THE MOMENT YOU ARRIVE for dinner at Patrick’s Bakery and Bistro in Wayzata, you know you’re in for a treat, and it’s not just because of the pastry. True, Patrick’s legendary opera cakes, fruit tarts, and mille-feuille beckon from the luminous display cases, but for a moment your senses ignore this glorious sight in favor of one of the most enticing smells a kitchen can offer: the warm, sweet, fragrant perfume of butter foaming in a sauté pan.
The dinner menu at Patrick’s, which opened last November in the former Chez Foley space, is a love letter to butter. On one recent visit, beurre blanc, a classic French sauce made by whisking cold butter into a vinegar/wine/shallot reduction, figured prominently in three dishes on the menu. Even when butter is not the main attraction, its spirit is unapologetically infused into every dish.
Owner Patrick Bernet, a former Cordon Bleu pastry instructor and Hotel Sofitel pastry chef, cooks as artfully as he bakes. Dishes like monkfish poached in bay-leaf-infused milk, served with cranberry beurre blanc, and the Rossini-style filet mignon, with sautéed foie gras and black truffle beurre blanc, are decadent without being cloying, sumptuous without being overbearing. And Bernet manages to sidestep the most common problem of traditional French cooking: individual flavors never get lost in a sea of creaminess.
The food at Patrick’s isn’t fussy; Bernet, though exacting in his pastry preparations, has let down his hair a bit when it comes to the rest of the menu. The saffron risotto, paired with roasted scallops and a creamy lobster sauce, is as dark and earthy in tone as a roasted winter squash—for all the gourmet executions, it tastes like comfort food, French-style. At the same time, Bernet can’t resist adding a little baking to his dishes. One of the standouts is the roasted duck, lacquered with a honey-soy sauce and presented on a dense slice of spongy gingerbread—a sweet, potent counterpoint to the bird’s wild flavor.
The transformation from bakery and lunch service by day to fine dining at night is simple but remarkable. The butcher paper and bright lights give way to white tablecloths and candles. Not including its small bar, Patrick’s has only 40 seats, and the space feels cozy. The open kitchen is busy and lively. As with the best bistros on the Left Bank, you feel as if you’ve been invited to supper in someone’s home.
The personal touch extends to all aspects of the meal. On a recent night, Bernet visited each table to make sure everything was going beautifully. “My arteries thank you,” one patron said to him as she finished her meal. She was lying, of course. Her arteries were certainly not thankful, but her taste buds were. What she was trying to say was, Vive le beurre! MM