By Kathie Farnell
Photos by Jack M. Purser Jr.
Bistro Bijoux, a restaurant and wine boutique, brings a touch of the south of France to the beaches of northwest Florida. Located in the Village of Baytowne Wharf at the 2400-acre Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, the award-winning Bistro is an intimate oasis serving coastal cuisine with a New Orleans flair.
Diners here can choose a table in the elegant interior (which is designed to resemble a very posh wine cellar, complete with authentic French wine racks) or on the patio, which adjoins the Village’s bustling Events Plaza.
The 3000-square foot restaurant has been honored as Restaurant of the Year by the Northwest Florida Daily News and has also been named Best French Restaurant and Best Wine List by Emerald Coast Magazine.
Executive Chef Jack McGuckin, who has been with the restaurant since it opened in 2002 and who became Executive Chef in 2005, says his menu is constantly evolving. “I’m from the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, right across from New Orleans, and I like to do updated versions of New Orleans cuisine, simple fresh food using seasonal ingredients.”
Although the menu changes, there are some classics which diners demand. “We always have the fried oyster salad. A lot of people say it’s their favorite.”
The salad, which features tempura-fried oysters, baby spinach and chopped eggs with a bacon-balsamic aioli dressing, typifies the Bistro’s fresh approach to Gulf Coast standards. Another classic, shrimp and grits, is updated using jumbo Alabama shrimp paired with roasted poblano cheese grits.
The Bistro’s rustic French roots are evident in the savory French Onion Soup, while its use of local ingredients is spotlighted in the Heirloom Tomato Salad. Entrees on the night we dined there included cobia, a popular local fish, as well as wild Pacific salmon. A Black Skillet filet mignon came partnered with Dauphinoise potatoes and sautéed broccolini.
Dessert here includes a caramelized take on the traditional New Orleans bread pudding, along with homemade ice creams and sorbets.
The restaurant’s cozy Bijoux Lounge is a full-service bar offering specialty cocktails and martinis as well as a knowledgeable selection of wines by the glass. Early diners can take advantage of a special Sunset Menu served from five to six p.m. which features a selection of starters, entrees and desserts with a glass of house wine or well drink for $30. For more information and reservations at Bistro Bijoux, check the website at www.BistroBijouxDestin.com or telephone 850-622-0760
There’s plenty to do after dinner. Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, located between Pensacola and Panama City, Florida, on 7.5 miles of Gulf of Mexico beach and bay front, welcomes visitors with amenities including a marina, free tram service, restaurants, shopping, golf, and special events year-round. The Village of Baytowne Wharf, in the heart of Sandestin, features daily wine tastings, live concerts, and a selection of restaurants, nightclubs and bars. For more information and reservations, visit the website at www.sandestin.com