It's difficult to shake the feeling that you've just walked into your grandmother's kitchen when you cross the threshold into Tres Bonne Cuisine. Proprietor Barbara Haines may be standing, hands on hips, among the handful of tables draped in brightly colored homey tablecloths, or she may be seated at one, chatting up regular customers in two languages. Regardless, she's a stern yet friendly face.
Ask her for a food recommendation and she's likely to shrug and say, "You know what you like better than I would," and leave you to the menu with a smile.
On one side of the bright dining room, floor-to-ceiling stark white shelves and cupboards are stocked with dozens of varieties of European candies, chocolates, cookies and even a small collection of toiletries in one corner. On the other side is a large pass-through into a darkened room. Wander into the abyss, turn on the light, and you'll find similar stark white floor-to-ceiling shelves, which are stocked with hundreds of bottles of imported beer and wine.
To navigate the brief menu, you may want to dust off your food dictionary and bone up on your "wursts"--liverwurst, schinkenwurst, bratwurst, weisswurst and knockwurst are all on the menu.
For the sausage shy, Tres Bonne also offers a few familiar deli staples, a Reuben and a French dip among them. And sometimes, even when you think you're in for something out of the ordinary, what turns up is surprisingly ordinary. The pork loin sandwich special ($5.75) was a functional lunch of thinly sliced ham, unevenly sliced tomatoes, grated cheese and salad mix (with iceberg, carrots and cabbage), which rather awkwardly fell out in pieces. A salty, smoky side of soup with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mix of ingredients was, like the sandwich, exactly the kind of hearty, no-frills food grandma would thrust at you for lunch.
A German pot roast sandwich ($5.75) on light rye needed a healthy dose of brown mustard to offer some moisture to the dry pot roast. The sauerkraut, however, was a standout. The cabbage looked precut, but the kraut itself had the taste of homemade. The lightly burgundy-colored cabbage gave off only a hint of vinegar and finished sweetly rather than pungently. For those who may consider asking for their sandwich or sausage sans 'kraut: Don't do it. Tres Bonne's version is a refreshing change from the usual pre-made pucker-inducing stuff.
An order of homemade pierogi ($5.50) was similarly subtle--perhaps too much so, with the clumpy potato and cheese filling offering only the pop of orange, which it unfortunately acquired from the garnish.
Haute cuisine it's not, at Tres Bonne Cuisine. But as the loyal regular crowd will tell you, it's one of the homiest restaurants in the city.
--Rachael Daigle is not always hot for haute.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Tres Bonne Cuisine.