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The Gossiping Gourmet: Mastery of French cuisine shows at Bistro Papillote

The OC Mix at SoCo in Costa Mesa is a treasure trove of good eateries. My dining companion and I recently had lunch at Bistro Papillote and felt as if we had been transported to Paris.

This is no surprise since owner and chef Laurent Brazier is also the instructor of La Cuisine Culinary Arts Professional Chef Program. He has worked in some of the finest restaurants in France and owned Picayo in Laguna Beach.

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Bistro Papillote serves breakfast and lunch and, until 6 p.m., crepes, coffee and other beverages. It will be serving complete dinners when its gets a wine license. People in a hurry can pick up a sandwich from the deli counter.

The small, attractive dining room has two chandeliers, a fireplace, an open ceiling, red velvet banquettes, white linens and flowers on the tables. The black and white wallpaper has a Parisian theme. A small outdoor patio offers additional space.

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It's been a long time since I have had a bowl of French onion soup as good as the one I was served at Bistro Papillote. The bowl of broth is smothered with oozing Gruyere cheese on pieces of thick, lightly toasted bread. I did wish that the broth itself was a bit richer.

Escargots are not often featured in restaurants these days, so we were delighted to see them on the menu. They were plump and tender and served out of the shells and bathing in salty garlic butter and shallots. Parsley served as a garnish. A baguette for sopping up all the yummy sauce provided the final touch to this French treat.

Another winner was the country-style duck pate, served with a little salad, cornichons and grain mustard on the side. This was very meaty, with a peppery kick and what that looked like little olives but tasted sweet.

Six crepes, three savory and three sweet, are offered. The crepe au jambon was stuffed with Black Forest ham and Gruyere cheese accented with bits of chopped, salty, cornichons. The crepe itself was thin and lightly browned on the outside. Just perfect.

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The quiche Lorraine was the best I have ever eaten. It had a perfectly crisp crust and bits of ham, bacon and onions all covered in a delicate egg filling that was exceptional. A petite salad came on the side, and the mixed greens were perfectly dressed in a citrusy dressing that provided a delicious accompaniment to the quiche.

We could not resist the potato salad, which is one of the side dishes. It was made with creamy potatoes, chopped shallots and cornichons for saltiness — and not too much mayonnaise. It was yet another excellent dish.

For breakfast, choose from a coddled egg with baby spinach and pomme puree or a breakfast crepe with forest ham, mornay sauce and an egg, sunny side up or scrambled. Croissants, baguettes, orange juice and coffee are the finishing touches.

Sandwiches include pan bagnat with anchovies, red onion, hard-boiled egg, kalamata olives, red peppers, fennel, tomato basil and evoo. The restaurant also has a toasted jambon sandwich with ham, Swiss, butter and cornichons and the muffaletta with salami, mortadella, ham, provolone, tapenade and marinated pickled veggies.

Other crepes include the crepe au poulet with béchamel, mushrooms and Gruyere and the crepe ratatouille. Sweet crepes are the citron with raspberries, sweet creme fraiche and lemon and the crepe rouge with strawberries, raspberries and red currant gelee. Last but not least is the Nutella with blackberries, toasted hazelnut and Nutella. In addition to the potato salad, sides include couscous and roasted vegetables and herbs.

I am eagerly awaiting Laurent's dinner menu, which I'm sure will be as good as everything else he creates.

TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at m_markowitz@cox.net.

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BISTRO PAPILLOTE 

Location: OCMix at SoCo, 3313 Hyland, Costa Mesa

Hours: Breakfast, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.; lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; crepes, coffee and other beverages until 6 p.m.

Prices: $6 to $12

[For the record, July 31, 11:12 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said owner and chef Laurent Brazier is a master sommelier.]

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