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Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008

Dreamy French Fare

The Village’s new bistro

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The historic center of Wauwatosa is a far cry from Mayfair Road. Also called “The Village,” it houses a number of 19th-century buildings occupied by shops and restaurants, the latest of which is a cafe named Le Reve.

Le Reve, which opened in June, is the dream of owners Therese Hittman and Andrew Schneider. Schneider, who has considerable local experience at places like Coquette Cafe and Harlequin Bake Shop, is also the chef. Le Reve brings a French feel, with glass display cases holding baked goods, dark wood furnishings and floors covered in ornamental tile. The ceiling is nearly two stories high, allowing for an upper balcony at the rear of the cafe.

Until recently the menu was limited to sandwiches, salads and other light items. Appetizers and entrees have since joined the menu, and operating hours have been extended to cater to the dinner crowd.The menu is not large, but it offers sound choices that stick to French bistro fare.

The three appetizers include moules frites ($9.95), large blue mussels steamed with a broth of wine, shallots and fresh herbs. It’s a light touch that suits these sweet mussels well. The frites are pomme frites, thin fries heaped in the center of the bowl of mussels. A side of aioli serves as the perfect accompaniment. A few fries will find their way into the herbed cooking liquid, but that’s not a problem, as it makes for another good fit.

The six salads come in entree portions, but the kitchen will gladly split them for a starter course. Delicate balsamic vinaigrette covers the beet salad ($7.25). It comes with leaf lettuce, toasted pecans and balls of warmed chevre with a thin crisp batter. The chevre is served at the right temperature, just as it begins to turn molten. On my visit, the kitchen somehow omitted the beets, but the salad was still memorable.

The thoughtfully prepared soup ($2.50-$4.50) changes daily. Root vegetables such as celery root are currently in vogue.

The plats du jour are seven in number, a well-chosen list of entrees that balances meats with seafood and one vegetarian option. The menu changes seasonally, so the current one fits the winter months. Navarin ($20.95) is a hearty stew of lamb with potatoes and carrots. The lamb is properly trimmed and cooked until tender. Coq au Riesling ($18.95) is a delightful chicken dish which offers chicken that still has its bones and is slowly braised with herbs and white wine. Carrots and mashed potatoes arrive on the side. Equally good is the pan-seared duck breast ($21.95), with boneless slices of meat served medium, which the kitchen prefers to medium-rare. The duck is served over a fine mushroom risotto with a wild mushroom broth—delightful fare for the colder months.

The food is solid and the service is thoughtful. The only negatives are the noise level (all those tile floors!) and a wine list that is too small for a proper French restaurant. Otherwise, Le Reve makes for a perfect new addition to the restaurants of The Village, as delightful for a morning cup of espresso as it is for a leisurely dinner.

LE REVE 7610 Harwood Ave., Wauwatosa (414) 778-3333 $$-$$$ Credit Cards: All major Smoke Free Handicap Access: Yes


Le Reve | Photos by Tate Bunker

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