The American view of the French cuisine is decidedly formal. White table cloth, waiters with accents, think Daniel, Le Cirque, or Pixar’s Ratatouille.
Venture over the pound, and you’ll see that French culinary fare is quite a contrast to the stodgy image (Not that this type of stodgy is bad, it can be very, very good in many cases). Beautiful street side cafes adorn the boulevards from the big cities to charming country towns.
French food over the East River is also quite different from Manhattan. Away from the bustle of Manhattan, Tournesol eases on the formality and presents itself as a proper French bistro. In fact it probably had to. When Tournesol opened in Long Island City over 7 years ago, there were far fewer glitzy condominiums and Manhattan transplants to feed.
Fast forward a few years, almost everyone in LIC knows about the little French restaurant with the tiny Fiat at the door.
For Brunch, this casual eatery is even more casual. The menu is also quite predictable. With such familiar names, it’s all about execution.
First up was a bowl of French Onion Soup served in a heavy brown bowl. (By the way, somehow French Onion Soup reminded me of those lion head bowls, anyone know the history of that design? chime in below please). The soup was lighter than I had expected, and not as cheesy. I’ve come to expect heavy handed seasoning in Long Island City, yet this soup felt slightly disappointing.
Crab salad arguably isn’t very French, but one cannot turn down the flavor combination of crab, avocado and tomatoes. Topped off with greens, this was a pleasant and refreshing dish.
Steak frites is something I often order with trepidation. Our taste buds and jaw muscles have long been pampered by that perfect 28-day dry aged steak, a casual French bistro oftentimes cannot satisfy. The skirt steak had decent flavor, but proved to be a bit chewy. Not a bad deal at $14.50, in fact I dare not try to find a lower price in Manhattan. Maybe I’m just difficult to please when it comes to steak, you can call us spoiled.
Going to Tournesol is like having real French Champagne after many bottles of méthode champenoise. You know it’s the real deal, though that doesn’t necessarily mean its better than American variants on the French culinary style. The price and ambiance is very much a casual neighborhood restaurant, and it’s a fine one, though it won’t quite make it big across the river.
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5012 Vernon Blvd
Long Island City, NY 11101