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Monday, June 16, 2014

What's 'I Fuggin' Love This Place' in French?

Posted by MJ Skegg on Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 9:59 AM

As a dedicated Francophile (at least when it comes to food and drink) it was exciting to see that crepe specialists C’est Si Bon had taken over the old Kir space. It’s actually not so different to Kir—an interesting wine list, a small but thoughtful menu in a relaxing an intimate setting... though there’s less Bowie and more Gainsbourg and Hardy on the sound system.

Run by the husband and wife team of Gabrielle and John Esbeck, C’est Si Bon (named after a 1940’s French song that was popularized by Louis Armstrong and, later, Eartha Kitt. Translation: “It’s so good”) has grown out of their success at working Portland’s farmers’ markets for the past five years (they still attend seven markets around town each week). John runs the wine list, which is European focused and concentrates on small producers—it’s nicely balanced, with some lesser-known regions and varietals to try; prices start at $19 a bottle. There are also rotating beer taps and hard ciders.

Gabrielle—the French half of the couple, from Bordeaux—makes the crepes, which come in savory and sweet varieties. The ham and cheese is far less innocuous than it sounds—the crepe was suitably light, while the saltiness of the Tails & Trotters thinly-sliced ham combined with the creaminess of the béchamel and gruyere result in the ultimate rich-yet-simple bite that pairs perfectly with the crisp greens and red wine. The menu also features salads and small plates including pork liver mousse and a lovely sardine butter (creamy and flavorful, but not over-powering), as well as not-so-small plates of charcuterie.

What really makes this place, though, is the ambiance created by a couple who seem to be doing what they love and trying to make their customers feel at home. As we were sitting at the bar, Gabrielle worried that the crepe plate was too hot for us (it wasn’t) and then when she realized John had restocked the wines and not left her a price list she accepted it with a Gallic shrug and offered us a bargain price for a Cotes de Blayes. For a moment, a little piece of France had come to east Portland.

C'est Si Bon, 22 NE 7th, open for lunch and dinner

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