The tines perked up a bit when the Undercover Fork heard that Chef Renaud Gonthier had opened up a spot to eat in Montecito. You see, the Fork once loved popping into the Renaud’s shop across the Arlington, for a cappuccino and fruit tart, or breakfast of eggs and toast. But the menu’s been tweaked, and service has deteriorated lately, so perhaps this new Montecito spot will be a Renaud’s renaissance?
This new French-inspired bistro benefits from the attention around one of Montecito’s newest construction projects, the reimagined building along the 1100 block of Coast Village Road that once housed Giovanni’s Pizza. Renaud’s pops to the passerby thanks to the bevy of red umbrellas that take up the structure’s southwest corner, right next to a buzzy barber shop.
The Fork prefers tableside service but didn’t mind waiting in the line to place a lunch order for two. The Spoon nabbed a table, in the meantime. It would make more sense to have extra menus by the door, to allow those waiting to peruse the options; there was menu access only at the counter, next to the register, so decision-making had to happen quickly.
The menu is streamlined and basic enough for a French café: three salads, five sandwiches and a handful of specials.
The Renaud’s Salad ($12.10 half order, $15.40 full) comes with organic mixed greens, oven-roasted chicken, tomatoes, Gruyere cheese and hardboiled egg in a Dijon mustard dressing. There’s a straightforward Organic Mixed Green Salad ($9.35) too. The Fork, with a penchant for all thing s Mediterranean, ordered the Caprese Salad ($9.35/$12.65) and liked the soft Mozzarella cheese and basil oil drizzled on top a lot. The tomatoes were sliced too thick and unripe, though – a disappointment.
Sandwiches include classics like a Croque Monsieur ($11.50) and Croque Madame ($13.75), a Grilled Cheese with Gruyere and Swiss and caramelized onions ($9.90) and a Tri-Tip ($13.75). The Fork’s date savored the contents of the Oven Roasted Chicken & Bacon sandwich: caramelized onions, spinach and melted aged Gruyere cheese, with white meat chicken and crispy bacon. The baguette was overly toasted – too hard. Too bad.
Interesting specialties, should we return some day: a traditional French Onion Soup ($13), Quiche Lorraine ($10.75) and Ratatouille Tartine ($13.20).
Beverages include a short but varied list of local and French wines, beers and ciders.
The décor inside is clean and open, with seating at the bar counter and a few two- and four-seaters by the windows. The Fork enjoyed peeping through the window in the back, where a handful of cooks work the day away. Clearly, it’s on the homemade sweet treats that Monsieur Renaud hangs his chef’s hat – they are tasty! Dinner’s served here, too – a first for a Renaud’s outlet. There’s some work to be done, though, if this location is going to compete with nearby foodie spots and if it’s going to have customers saying, “Ooh, la, la!”
Renaud’s Patisseries & Bistro
Overall stars: 2
1187 Coast Village Rd., #7, Montecito
Bistro: 7 days, 7am-3pm
Dinner: Tue.-Sun. 5:30-8:30pm