Bistro des Copains | Occidental

Provencal bistro fare -- rabbit terrine, buckwheat crepes, roasted duck, braised beef in red wine. Think classic French meets olives and tomatoes.

Bistro Des Copains
The tiny Bistro des Copains in Occidental is tops for Provencal bistro fare — rabbit terrine, buckwheat crepes, roasted duck, braised beef in red wine. Think classic French meets olives and tomatoes.
The menu involves a bit of trust for those of us who’ve gotten used to gushing California cuisine menus that explain every carrot and piece of lettuce in painstaking detail. Descriptions like “beef braised in red wine with garlic, onions, olive and carrots” don’t exactly tease the senses. Keep the faith, however.
A simple butter lettuce salad with tarragon mustard vinaigrette looks dull, but bursts with clean, sharp flavor. Assiette de Charcuterie ($12) is a wooden cutting board with a rustic rabbit terrine, seeded mustard, fresh bread and creamy jar of chicken liver mousse that prompted an outburst of such foodie ecstasy that McNibs got a momentary look of panic.
Bistro Des CopainsIt’s ever so thoughtful when neighboring tables get their entrees before you order. A glimpse of the Boeuf en Daube a la Provencale ($22) sealed the deal. The braised beef in its own cast iron pot falls to pieces when you all but look at it, having  spent hours chumming it up with red wine, garlic, onions and olives. The surprise co-star is a dish of mashed potatoes perfumed with herbes de Provence (lavender, rosemary, basil, thyme). A half-roasted Liberty duck ($24) doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but sitting in pool of buttery carrot sauce it’s finger-lickin’ good.
Treat yourself to a cone of pommes frites ($5.25) that come with their own tiny jar of aioli. You’ll be fighting over the mayo dip within seconds.
Dessert was the only let-down of the night. An apple tart with caramel sauce was pretty as a picture, but didn’t quite live up to expectations. The apples weren’t tart enough. The crust wasn’t quite buttery enough. The caramel — well, not quite caramel-y enough. It was good, just not great. Other desserts include a lavender creme brulee, chocolate pot de creme, and fresh berries.

Bistro Des Copains
Beef at Bistro Des Copains

The wine list is priced in line with the menu, featuring plenty of local wines and a $5 corking discount for Sonoma County wines. Skip right to the by-the-glass menu that offers great bistro-style wines from France and California in 3 and 6-ounce pours in glass carafes. With the noise level inside the crowded bistro sometimes reaching ear-splitting levels, it helps dull the hoots and cackles of annoying neighbors.
Heading out to Occidental can be a bit of a commitment, especially if you’re planning to have a glass of wine, but this inconspicuous cafe’s cooking makes any inconvenience well worth the trouble. Especially with a take-out box of chicken liver mousse to look forward to tomorrow.
Bistro des Copains, 3782 Bohemian Hwy, Occidental, 707.874.2436. Dinner Sunday-Thursday 5pm to 9pm, Friday and Saturday until 10pm. It can be hard to get through for reservations outside of dinner hours, so be patient. Same-day seating is usually possible, even on weekends. There’s a small deck for patio dining when nights warm up and Tuesday is Locals’ Night, with free corkage on Sonoma County wines.


3 thoughts on “Bistro des Copains | Occidental

  1. We have been meaning to dine here, but just never made it until Valentine’s Day. It was more than we expected — great food, great service, reasonable prices — really a super nice experience. We will definitely return for more.

  2. We were just there on Tue 2/3 (no Somona corkage nite). We planned to order Boeuf en Daube, but never made it there. The French onion soup is the BEST!
    Started with a petite plat of 3 wild mushroom raviolis. The soup is a meal in itself. Finished off with a little chocolate dessert.
    Yummy soup beyond words and worth the trip to west county. Oh, and excellent service from Ken.

