Madame Claude Bis Walk down curtained Steps to a Hideaway of fine Wine & French Comfort Food
By Sally Deering
Alice Troietto and Mattias Gustafsson are familiar faces to the Downtown Jersey City crowd; their Madame Claude Café on 4th & Brunswick brought French cuisine to the urban dwellers who wanted something more than the usual neighborhood fare. Madame Claude Café has since closed its doors and reopened a bigger and better version of herself just down the street from her old digs.
Meet the new Madame Claude Bis just a few steps off Newark Avenue and down a small stairway where a red curtain beckons hungry city dwellers. Madame Claude Bis’s basement bistro casts low lighting and warm wooden tables and chairs that create a warm and friendly atmosphere. Where Madame Claude’s Café seated 32, the Bis (named for how Paris streets are numbered and not “bistro”) seats 80. The Bis also has a wine list and cocktails, unlike the Café’s BYOB policy. And on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 7:30 pm, Gustafsson transforms from restaurateur to balladeer when he and his band, Manouche Bag take to the stage to play gypsy jazz a la legendary Jhengo Reinhardt. The songs are in French and Gustafsson writes most of the band’s repertoire.
Gustafsson and Troietto, who designed the interior, want Madame Claude’s diners to feel comfortable and relaxed, the same feeling diners get in a neighborhood bistro in Paris, Gustafsson says, where the food comes from regional farms. “The restaurants in Paris; nothing comes from Paris.”
Madame Claude’s menu, designed by Gustafsson and Troietto is meant to give diners a taste of the French regions, like Duck Confit from the Southwest of France; Bouillabaisse that hails from the Southeast, a Pork Chop dish inherent of Normandy; and so on.
“Everything is regional,” Gustafsson says. “A typical French bistro will take from different regions.”
Madame Claude’s menu offers Salades, Plats Principaux, Les Assiettes (appetizers) Les Galettes (crepes), and Les Moules Frites (mussels). A sampling from the salad menu includes La Salade de Lentilles aux Pignons (lentil salad with apples and roasted pine nuts); La Salade d’Endives aux Betteraves (endive salad with beets and goat cheese or blue cheese). ($9-$11)
From Plats Principaux, there are La Steak Frites (Hanger steak with pepper, shallot or Roquefort sauce); Filet de Saumo au Basilic (sautéed salmon filet served with a basil sauce and vegetables Julienne). ($23-$24)
The Assiettes feature Le Plateau de Fromage (assortment of cheese with apple and grapes); Les Escargots (snails with garlic, butter and parsley sauce); and Brandade Pannee (Cod Fish Cake served with a Chipotle Sauce. $9-$12)
Les Galettes (crepes) include La Vegetarienne (ratatouille and goat cheese) La Sud Ouest (smoked duck breast, apple and caramelized onions); and La Cochonaille (garlic sausage, Swiss cheese with a fried egg on top. ($15-$16)
There are Les Crepes Sucrees (sweet crepes) on the dessert menu, too, like La Bronzee (chocolate, vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce); La Choco Bannane (chocolate with bananas); and La Normande (baked apple and caramel sauce). ($9)
The menu will be updated soon, Gustafsson says, not drastically, though.
“My wife and I designed the menu,” Gustafsson says. “We know what we like, and we can find all the ingredients we need right here. We do specials like Coq au Vin (chicken in red wine), Pot au Feu (beef with veggies) and Cassoulet (casserole). Maybe some of the ingredients aren’t exactly as we would have them in France, but they’re doable. The system of distribution in the Tri-State area is great.”
The restaurant is low-key and relaxed; and so are the owners. Gustafsson doesn’t seem flustered at all, juggling a restaurant and performing as a singer/songwriter and musician. He actually seems like he’s having a ball.
“We perform Tuesday and Thursday nights,” Gustafsson says, “all my original songs and old French songs. Every time we play, there’s good energy in the place. A lot of people say it reminds them of Paris.”
If you go
Madame Claude’s Bis
390 4th St, JC
Hours: Tues-Wed, 5 pm-11 pm
Thurs-Fri, 5 pm-12 am
Sat, 5 pm-12 am; Brunch, 10 am-4 pm
Sun, 10 am-4 pm; Brunch, 10 am-4 pm