By Dr. Ink
Setting foot inside Et Voila French Bistro is like being catapulted into some cozy restaurant on a Parisian cobblestone street. The dark wood paneling, the hexagon floor tiles, and the imposing clock with Roman numerals hanging above the bar sends you far outside of San Diego faster than you can toss a fish taco into the air.
And that’s a good thing if you’re looking for a refined yet casual change of pace from the hipster hangouts dominating this locale. Et Voila relies strictly on its French roots and high epicurean standards to keep customers coming back, with no obvious theme required.
Previously, I had been here a couple times for dinner. Happy hour, offered only at the bar, is no less stellar. Aside from saving a chunk of change on well-executed cocktails and scrumptious noshes, you get to cozily interact with customers who are more interested in conversing than they are in endlessly thumbing their phones.
At least that was the case in two recent visits I made during happy hour, during one of which I found myself chatting with a trio of middle-age customers on everything from travel and music to San Diego’s dockless bicycles and the breathtaking “ravioli aux champignons” two of us were eating.
The mushroom-stuffed purses, served in a port sauce, are one of the bistro’s signature dishes. You’d be remiss to overlook them, especially when they’re a few bucks cheaper during happy hour.
On that visit, I paired the ravioli with a $5 glass of Beaujolais — an early wine with a surprising, mature flavor — that offered a little more structure than the young, fruity profile I expected.
What is probably the tastiest cocktail I’ve had in a year materialized on my most recent visit in the form of a “Riviera Mule.” It’s constructed with Skyy Vodka, house-made ginger syrup, fresh passion fruit puree and lime juice.
Rarely do I encounter a cocktail that isn’t overly cloying or too acidic. This had everything in between those two extremes going for it.
Then came my $2 baguette with a few fancy balls of softened butter. According to the bartender, the loaves are shipped down from a bakery in Vancouver, Canada, then baked to order. The 5-inch hunk of bread was wonderfully crusty on the outside, and airy and yeasty inside — exactly like what you’d score in any bistro or bakery in France.
Other drinks and dishes listed on the happy hour menu include 1664 French pale lager on draft; a “tequila mockingbird” made with orange curacao and fruit purees; a cucumber gimlet; lamb sliders with harissa aioli; escargots in garlic and parsley butter; and phyllo pastry stuffed with Reblochon cheese.
Regardless what you consume here, nothing disappoints.