Bistro Laurent in downtown Paso Robles is approaching its 20th anniversary of serving classic French cuisine that celebrates local, seasonal ingredients. It’s also one of the establishments participating in San Luis Obispo County Restaurant Month.
A native of Brittany, France, chef-owner Laurent Grangien became a chef’s apprentice at the age of 16. After working up through the restaurant ranks in Brittany, Lyon, Bordeaux and Nice, he became head chef of celebrated restaurant Maison Rostang in Paris, then partner and head chef of Bistrot D’A Cote.
Grangien came to Los Angeles in 1991 to open a restaurant with his business partners. Preferring a different place to raise his family, he accepted an offer to be the executive chef at the Inn at Morro Bay in 1994.
In May 1997, Grangien realized his dream of having his own restaurant when Bistro Laurent opened its doors for upscale dining in downtown Paso Robles.
Q: What is your favorite local/seasonal ingredient that you’re currently using in your menu?
A: Right now, probably mushrooms. They’re very local for this season, especially chanterelles. If we get some warm weather after all this rain, they’ll really be coming out. I love to cook with ingredients like that, to use whatever’s seasonal. It’s very much like cooking where I come from.
Q: How are you currently using chanterelles and other mushrooms?
A: When anything is fresh and available, I try to use it as much as possible. We’re using mushrooms in ravioli, with meat and with fish. The dish I prepared for you is king salmon sautéed in olive oil, with chanterelles and black trumpet mushrooms, and served with a beurre blanc sauce.
Because of that sauce, this dish would pair nicely with a white Rhône wine — a viognier or white blend. If you served a different sauce, the earthiness of the mushrooms would go very well with pinot noir.
Q: How does this particular dish represent your culinary style/background/philosophy?
A: In addition to cooking with local and seasonal ingredients, the sauce is a classic French sauce. Also, the flavor of the mushrooms — and the salmon — should be the main thing. I don’t like to mix too many flavors.
Q: How would home cooks approach mushrooms in their own kitchens?
A: The most important thing, besides knowing that they came from a reliable source, is for them to be cleaned properly. Unless you have a mushroom like a porcini, you usually have to wash them in a good amount of water. It’s almost like washing spinach, use enough water so that the dirt falls out.
Sometimes chanterelles are hard to find, but if you do, look for them to have that bright yellow color so you know they’re fresh. Also look at the bottom of the stem; the cut should be fresh and not dried out too much. (Responsible foragers will cut the mushroom instead of pulling it up so that it will grow again the following year.)
Q: What is your favorite dish to cook at home?
A: Although I love truffles, it’s usually simple things, like a roast chicken. Get the right product — a good chicken — and just use a little butter, sea salt, black pepper and garlic. Put it in a hot oven to begin with to get a nice crisp, then turn the oven down and cook for about an hour, depending on the size of the chicken. It’s hard to beat that.
Q: What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
A: I’m more of a red wine person. I love braised meats, like a beef bourguignon, with a grenache. That’s my favorite grape.
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at email@example.com.
1202 Pine St., Paso Robles
Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
The scene: Exposed brick walls and vintage French culinary posters give the bistro an authentic, cozy feel. Adjacent is Bistro Laurent’s wine store; explore bottles from the restaurant’s wine list or discover mostly French labels via Le Club des Amis wine club.
The cuisine: Classic French preparations, using local and seasonal ingredients whenever possible.
Expect to spend: Lunch entrées about $15 to $20, dinner entrées about $30 to $45; four and five course tasting menus $66 and $80 without wine, $77 and $95 with wine.
For a full list of participants in San Luis Obispo County Restaurant Month, go to visitsanluisobispocounty.com/restaurant-month.