Le Bistro keeping French flavor alive
Special to the Bonanza
In the newly touched up bar of Le Bistro located at 120 Country Club Drive in Incline Village, owner/head chef David Blair is preparing to open for the evening. Le Bistro recently reopened on December 31, 2016 (New Year’s Eve) after Blair took over the lease from previous owner Jean Pierre Doignon.
Blair originally moved to Lake Tahoe from Beverly Hills when he was 23 years old to chase the winter. He worked odd jobs around the lake and worked as a chef at Swiss Lakewood Restaurant in Homewood where he learned how to cook French cuisine under prestigious chef and owner Albert Marty. It was at Swiss Lakewood where he met Doignon, who soon hired Blair to work at Le Bistro in 1994.
“Jean is a good man, devout Christian, reliable, and a good chef. Eventually, he became more successful than he wanted- he ended up with a full restaurant nightly,” says Blair. Doignon had Le Bistro on the market for four years before the lease expired and Blair started managing the business.
“I’m keeping the same idea- I realized over the last 22 years that it’s been working,” he says. Blair has kept the same French and Italian menu, believing that the continuity is what keeps Le Bistro’s regular customers coming back. The most popular items on the menu include filet mignon, the gnocchi appetizer, and sea bass. Le Bistro serves 5-course meals and French fare a la carte as well.
Blair doesn’t really have a favorite item at Le Bistro, relying on his mood and enjoying food and drinks that may seemingly clash when paired together. For instance, Blair has no problem eating a prime rib steak with a Chardonnay (as long as the white wine has complementary tasting notes).
Blair also worked as a wine broker before Le Bistro, making deals in the Northern California area from Modesto to Redding and also Lake Tahoe.
“I worked for many of California’s leading labels and am a collector of fine wines. French Burgundy is my passion,” he says. Replete of 20-year-old bottles of wine ranging from $50-$2,000, Le Bistro serves fine wines that can be paired with unique dishes.
The most difficult item to make at Le Bistro is the rustic bread that is served free of charge with every meal. Taking at least three days to make, a loaf is baked and set in a Dutch oven. Luckily, Blair’s girlfriend Liesl Panke makes it from scratch along with other Le Bistro treats.
“She bakes for the Shakespeare Festival and makes homemade cheesecakes and chocolate truffles, but the rustic bread is a process,” says Blair.
The Country Club location has always had a history of being French restaurants. Before Jean Pierre Doignon turned it into Le Bistro, renowned chef Jean DuFau opened it as Wild Berries. DuFau also owned Le Petit Pier in Tahoe Vista, now known as Captain Jon’s. DuFau passed away in a car accident in 1996, but Blair says he left a mark in the North Lake Tahoe French dining culinary world. The wild berries wallpaper from his old Incline Village restaurant is still up in Le Bistro today.
When Blair took over Le Bistro’s lease on November 1, he closed the restaurant for a couple of months to do some remodeling, repainting and fixed some appliances.
“I brought a 40-year-old building back to life,” he says. Blair says although it is challenging, he has enjoyed being the owner and head chef because of Le Bistro’s regular customers and great culinary team.
“We received a lot of support from the community- financially, in goodwill and suggestions,” Blair says. “Our philosophy is we try to make people feel comfortable and at home here. I’m excited to be carrying on the tradition and keeping this place alive.”
Le Bistro is open Tues-Thurs 6 p.m. -9 p.m. and Fri-Sat 6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. and closed for vacation April 27-May 16. To make a reservation, call (775) 831-0800.
Kayla Anderson is an Incline Village-based freelance writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.