According to Christian Joly, owner of Northwest Broadway’s French bistro Chez Joly, if you sit in the 50-plus-seat chandeliered dining room and look toward the U.S. Customs House across the street, you’ll feel like you’re on rue Royale in Paris. Joly should know: From 1999 to 2006 he and his wife, Chez Joly co-owner Annette Marie Joly, divided their time between Portland and Paris.
The Jolys aren’t new to Portland’s food scene. In addition to Chez Joly, open since last October, they own Capers Cafe et le Bar in Portland International Airport and Capers Catering Company. Although both Christian and Annette Marie love to cook, and many of the bistro’s dishes hail from family recipes, Kirk Bustamante from New Orleans is Chez Joly’s chef.
The food is French-influenced but hybridized. Mussels à la Joly ($14 lunch and dinner), served with a cone of hand-cut pommes frites, arrive in a slightly sweet garlic white-wine broth with diced tomatoes, white mushrooms and a sliced baguette lining the bottom of the bowl. The lamb Napoleon burger ($9.50), served with pommes frites, is fantastique. Moist, garlicky meat is topped with frisée, slivers of red onion and tomato, and served on an eggy Pearl Bakery bun slathered with tart aioli. And there are crêpes ($8.50) and salade niçoise ($11.95) on order at brunch every Sunday.
So far, the earnest, family-run business isn’t a special destination. But the Jolys offer good, solid food three meals a day at reasonable prices in an area that’s still underserved, foodwise.
Chez Joly has a nicely rounded wine list, full bar and plenty of traditional French desserts, such as chocolate soufflé ($5.75), crêpes Suzette ($5.75) and an apple-and-chèvre galette ($5.75). When asked what the Jolys envisioned for their Portland bistro, Christian replies: “A classic Parisian 1920s art deco bistro—old chandeliers, banquettes, old wood and wonderful color.” That pretty much sums up Chez Joly, with some escargots, beef bourguignon and coq au vin to boot.Order this: At lunch rush you can smell the super-juicy, slightly spicy lamb burgers ($9.50) sizzling in the kitchen before you step inside. Best deal: The house mussels ($14) with hand-cut russets and a basket of bread for sopping easily feeds two. I’ll pass: CJ’s take on céleri rémoulade ($5.75) is too wet and sweet, while a recent cream of artichoke soup ($3.50-$4.95) had enough black pepper to jolt even a pack-a-day palate.