Allechant is a terrific restaurant — and in many ways it’s unique or unusual. The restaurant is small, with less than a dozen tables. The seating capacity is limited to less than 30 diners.
Few restaurants, if any, offer fewer entrées (6). It has comfortable seating wherever you sit, either on upholstered chairs or faux leather banquets.
It’s the only restaurant I’m familiar with in Ithaca that has Umage-type pendant lighting. (If you’re not familiar with Umage, it’s a brand that was marketed in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2008. I’m not sure if these are actually Umage but they sure look like it.)
The owner, a congenial fellow, sits down with you, uninvited, at each of the three meals they offer. I know some diners who welcome this approach, however I also know a few who find it intrusive. He wears a beret suggesting a European flair, even though he was born near Buffalo.
Consistent with the beret, the interior suggests a Parisian bistro although the main difference I’ve noticed from when I lived in France, tables in Parisian restaurants and cafes are crowded together while here they’re comfortably separated offering more privacy.
Allechant has an unusual and eclectic wine menu with minimal offerings — only nine total — surprisingly limited for a gourmet restaurant. Unfortunately, it lacks popular basics like a dry Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio among the three whites or a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Cabernet Franc in the small red section.
It doesn’t offer lunch and is closed for dinner Monday through Thursday so you can only get three main meals/week: Friday and Saturday dinner and Sunday brunch.
Now, about the wonderful food:
There are four starters ($15 and $16). I tried the mussels which the owner told me come from Prince Edward Island. There were 21 and they were served in a delicious white wine broth with some crusty bread for dunking.
In the small entrée section, I ordered Local Chicken in a Cognac and 40 Garlic Clove Sauce ($26). There were four boneless, skinless pieces of beautifully cooked chicken in a thick sauce with multiple garlic cloves. I don’t think there were 40 cloves, and they were cooked so long that they had lost their kick. This will actually please some diners who could be deterred by the idea of so much garlic on one plate. The chicken was served on a bed of mashed potatoes that were amazingly creamy with thyme flavoring, however I couldn’t taste any cognac.
Another time I tried Beef Bourguignon ($28) which was prepared in a rich Pinot Noir sauce with wonderfully cooked al dente carrots, mushrooms and onions. The meat was tender, leading me to believe it had been stewed a long time over a low fire.
Two of the other four entrées were vegetarian: a risotto gnocchi ($25) and a risotto ($25) with butternut squash, mascarpone and parmesan.
The main courses had been so well prepared I thought the homemade desserts might be too. I was correct in my thinking: the quality coming out of the kitchen was consistent. The homemade raspberry, cranberry and plum crisp with a crunchy oat topping, served warm with whipped cream ($9) was delicious.
I rarely review breakfast/brunch but since Sunday brunch represents a third of their meals, I thought I should make an exception here. There are nine main courses, ($14–-$16), nothing particularly out of the ordinary, yet that’s half again the number of entrées on the Friday and Saturday dinner menus. We Ithacans do love our Sunday brunches!
The Eggs Benedict were fine, with a thin slice of ham and the expected Hollandaise sauce on sourdough bread accompanied by some diced roasted potatoes. When my server put the plate on the table he immediately noticed, on his own, that the whites of the eggs were jiggling, went to the kitchen, and after a very short time, brought me two properly cooked poached eggs. No problem.
On another occasion, when I ordered Lemon Souffle Pancakes, I received a stack of three with a lovely fresh raspberry topping. I’m also happy to mention they were accompanied by real maple syrup and butter. Not much lemon flavor but a most enjoyable dish.
If I encounter a small menu like this, I expect really well-prepared food as the purchasing agent and cooks can concentrate on the same few items. That is, indeed, what happens at Allechant.
Allechant Bistro is a small, attractive restaurant with an efficient and friendly staff serving expertly prepared, quality food.
Tidbit: Allechant is 903 Hanshaw Rd. and has plenty of parking. It’s open Thursday 5–8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5:30-9 p.m. and 10 a.m.–2 p.m. on Sunday for brunch.