Blue Talon, which opened last fall, serves "serious comfort food" in a French bistro setting. Its décor including a zinc bar and menu are a smaller version of Richmond's Can Can. It seats 130 in a window-filled back area, and the bar features silent reruns of Julia Child's cooking shows. Francophiles may begin with frog legs or escargots, but other standout appetizers ($5 to $10) include a variety of mushrooms sautéed Greek-style, in olive oil and lemon juice, and a sweet roasted tomato tart with soft goat cheese and herbs. However, the saucisson, sliced cured sausage with olives, marinated peppers and toasted croutons, tasted more like a lame Italian antipasto with salami.
Entrees, from $13 to $26, include a "plate of the day," a selection of classic French dishes such as choucroute, sausage and ham with sauerkraut; beef bourguignon in a light red wine sauce; and bouillabaisse, a sumptuous, plentiful combination of lobster, shrimp and other seafood served in a crock with aioli sauce.
The menu is balanced between meat and fish. Meat dishes include a thin and fork-tender braised beef, grilled steak graced with a green peppercorn sauce and fries in a paper cone, and a bountiful slice of calf's liver with butter-rich mashed potatoes but green beans too raw to be called al dente.
From the sea, roasted cod was bathed in a vegetable broth floating with carrots, leeks, onions, herbs and cheese croutons; a lightly crusted salmon, moist and pearly white, sat atop a bed of lentils.
Desserts include tarte tatin, a traditional French country apple filling on a thin pastry with vanilla ice cream, and blest, an interpretation of a classic Parisian almond pastry with vanilla ice cream and bittersweet chocolate sauce.
Fat Canary, which opened two summers ago, features sophisticated American cuisine in a 60-seat dining room with ceiling, walls, chairs and tables swathed in a soothing green. It also has a patio (facing the Trellis) that serves lighter fare.
Food is prepared in an open kitchen by cooks wearing matching caps.
The menu at the Fat Canary resembles such a bird short and sweet. Seven entrees ($20-$29), plus a nightly special, reflect Chef Powers' travels, from Hawaii and California to New Orleans and North Carolina.
Meat and fish share equal billing.
The pork tenderloin is as good as you'll ever want: tender slices of grilled meat fanned across a bed of collard greens, surrounded by salt-pork-flavored black-eyed peas accented by bits of Cajun-spicy tasso ham and shrimp, and topped with rings of grilled onions.
Alaskan halibut, often bland in its natural state, was elevated to savory thanks to chive risotto, tomato leeks and farm fresh corn, but the advertised shrimp was missing in action.
Other regular entrees include sautéed shrimp over Israeli couscous; salmon grilled in a vegetable stir-fry; sea scallops sprinkled with pancetta; braised beef short ribs with Japanese noodles; and free-range chicken with wild rice and sausage.
A perfect way to cool off on these hot summer nights is to begin with the chilled cucumber soup, zesty with spicy chili and topped with crŠme fraŒche.
Other refreshing starters ($10 to $12) include various salads featuring dandelions and Swiss chard, accompanied by goat cheese, pea shoots, pickled beets, braised leeks and asparagus.
For dessert ($5-$7), opt for the chicklets, a sampling of the full selection. It includes the world's smallest milkshake, served in a 2-inch-high dish complete with tiny straw and a dollop of whipped cream. The plate also may hold an espressolike crŠme caramel, strawberry sorbet or coconut ice cream, and cheesecake with chocolate swirl. It's ideal for sharing. S
Blue Talon Bistro ($$-$$$)
420 Prince George St., Williamsburg
Monday - Saturday: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.
Sunday: brunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Fat Canary ($$$)
410 Duke of Gloucester Street, Merchant's Square
(757) 229-3333 (reservations recommended)
Dinner nightly, 5-10 p.m.
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