DINING OUT: Chef Bernard Tordjman opens new bistro location in Green Valley
– Bernard Tordjman stands patiently in front of the illuminated sign, posing for classic promotional photos introducing the opening of his new restaurant, Bernard’s Bistro, as evening rush hour traffic moves along Sunset Road.
“A car comes by here every ten seconds,” he says enthusiastically. “A lot of opportunity for new people to discover us.”
Tordjman opened Ma Maison in Denver, Colo., Café Noir in San Pedro, Calif. and was the head chef at Spazio in Sherman Oaks, Calif. before opening the original Bernard’s Bistro at Lake Las Vegas (15 Via Bel Canto) six years ago.
The new second location, 2021 W. Sunset Road, is three times larger than the Lake Las Vegas space and is filled with the chef’s personal collection of memorabilia, particularly relating to the Titanic and Frank Sinatra, subjects of lifelong interest. “All the dining room décor was me,” he explains. “People want to see a story and you have to make every corner look nice.”
I like to see everyone who comes in not only as a customer. I want to adopt them as a friend.
The changing menu features a combination of Italian, French and California cuisine, including varieties of quiche and crepes, open faced bistro sandwiches, burgers, salads and pasta dishes, plus a selection of meat and seafood dinners that includes pistachio salmon in lavender sauce and herb crusted lamb chop in rosemary brandy sauce.
A carefully chosen wine and beer menu compliments the menu items and a special menu for the diet conscious – called Inspired Fresh Diet – is also available.
Cajun fried calamari and Thai roast beef salad are examples of Tordjman’s penchant for twisting expected combinations into unique dishes.
insideHENDERSON sat with Chef Bernard the day before the grand opening and asked him to share his thoughts on the new endeavor.
iH: How much work has it been, preparing for tomorrow’s opening?
TORDJMAN: We’ve been open for a month, a silent opening. We’ve tried to build a good team. The staff is all new. We get along very well. My system is to show them two or three items. They keep preparing the menu item again and again so they will know it 100 percent.
Sometimes what they learn the first day, they will forget it by the third day so you have to repeat it. It’s normal, but we’re almost there.
iH: Will the menu mirror the one at your Lake Las Vegas location?
TORDJMAN: It will be a little bit different because we will have Italian food, which we don’t have (at Lake Las Vegas). There we have French and California cuisine only. And here, too, plus Italian. I like to bring more California mixed with Italian, because California is part of Italian food and Asian food and the French (element) is brings a touch to each dish.
iH: And each dish, both the taste and artistic presentation, is your personal construction?
TORDJMAN: Yes, I’m here 14 hours a day. No days off. If you love what you’re doing, you don’t feel tired because of the excitement and energy. It’s a passion, truly. But when see the result – people sitting here, going to facebook first thing and taking pictures of the food – it feels really good.
iH: And you like to experiment with combined elements from these culinary traditions.
TORDJMAN: Oh yes. For example, tomorrow we are having pizza with foie gras and truffles. I blend my own spices too. That’s a very important part. One blend is called Ras El Hanout, its Moroccan, 24 spices together. It has a wonderful, balanced taste. We use it most on fish.
I’m constantly experimenting. But if I take off a dish right away, people don’t like that. I want people to have time to learn the palette I want to offer. The culture here is different than in Europe. In Europe, you stick to a restaurant. Here, people like one day Italian, one day Brazilian or Asian. Which is good too. I like to see everyone who comes in not only as a customer. I want to adopt them as a friend.
iH: Tell us about your training.
TORDJMAN: I trained with my father in Versailles. And I still remember things I learned from my father.
iH: What brought you to the U.S.?
TORDJMAN: My children were growing up in France with their hearts in America. They wanted to be cowboys. So when they grew up, they came over and I followed them. And I’m very happy. I live by the lake and it’s beautiful there.
iH: At Lake Las Vegas, you have special annual events, the 100th anniversary Titanic menu dinner – also the celebration of Frank Sinatra’s birthday. Will you be hosting them here as well?
TORDJMAN: We will. Every year, Sinatra. And certain Titanic years.
iH: How did the Titanic dinner come about?
TORDJMAN: The back story is my grandfather supplied food and the recipes to the company White Star Line to do the menu on the Titanic. The wine and everything.
iH: What attracted you to Henderson, other than the beauty of the lake?
TORDJMAN: I got the offer to open to restaurant from Thomas and Joseph Keller, because they closed many businesses (in Lake Las Vegas). So I took over, six years ago, had patience, and I believe we’re doing good.
Restaurants in this spot before had a good location but failed because they were missing the magic touch. When you have the magic touch, you don’t have to worry. I signed a ten year contract, (laughing) so that’s it. For this place, I hope to bring a little bit of my past, show the future and feel the present.
Bernard’s Bistro, 2021 W. Sunset Road is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday) 558-3366 – bernardsbistro.com | iH magazine