Crepe Du Jour remains a French charmer

Eats

January 18, 2001|By David Richardson and Cameron Barry | David Richardson and Cameron Barry,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IN CREPE Du Jour, owner/chef Mustapha Snoussi and his wife, Donna Morris-Snoussi, have created a little piece of France that's so appealing even Anne Tyler's Accidental Tourist would be at ease.

Leaving aside the crepes suzettes, salade nicoise, croques monsieurs, assiettes des crudites and other well-made French cafe specialties, they have managed, through charm and creativity, to combine many of the most adorable aspects of French culture and exclude all of those with which Americans tend to lose patience.

Formerly located in the Village of Cross Keys courtyard, the restaurant moved indoors to this Mount Washington spot in November, bringing with it a throng of faithful customers, including many classes of enthusiastic students of French from local schools.

The new digs are simply decorated in cheerful colors that might have jumped from Claude Monet's dining room: bright squash and pumpkin. And while the restaurant can be crowded, it also feels relaxed and intimate.

The friendly atmosphere may well be the result of Mustapha Snoussi's presence in the kitchen area, which overlooks the dining room. From his station behind two crepe-making irons, he chats up his patrons while he swirls the batter or flips the finished crepes onto plates.

In a rakish blue beret and chef's apron over a turtleneck, he looks every inch the classic cafe proprietor. His charming presence extends to engaging conversations in French, which he will naturally and casually translate if you look at all alarmed.

OK, tres charmant, but how's the chow? Simple, light and good. We tried several sweet crepes, one savory crepe from a list of a dozen, a salad and a special. The salad was a fine, large combination of very fresh mesclun, corn and hearts of palm with plenty of medium shrimp topped with a fine vinaigrette. An accompanying ramekin of mayonnaise proved particularly popular at our table for use on the shrimp, which was a little flavorless.

For a main-course crepe, we chose "la Notre Dame." With a filling of ham, eggs and Gruyere, it was a paragon of savory crepes: light, fresh and full of favorite flavor notes.

Croque monsieur, a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich straight from the heart of French cafe cuisine, made a crunchy, rich and warming entree.

Afterward, we concentrated our full gustatory powers on dessert in the form of crepes: suzette, St. Germain and plain with orange marmalade. All were delicious and light. The St. Germain was the grandest, with its caramelized apple slices and ice cream, but the crepe suzette, awash in butter, citrus zest and Grand Marnier, was like delicious bites of France. The marmalade crepe was simple, sweet and buttery.

Crepe Du Jour currently serves its crepe-and-sandwich menu for breakfast, lunch and supper, but the Snoussis are slowly, carefully expanding their repertoire. This year, they will likely add more complex, noncrepe dinners. If the bowl of New Year's lobster bisque that M. Snoussi kindly ladled up for us to sample is a sign of things to come, the new dishes will be delightful.

Also, look for outdoor seating in the front of the restaurant and on a back deck as soon as the weather cooperates.

Crepe Du Jour

1609 Sulgrave Ave.

410-542-9000

Hours: Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Credit cards: All major cards

Prices: Appetizers: $3 to $7.50; entrees $4.50 to $7.50.

Food:***

Service: **1/2

Atmosphere: ***1/2

Ratings system: Outstanding ****; Good ***; Fair/uneven **; Poor *

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