Bonjour Downtown Indy!

You may be hearing those words more often because Downtown Indy’s first French restaurant opened on Mass Ave last week. Cropichon et Bidibule, an 80-seat bistro in the former Complexions Spa location, features crisp black-and-white décor, an expansive bar and huge windows allowing for lots of natural sunlight.

The restaurant has six crepe drums, or billigs. The chefs train for weeks to master the art of crepe making. In France, there are certifications for it.

The restaurant has six crepe drums, or Billigs. The chefs train for several months to master the art of crepe making. In France, there are certifications for it.

CB quickly proved to me that French food is much more than fancy cheeses, wines and colorful macaroons. The entire menu – from starters to desserts – is perfectly French (think quiche lorraine and delicate crepes topped with lemon creme and raspberry coulis), with almost every item made from scratch in house. Many ingredients and foods are directly imported from France, including the buckwheat flour and the Gruyère, Munster and Tomme de Savoie cheeses.

    It's all about the details for owner Kathy Coueffe, who has her own crepe-making diploma. She worked with her chef for 43 days to train him on the art of using the Billig, a crepe maker.

It’s all about the details for owner Kathy Coueffe, who has her own crepe-making diploma. “We hire our cooks on early to give them practice. It’s a very delicate skill,” says the general manager.

There are formages, charcuteries, crepes and galettes – and that doesn’t even cover dessert. And lucky for us non-meat eating gluten-free diners (okay, me), the restaurant offers accommodations – sans le attitude. The galettes are made with buckwheat flour (naturally gluten-free) and fillings range from cured ham, gruyere and egg in La Galette Complete to cremini mushrooms and crème fresh in La Galette Forestiere.

Presenting the La Galette Saumon made with a buckwheat flour crepe, smoked salmon (or saumon), creme fresh and leeks. Served with a greens mixed and a side of potato sautee.

Presenting the La Galette Saumon: a crepe with smoked salmon (which sounds better if you say “saumon”), creme fresh and leeks and a side of potato sautee.

General Manager Scott Ramsey says the most popular items on the menu have been the duck dish and the beef Bourguignon. It’s all very Julie & Julia (remember the Amy McAdams movie about Julia Child?). In fact, when my server Camille mentioned beef Bourguignon, I instantly remarked, “oh, the famous Julia Child recipe?”

According to General Manager Scott Ramsey, the aim is to offer approachable French food. Many of the dishes are priced in the $8-$15 range. “It’s uncomplicated. We try to keep it bistro-style,” Ramsey said.

I tried a galette made from buckwheat flour that is imported from France.

My La Galette Saumon. All the galettes are made from buckwheat flour that is imported from France.

For a sweet treat, CB serves crème vanilla au caramel beurre sale (or classic crème with caramel sauce) and tarte bourdaloue (baked pear with almond filled tart garnished with pears), among others. Funny how dessert seems instantly less guilty when you are asking for a bowl of crème glacee or mousse au chocolat. So elegant!

A cozy fireplace position behind the bar will offer the perfect respite when paired with live music, great wine and nutella-filled crepes.

A cozy booth by the fireplace offers the perfect respite when paired with French wine and nutella-filled crepes.

Owners Stephane and Kathy Coueffe, both from France, are also classically-trained musicians. Expect live music on weekends, along with cooking classes on Sunday afternoon. The first crepe making class will likely launch next month and will include wine pairings. Even if you cannot make a crepe as beautiful as Kathy, the batter will surely taste the same. And there will be wine. Lots of French wine.

“It’s a great time for Mass Ave to have French restaurant,” Scott says. This is a bistro – it’s like a French gastropub. Everything is approachable. I feel it fits Mass Ave perfectly.”

Note: Many new Downtown hotspots do not take reservations. This restaurant does. Give them a call: (317) 737-2772.