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Bistro Monet a classic take on French fare

The Mediterranean striped bass is served with asparagus atop fennel compote buerre blanc infusion. | Sun-Times~Richard A. Chapman

The Mediterranean striped bass is served with asparagus atop a fennel compote in a buerre blanc infusion. | Sun-Times~Richard A. Chapman

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426 N. Park Blvd., Glen Ellyn
(630) 469-4002;

Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 5-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 4-8 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Appetizers, $11-$18; soups, salads, $7-$8; entrees, $19.50-$29; dessert, $6.50-$8

Try: Cassoulet, fresh fish, mixed-greens salad with grilled asparagus and brie.

Tips: Reservations accepted. Parking in lot or street. Full-service bar.

In a bite: French native Michel Saragueta perfected his cooking skills in the country’s Basque region. Now those who visit his Bistro Monet can sample his culinary expertise.

KEY: ★★★★ Extraordinary;
★★★ Excellent; ★★ Very Good;
★ Good; Zero stars: Poor

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Updated: April 26, 2012 12:26PM

Think about cassoulet, the rich yet homey bean-based casserole that originated in the south of France, and more than likely a winter meal comes to mind.

But at the Bistro Monet in Glen Ellyn, where the menu undergoes frequent changes, popular demand has guaranteed a regular spot for this hearty entree no matter what the season. As our waiter informed during a recent visit, “It’s been that way since we opened five years ago.”

While cassoulet may not represent the consummate in French fare, in my book it comes close. And chef-owner Michel Saragueta’s version of the classic is a good one, using duck leg confit, garlic sausage and a lamb chop on a bed of seasoned white great northern beans.

The meal started with an amuse-bouche: chicken liver pate and sliced cornichon on a bite-size slice of crusty bread. Meanwhile, the bread basket pleased with its selection of three types of warm rolls: potato-rosemary, whole grain and sourdough.

For the appetizer, another bistro favorite beckoned. Tender frog legs nestled with escargots were on special and sensational, with a tomato-garlic sauce providing an extra oomph. Further options in the starter column included pan-seared foie gras, mussels Provençal, petite crabcake salad and baby shrimp ragout.

Nothing announces spring like asparagus, and the message comes across loud and clear with the restaurant’s salad of grilled asparagus and brie with julienne apples and mixed greens in an herb vinaigrette dressing.

Besides cassoulet, diners also are likely to encounter such classic entrees as coq au vin, roasted rack of lamb, sauteed pork tenderloin medallions and, naturellement, steak frittes — grilled New York strip with sauteed mushrooms, peppercorn sauce or crumbled roquefort.

There also are non-meat options. One example is a Napoleon with vegetarian grilled seasonal veggies in a tomato-ginger coulis.

Mediterranean striped bass, a special, was my dining partner’s selection, and it brought a smile to her face. The fish was perfectly sauteed and served with asparagus on a bed of fennel compote in a buerre blanc infusion.

Dessert choices may vary. We shared a caramel-filled chocolate tart topped with ganache and a dash of sea salt. Be forewarned: The confection comes with an intense sugar high that to many may be too cloying for comfort.

Thankfully, other options may be at hand, including chocolate mousse, creme brulee with berries, lemon tart, chocolate bread pudding with dark rum creme anglaise sauce and apple tart with ice cream.

Bistro Monet makes the most of its storefront location. There’s a tiny bar off the front entrance leading to the 25-seat Le Petit Monet dining room and adjoining 60-seat main dining room that’s slightly more formal with tables in white-linen topped by butcher paper. Framed copies of Monet, Renoir and other Impressionists hang on oak-paneled walls, adding charm to the decor.

The bistro’s well-trained staff knows its way around the food as well as its short but intriguing international wine list, where most are priced in the $35-$45 range. French producers dominate, though a smattering of U.S. vintners are represented.

Thomas Witom is a local free-lance writer.

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