Mon dieu! There is a French bistro in town and it is très magnifique.
Kristine’s has opened next to Jack Morrison’s Witherspoon Grill and is the newest addition to the Princeton dining scene. Step into the crisp, cool, neo-art-nouveau space, and you feel you are in France. From the sweeping horseshoe-shaped bar to the white tessera floor, the elements of a classic bistro abound.
Open only a few days when my friends and I dined on a Friday night, Kristine’s has already attracted a crowd. We had made reservations for an early 5:30 meal and we were glad we did. The bar was lively with after-work friends meeting for drinks, and we were not the only early diners.
The faux marble tables are well spaced and there is ample room for two, four and six seats as well as a long communal farmhouse table. By 6:30, the room had filled well, but we were still able to carry on a private conversation. Best of all, no distracting TV! This is truly a place to meet friends, catch up, and unwind.
Chef Nicolas Demurge grew up in the countryside of Lyon, France, and discovered culinary arts early, learning to cook with his mother from the tender age of five. Over the years he had the exceptional good fortune to work with and learn from some of the finest chefs. With Kristine’s, he is excited to bring a fresh take on classic French bistro dishes to Princeton.
The menu offers an array of tastes. The appetizers range from $7 for light fare such as oeufs mayonnaise (organic hard-boiled eggs with house-made mayonnaise) or terrine de legumes (three-layer vegetable terrine, pickled mustard seeds, pickled onions, and pesto) to $16 for mousse de foie gras.
The salads are just as creative and can easily become a main course with the addition of the vegetable terrine, a house-made pork terrine, or smoked salmon ($21 with the additions). Three tartares are offered, vegetarian, beef, and fish. These may be had as either starter or entree size.
We began with the chestnut soup ($9), warm and savory, the escargot ($14) with rich garlic butter, and the warm goat cheese salad ($12) melting with a goodly portion of cheese. My two friends then went on to the bouchée à la reine (a feathery pastry with chicken in a rich, cream sauce, $22) and I had the ocean trout, which is a salmon-like fish similar to char ($25). I substituted grilled root vegetables for the fries, but there are several choices of side dishes all at $7.
Also on the menu is the quintessential steak frites ($24), Boeuf Bourguignon ($28), and Noix de St-Jacques (scallops with citrus fruits butter, black rice, and carrot puree, $34). For the lighter appetite there is a mushroom omelette with fries or salad for $18.
The small but well-portioned desserts were just right. We indulged in the crème caramel and the lemon curd tart, both $9. It has been years since I have enjoyed such smooth, creamy custard.
The wine and beer list is not pretentious, and offers a solid choices to suit both palate and pocketbook. The bar is amply stocked to create just about any libation.
Kristine’s promises to be a favorite spot for gathering and dining. Several people were dining at the bar, and as our evening wound down the communal table was full. Laughter and chatter surrounded us. The restaurant is open only for dinner, seven nights a week.
I would cheerfully bring out-of-town guests to show off the ambiance and menu, and it would be pleasant for a small, nonworking business dinner. The look and the service hit the right notes, quite an accomplishment for the first few days of existence.
From the cafe curtains to the subway tiles, Kristine’s lovingly recreates the classic bistro scene with a fresh, modern twist. Bienvenue to fine French cuisine in Princeton.
Kristine’s, 51 Witherspoon St., Princeton, New Jersey Sunday through Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m. 609-924-3339 or kristinesprinceton.com.