It’s not often that a wine merchant exchanges his corkscrew for kitchen tongs, but that’s exactly what Johan Björklund did recently. He opened his Bistro de l’Hôtel in Beaune after two decades of selling fine wine. The 40-seat restaurant is bright and modern. It seems almost out of place in the sometimes rustic Burgundian wine capital.
The food is equally original for Beaune. Björklund has a very light and precise hand with his menu. « My food is a mixture of different cultures, » he says. « The majority is French, but I like Italian and even dishes from my birthplace, Sweden. It’s fun. »
A simple starter of sautéed girolles (chanterelles) was delicate and earthy with a light meaty, almost creamy character. A small portion of hand-chopped raw tuna tossed with soy sauce was equally flavorful and refined.
One main course showed old Burgundy at its best: a simple poulet de Bresse carved at table and served with creamy mashed potatoes. The white meat was firm yet tender, with juicy, meaty flavors; the legs were even more flavorful. All went perfectly with a 2004 Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St.-Jacques ($173). Most of the 500- to 600-label list comes directly from the properties, so prices are good.
Björklund also offers some wines that he buys by the barrel and bottles under his label, Domaine & Selection. « I use the same sources as the big-name négociants, but I buy what I like, » he says. (Prices were converted using the rate at press time, $1US = 0.72 euros.)