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Bizou: First-come, first serve for delicious food and a relaxed atmosphere

The friendly and vintage atmosphere makes for a fun, unique way to experience delicious food with French influence.

The charming storefront reflected the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant as we entered.
The charming storefront reflected the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant as we entered.

This is the third in the Life desk’s series of reviews during Charlottesville’s 2023 Restaurant Week — food writers also ate at Mockingbird, The Ridley, Fig, Tavern & Grocery and Maru. 

Bizou offers local Virginian food that is prepared with a French culinary style. As someone with celiac disease, I was impressed when I saw the number of gluten-free and vegetarian options available on the set menu. After deciding that we must try Bizou, my roommate and I set off downtown for a dinner date to catch up after a busy two weeks back at school.

I have been attempting to visit Bizou — located in the Downtown Mall — during my time in Charlottesville, and Charlottesville’s Restaurant Week offered the perfect opportunity in my last semester here. The Restaurant Week menu for Bizou is a set three-course menu with a choice of four dishes for each course. The price is fixed at $45 a person, excluding tax, gratuity and beverages. 

Somewhat of a rarity for restaurants downtown, Bizou does not take reservations, which relieves the stress of trying to find a spot to eat Downtown without a reservation. The charming storefront reflected the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant as we entered. An employee opened the door for us, quickly and effectively giving us the rundown of the Restaurant Week menu while showing us to our seats. 

The interior of the restaurant is an elegant take on a diner. Vintage movie posters decorate the walls above mirrors that encircle the dining area on three of the walls and a chalkboard on the back wall of the room has a map of both Charlottesville and France, representing the cross between the two cultures in Bizou’s culinary story.

The service continued to be pleasant. We were instantly attended to as we ordered a glass of the Somm’s Selection du Jour, a wine selection which changes every night. The wine menu is always offered, Restaurant Week or not. We  ordered all three courses at once, and their delivery was timed to arrive right as we were finishing our previous course. 

For appetizers, I ordered the winter citrus salad and my roommate ordered the burrata. The salad was dressed with a light vinaigrette that coated the lettuce mixture but left the flavors of the salad to be the main character. The fruit, cashews and perfectly ripe avocado made this simple salad flavorful but still light and refreshing. The burrata was creamy, topped with eggplant caponata and served with grilled bread. 

After eating every bite of our appetizers, it was time for the entrees. My roommate and I both ordered the pan-seared salmon, and it was incredible. The salmon was cooked medium and was golden and crispy on top. Placed on top of sliced sweet potatoes and sauteed baby kale, the preparation of this entree was a trio of superfoods. 

All of the aspects of the dish were cooked and seasoned perfectly. The kale was dressed with garlic, but it wasn’t overpowering. The sweet potatoes were soft and brought a sweet accent to compliment the dijon mustard cream. After trying these portions separately, I constructed a perfect bite with all of the flavors, and it was marvelous. 

Needless to say, I also finished my entire entree and barely saved room for dessert, but I am glad I managed to. The coffee creme brulee was heavenly. I had never had any flavor of creme brulee other than the classic vanilla, but the coffee pudding and sugar coating melted in my mouth. My roommate ordered the grilled banana bread, which was soaked in caramel and served with vanilla ice cream. The vanilla ice cream balanced out what could have otherwise been a very rich dessert.

I loved every second of my visit to Bizou. The portions were large enough to fill you up but not too large that you felt like you couldn’t finish your dessert. The wine paired well with all of my dishes, and the rotating selection made it feel like a fun treat. Each dish had simple ingredients that were able to speak for themselves and complemented each other in a way that was unexpected but wonderful to experience. 

The service was delightful and the restaurant was cozy and well-decorated. Unsurprisingly, every table was full as we were leaving. I highly recommend adding Bizou to your list of downtown restaurants to try during your time in Charlottesville.

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