Many of my friends have mentioned that Hick & Frog Bistro in downtown Longview has great food, so I decided to eat there with my wife. We stopped by for a late lunch.
I have always been hesitant to go there because I do love French food, but I was afraid I would be disappointed.
I must tell you that I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the restaurant. It has a nice décor and setting. I felt when I entered it that I was in a bistro. The tables were nice and the restaurant even had beer and wine, a must for a French restaurant or bistro.
The menu is written out on a chalkboard. Diners order, sit down and wait for their meals. There were quite a few of the tables filled even though we did not eat during prime lunchtime.
We started with a creamed vegetable soup, which was delicious. We then ordered a tuna fish sandwich. I loved the presentation as a deconstructed open-face sandwich, with fresh tomatoes, greens and sliced hard-boiled egg on top, not mixed in the tuna fish. Sandwiches often are hidden by two large pieces of bread. That’s not the case at Hick & Frog, where you are served generous portions and the fact that it is open-face means only one slice of bread. It’s perfect for people who are watching their carbs.
And yes, as always, I had dessert, and yes, they had Crème Brulee. I was thrilled because, as I have always said, I judge a restaurant by its Crème Brulee. When I ordered it, I was told it is one of the best, so the challenge had been made. Again, to my surprise, the taste and, more importantly, texture of the Crème Brulee was delicious, creamy, light and with just the right amount of caramelized sugar on top.
Where I did find fault is in the presentation. I always like to see some fresh fruit on the top of the Crème Brulee to add color and taste. The restaurant did serve a Madeleine with it, which speaks much to the detail the chef used to follow French traditions, but it did not give much color to the presentation. You don’t see Madeleines served very often. They are small sponge cakes with a distinctive shell-like shape acquired from being baked in pans with shell-shaped depressions. Madeleines first appeared in France in the middle of the 18th century.
The wait staff was attentive, yet they did leave us alone to talk. To their credit there was one thing they did that not many restaurants do these days. The wait staff at Hick & Frog actually removed our dishes between each course. So many chain restaurants just push aside your plate to add the next course. It was very refreshing to see this quality service at Hick & Frog.
If there were any disappointments, it would be in two areas.
First, I did not like that the dinner menu is the same as the lunch menu. Second, I would have liked to have seen more French dishes on the menu. The restaurant does have the Croque-Monsieur, which is a classic French grilled cheese sandwich that’s a mainstay of Parisian cafes, bars and bistros, but it could also have maybe a nice pate’ or a great Bouillabaisse for lunch.
For dinner it would be nice to see some of the great French entrees, such as Duck confit, Cog au vin, Sole meuniere and Beef Bourguignon, a dish made famous in America by Julia Child, an American chef, author and television personality.
We do not have a great dinner place with classic French food in Longview or East Texas, and we need one. I can see the talent in owner and chef Anne Kelt, a native of France, and I am confident she could create such dishes as I have mentioned above.
Her husband, James Kelt, is her business partner and helps run Hick & Frog. He gave the restaurant its name, since he is the hick and she is the frog — a term given to the French by the British. He greets guests at the front of the restaurant.
I rate the Hick and Frog as an A-. I must explain the minus is NOT because there was anything lacking in the food or service. They were excellent. It is more about the need for more French dishes and a different menu at night, or at least on Friday and Saturday evenings. It could become a very intimate and romantic place to go for an evening dinner.