  3. Don Greenberg (08/09/2008 3:40:38 PM)
    Comment: Over the couple of years, we’ve been to Bistro Copain about a dozen times, and have always had a good time and a good meal. We live out by Freestone, so it’s a local joint for us. Last friday (9-5-08) we went back. The chef had changed, and unfortunately for the worse. There were three of us, and the food was all mediocre at best. To start, the bread that came out was dry to the point of inedible. It had been left in a warming oven way too long. One of us, a vegetarian, ordered a carmelized onion/cheese/olive pizza. Somehow, out of that great wood-fired oven, they produced a soggy crust. Don’t know how. My Pork Tenderloin w/ Grain Mustard sauce was dry, flavorless, and, as the old joke goes, the portion was too small. All of the dishes that came out were unmemorable, and, except for the pizza, the portions were shockingly small. This is all such a change from what it used to be, that it really upset us. I like the guys who own the place, and I hope we just hit them on an off night, but I think the problems go deeper than that.
    Posted By: Jo Ann Erickson (06/08/2008 6:28:29 PM)
    Comment: My husband and I ate their last night since there was no corkage for Sonoma County wines and we had an OUTSTANDING dinner. The food was wonderful……..had the charchuterie plate with the chicken liver mousse and rabbit terrine. The terrine needed more seasonings but overall the presentation and flavors were good. Went on to the short ribs which were so tender they did not need a fork. The service was wonderful even though they were bursting at the seams.
    Posted By: Dani (16/07/2008 8:58:27 PM)
    Comment: Ate here a while ago. LOVED it. It’s been about a year, though since I’ve been. Affordable wine list, great menu and great flavors. I will go back when I am in the area.
    Posted By: dluv (01/07/2008 4:18:20 PM)
    Comment: Mushroom man, I think you scared him out of town.
    Posted By: kay (01/07/2008 2:33:55 PM)
    Comment: “the chef called in sick to take his wife to the hospital” Little did we know the hospital was in New Orleans ! We had a nice meal anyhow. The room was too hot for comfort though.
    Posted By: lisamill (01/07/2008 2:17:24 PM)
    Comment: Hmm…well, we managed to eat at Bistro des Copains once while Randy Lewis was there and the food was wonderful. The daube was to die for! That said, we loved BDC before he was there and will certainly be back soon.
    Posted By: Terri Alvillar (01/07/2008 11:45:04 AM)
    Comment: The Bistro has been consistently delicious since its opening. The service is excellent and the hosts are gracious. I almost always order the scallops and they are always perfect. Wonderful desserts and excellent wine list. And you can bring your dog if dining outside! Worth the trip.
    Posted By: heather (01/07/2008 10:47:32 AM)
    Comment: The bistro is delicious! I have not been there since Randy has been in the kitchen but the service and the atmosphere are great. The beef daube is amazing. The owners are great guys who love food and wine and appreciate loyal customers. My husband and I go there about once a month and are about due for a trip! Hopefully Randy will stand up to Melissa’s pedestal.
    Posted By: Susan (01/07/2008 7:32:01 AM)
    Comment: I have not been to this Bistro, and now that I know who is in the kitchen will not make that trip. While I know this is not about Randy Lewis’ past failures, the food, service, and over-all ambiance at both Popina and 707 left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Is Mr. Lewis simply working in the kitchen here, while someone else runs the front of the house?
    Posted By: Lydia (30/06/2008 9:13:44 PM)
    Comment: Rumors have been going around for a couple months that the food at the Bistro has gone down-hill. Now I know why. Popina and 707 were both mediocre.
    Posted By: like to eat (30/06/2008 4:15:35 PM)
    Comment: I ate there once. Food was too salty!
    Posted By: Mushroom Man (30/06/2008 2:10:44 PM)
    Comment: Randy Lewis, chef of the year , please pay me. it was $865 and there was a $10 insufficient funds charge total now $875. You can get my mailing adress from Josh at Syrah , Juston at Kendall Jackson , or any one of a number of fine restaurants in sonoma co.

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