One step into the restaurant and I saw that Citron European Bistro looked every bit as sunny as the citrus fruit of the same name.
The Parkland bistro’s yellow walls were awash in light on the early spring evening. The soundtrack lilted with classic French cafe music.
Consider Citron a cheerful respite in Parkland.
Yes, the freeway on-ramp to state Route 512 is just across the intersection, but you’d never know that after stepping through Citron’s door.
The restaurant comes from Christophe Durliat, a first-time restaurant owner and French-born chef who wanted to bring a slice of his native Alsace to the Tacoma area.
In that regard, he’s done quite well. Like the German-bordering region of France, Citron’s menu spans a wide slice of French-German fare.
The DuPont resident opened Citron in late April in a location that formerly held another European hybrid, Bruno’s European Restaurant, which moved to a bigger location in Lakewood in November.
It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of a restaurant’s food and service during its opening month, which is why my first-bite notes here focus on descriptions of atmosphere and concept. A few first impressions for a single visit for dinner (lunch menu not sampled):
Menu concept: One bite into the tarte a l’alsacienne and I understood what Durliat was trying to convey when he described to me, by phone, the food of his native Alsace. He described an Alsatian area that’s his favorite, where it’s a short drive to Switzerland or Germany and the food reflects the proximity to those countries. That tart was built on a crackery crust, topped with tart cream, and something the Germans love to use in abundance — bacon. Salty capers, olives, smoked salmon and caramelized onions offered hefty flavors.
Menu highlights: A two-page menu split into 10 starters ($3-$13) and eight entrees ($15-$27). Dessert included three selections ($5.50 each).
Appetizers: Smoked salmon dip ($12); salad with knackwurst and Gruyere cheese ($13); escargot with garlic, white wine and pernod sauce ($10); Bavarian bratwurst and potato salad ($11); Alsatian-style tart ($12); several soups and salads ($5-$12).
Entrees: Pan-fried wiener schnitzel with potato and cucumber salad ($17); beef bourguignon with spaetzle noodles and seasonal vegetables ($19); penne pasta with mixed seafood in a bell pepper-garlic sauce ($18); fish of the day ($24); braised pork shoulder ragout with mushrooms, mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables ($18); chicken cordon bleu with potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a bistro salad ($15); roasted duck breast with peppercorn sauce, braised red cabbage and potatoes ($27).
French-German mashup: Curious to try a slice of Duriat’s Alsatian cuisine? Try the French-style beef bourguignon, slow cooked beef stew in a reduced wine sauce, with a side of the quintessential German dumplings called spaetzle, tinged with nutmeg and fried in butter ($19).
Dining room: Broken into dual spaces with 44 seats between the two. A few tables can accommodate larger groups.
Atmosphere: Those cheerful yellow walls set just the right tone for a casual bistro experience. Paper napkins, mismatched glasses, generous but casually plated fare showed a restaurant that’s approachable, comfortable and without pretense. But it’s also nice enough to be suitable for a special occasion. The menu’s affordable pricing, with the bulk of entrees from $15-$19, means it’s not a splurge restaurant, though.
Wine list: Succinct one-page, French-heavy list. Eight modestly priced glasses of wine by the glass, $5-$9, with four whites, three reds and one rosé. The by-the-bottle selection included six whites, six reds, one rosé and one sparkling Alsatian wine, $18-$49.
Beer: Alsatian beer Kronenbourg 1664 (a lager) and two ales from Fremont Brewing, $5 each.
About the chef: Durliat has a long résumé in fine dining. He previously cooked at a number of corporate hotels in Guam, Korea and Malaysia. He primarily worked for Hilton hotels and resorts, but his most recent role was executive chef at the Shangri-La Hotel in Changchun, China. He previously worked for downtown Tacoma’s Aviateur, the French restaurant, shortly after it opened in 2014.
Citron European Bistro
Where: 10716 A St. S, Tacoma; 253-212-1153; facebook.com/CitronEuropeanBistro.
Serving: Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday.