Moulin Recreates a French Bistro in Newport

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By Kirsti Correa | Photos by Jody Tiongco

 

There are a few things you won’t find at Moulin, which owner Laurent Vrignaud describes as “by the French for the French.” It’s not intended to be a fusion eatery that integrates American cooking styles with traditional French practices: “There [are] no avocados or Diet Coke,” he explains.

What you will find is a decidedly authentic space. “Every time you come, you can sit in a different world,” Vrignaud adds, explaining that the outside patio evokes a streetside terrace in Paris while the inside is divided into areas for the bistro, epicerie (market), deli, bakery and cafe.

 

Vrignaud, who spent the first 18 years of his life in France, collected all the furnishings and wall decorations during trips back home. Far from kitsch, metal signs and posters recall brands like Lefévre-Utile biscuits and Orangina (a citrus beverage also stocked in the market side of the store); whimsical relics are also scattered throughout, such as a Michelin Man sitting above the exhibition-style bakery.

This September, Moulin is further recreating Montmartre—where Vrignaud grew up—in Newport during an art and music fair. Taking place Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., guests can peruse artwork and listen to musicians playing French accordions.

Still, nothing transports diners to France more than sustenance.

Starting at 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. on Sunday, diners can opt for omelets and other “petit dejeuner” (breakfast) items like tartines and “pain perdu” (French toast). Lunchtime is a great time to come, with dishes ranging from crepes to salads—the “croques,” however, are a must. The classic “le croque monsieur” is a grilled sandwich with two pieces of freshly baked bread, ham cured in-house and Emmental cheese topped with bechamel sauce. It’s served alongside a salad, but another accompaniment to try is the “soupe a l’oignon” (onion soup).

“Everything we sell is what I like to eat,” Vrignaud says. For a big appetite, he’s quick to recommend “le poulet frites,” a half roasted chicken paired with a green salad and a side of hand-cut “pommes frites” (fries). The chicken is slow-cooked in a rotisserie oven imported from France that crisps the outside but leaves the inside perfectly moist.

Vrignaud says that all of the bistro dishes are best enjoyed as sit-down meals to get the complete experience, but the rotisserie chicken is available to go, along with a cream-filled brioche named after French actress Brigitte Bardot.

Those in a rush can also stop by the deli for side dishes and cheeses or the bakery in the corner of the eatery, where baguettes, croissants, eclairs, tarts and other treats are made in-house daily. And for the home cooks, the epicerie side stocks an array of imported ingredients. As Vrignaud says, “It’s a trip to France without the jet lag and the price tag.”

 

1000 N. Bristol St.; 949-474-0920; moulinbistro.com

 

 

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