“I don’t want to do French onion soup or escargot,” Serpa told Boston.com at the time. “I kind of want to make it a little fresher, more modern.”
True to his word, there is no French onion soup on the menu at Grand Tour, a small, light-filled bistro debuting on Newbury Street on Wednesday. There is escargot, but with a twist: Executive chef David Nevins devised an escargot pie featuring cauliflower purée and bacon lardon.
“It’s fun to try to hit that balance where it’s like, OK, I still feel like I’m at a French bistro, but I’m eating this thing that’s like, this doesn’t make any sense,” said Serpa.
A large portion of the menu is composed of sharable bites, from chicken liver mousse and crispy sweetbreads to steak tartare and ocean trout crudo. Diners can customize their own cheese and charcuterie plates, and a hearty vegetables section lists dishes like carrots with mustard aioli, caraway chantilly, honey, and sherry; mushrooms with béarnaise and crispy ham; and leeks with hazelnuts and vinaigrette. Entrées have a decidedly French flair: rabbit with roasted root vegetables; mussels with leeks, fennel, and crème fraîche; and venison with pinot-braised red cabbage. Not one, but two steak frites are on the menu as well, including an eight-ounce prime bavette and a 14-ounce prime ribeye. Like Select Oyster Bar, there is no dessert or coffee — mostly, Serpa explained, because there just isn’t enough room to execute either.
What there is plenty of is wine — just not the kind of wine you might expect at a French bistro. Serpa has curated a list that celebrates American — primarily Californian — wines by the glass.
“In this area, with all the tourist traffic, conventions, and out-of-towners, people ask for [American wine] all the time at Select,” Serpa said. “You know, if you’re from Paris and you’re here for an event or work or whatever, you don’t want to drink Burgundy. You’re going to want to drink wine from the United States. If I’m in France, the last thing I want to drink is American wine.”
Despite not following a particular trend in the curation of Grand Bistro’s wine list, Serpa said they sourced wine from both classic producers and more modern producers that are making natural wine, or wine with minimal intervention. Most of all, he wants the list to be accessible to anyone.
“That’s kind of a bistro thing,” he said. “You need to be the everyman restaurant, you need to cater to everyone. You can come in and be in Lululemon after spin class, or you can be in a suit, or you can be in a hoodie.”
In addition to pinot noir from Santa Barbara, Calif., riesling from Finger Lakes, N.Y., and zinfandel from Sonoma, Calif., a small, New England-focused beer list showcases a number of styles: a pale ale from Peak Organic, a sour from Backlash, a stout from Two Roads, and a lager from Castle Island, among others. To honor Serpa’s love of cycling, one dollar from every draft beer will benefit Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry, a fundraising event featuring members of the culinary community who are working to end childhood hunger. Serpa has been a part of the event for the past three years and plans to participate again this year.
“This is my charity of choice,” he explained. “With restaurants it’s hard, because everybody asks you, Come do this event, come do this charity thing. So my thing is: This is the only one I do, I’m going to do as much as I can for No Kid Hungry, and Chefs Cycle is the avenue I’m going to do it.”
His love of cycling translates to Grand Tour’s design elements as well. A commissioned piece of artwork by Italian artist Ale Giorgini, who also has a piece displayed at Select Oyster Bar, depicts some of cycling’s greats congregating around a wine barrel. A bicycle hangs on a wall in a back stairwell, and a friend of Serpa’s contributed a simple bicycle painting mounted above the front entrance.
The bistro is a distinct departure from the space’s former occupants, a dark, cramped Smoothie King at garden level and an eyebrow threading and nail salon on the upstairs level. Local design firm STA Design transformed the lower level into a light-filled dining room and bar with quartz tabletops, bistro chairs, white-washed brick, Japanese-style flamed wood, and a spiral staircase leading to a small dining room upstairs, where a 15-seat space can be used for private dining or parties. A 12-seat patio will open in the spring once the weather warms up.
Grand Tour opens for lunch and dinner on Wednesday; take a look at the food and drink menus below:
Grand Tour; 314 Newbury St., Boston; Sundays–Thursdays from 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m.; grandtourboston.com