opened on New York City’s Upper East Side as a 36-seat see-and-be-seen restaurant in 1986. After nearly three decades of success, it relocated to a larger space on East 60th Street in Manhattan in October 2013. In Denver, Philippe Delgrange, founder of the original Le Bilboquet, has teamed up with fellow restaurateur Rick Wahlstedt, owner and founder of national winning concepts and partner at the Atlanta location.
Though the owners were asked to bring Le Bilboquet to Cherry Creek North, some neighbors were initially a bit hesitant about the establishment. Why would it need a New York restaurant? Would it be snooty and out of character with the area and its history?
Within just days of the grand opening, Le Bilboquet had won over most of its skeptics. Ilona Knopfler, managing partner, and previously maître d’ for Le Bilboquet in Atlanta says building Le Bilboquet Denver wasn’t “copy and paste … we didn’t want to be New York City in Denver.” For her, one of the greatest joys so far has been a string of experiences: “people come in and then come back … once a week, twice a week. It’s humbling and rewarding to be well-received by the Cherry Creek community.”
Le Bilboquet does skew a bit sophisticated and Knopfler thinks Denverites enjoy having a reason to dress-up. “At the grand opening, people kept saying, oh we’re so casual, and I was looking at them thinking ‘this is pretty fabulous for casual … you know, it’s truly a pleasure to put on nice clothes and go out to a good meal.”
A good meal you shall find—the appetizers at Le Bilboquet include a beet and goat cheese salad, French onion soup and tuna tartare. While tuna tartare can often go “squishy,” the version served at Le Bilboquet is robust and thoughtful.
The salads and entrees shine—I found myself leering at my neighbor’s curry chicken salad and promised myself that on Denver’s next chilly day, I would pop in for a Croque Monsieur. Cyrille Holota, regional executive chef, a veteran of Michelin-star restaurants, oversees the menu in collaboration with Denver chef Steven Queen. While most of the dishes on the main menu are tried-and-true favorite from other Le Bilboquet locations, the specials are often unique to Denver, such as Queen’s Venison.
Per Queen, he and Holota “let the food speak for itself,” whether that is a deliberate use of spices or procuring only the highest quality of ingredients. Speaking of ingredients, Queen notes that Le Bilboquet is “responsible” in its sourcing; dairy, eggs, herbs, chicken and venison are all local or regional. Unlike many restaurants with multiple locations, they don’t insist upon using one supplier to ensure consistency, instead working with local vendors to provide excellence.
Such distinctive quality is on display in the desserts available to cap off a meal. The chocolate mousse and tarte au citron are standouts. Most chocolate mousses are glorified pudding. Now, no need to knock pudding, but don’t call it a mousse. The confection at Le Bilboquet, on the other hand, is fluffy enough to sit in the proper category. Served alongside a mound of whipped cream, it is a delight.
However, the tarte au citron was the standout. Neither lemon nor lime but a melding of the two atop a buttery crust with a perfect meringue topping, it is sweet and zippy. If you’re dining with someone who doesn’t enjoy chocolate or wants a lighter treat, it is the one to try.
So, when is the best time to drop by Le Bilboquet? Lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch are all great options, though worth noting are “Champagne Saturdays”—every Saturday during brunch from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., featuring a live DJ and a full brunch menu with a rotating champagne partner each week. In any case, you’ll find a warm welcome and delicious food.
299 Saint Paul St.
Denver, CO 80206
Elizabeth Kosar is a writer and communications strategist. She adores most cuisine, particularly desserts.
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