It’s a long drive to Occidental, and we wouldn’t make a special trip to return to Bistro des Copains. But, we’d be happy to eat there again if we're hungry in this part of West County.
Jack and I were fans of Randy Lewis' (chef at the time of our visit) former Santa Rosa projects (Seven-O-Seven and Popina), where he displayed lots of spark. Somehow he seemed a bit lost at Bistro des Copains; there are seemingly good elements but the cohesion just isn’t there to make the dishes really sing. The food is French with a Mediterranean/Provencal slant. Overall, the restaurant seemed young and inexperienced, and that’s not what we expected from the leadership of a seasoned chef. Since our visit Randy Lewis had left the kitchen, so we'll have to return to when a new chef is named.
The restaurant is a pleasant spot on the main street in Occidental. There are a few tables on the open deck and a small patio around the opposite side of the entrance (you and staff have to walk alway around the outside). The tables inside are paper covered and many are windowside. The kitchen is somewhat open, especially from the bar seating, with the wood oven in the center (and it’s a wood oven which is open on two sides).
What we had to start:
Hors d'Oeuvres Varie:Eggplant mousse, ratatouille and radishes with house-made butter
Eggplant: A crazy amount of mousse. I ate, maybe, a third of it. Good but not distinctive. Ratatouille: Really good and pleasant to eat. I finished it happily. Butter/Radishes: The butter was good. Nothing to crave or crawl there for. Not a great pairing with the radishes which showed better on their own.
Served with some hard warm bread.
The presentation of this course was so awkward to be comical. The eggplant and tomato were served in heavy small Ball jars which were perched atop a small (thin) wooden cutting board and the bread was in a white paper bag straddling the two jars. The waitress dropped the bag on the way to the table and the busboy managed to get the board and jars back to the kitchen, but had to be extremely careful.
Tartine d'Oeuf, Asperge et Morilles Asparagus, fresh morel mushrooms, and fried hen egg on toasted baguette
Very good. The hard bread made it hard to eat. Flavors were good. We would order again.
Epaule d'Agneau: Rose braised shoulder of Sonoma lamb with fava beans, picholine olives and wild fennel
You must really like green olives to enjoy this dish, as olives permeate it thoroughly. The lamb screams for something to cut through the olives and olive oil but there is nothing, no starch at all. I nabbed some of Jack’s mashed potatoes and they were the perfect thing with the lamb. With a foil, this is a really wonderful dish but it's really difficult to eat on it's own. Definitely order a side order, if you order this dish.
Boeuf en Daube en Provencal:Beef braised in red wine with garlic, onions, olives, carrots served in a cocotte
No vegetables visible. The beef was good and well cooked to falling apart. Jack ate every morsel of the beef. The mashed potatoes were quite good.
Pommes Frites:French Fries scented with herbs de Provence and aioli
Crispy. Okay. No need to order again. Aioli was not memorable.
Note on the bread on the table: It was an Epi piece – and it was tough on the “needed to be re-warmed” side rather than the crusty side. It was served with a tapenade. Not a good start.
You may notice that we do not give out a lot of praise. Having been to so many high-quality restaurants, it's pretty tough to impress us.
Most of our reviews are based on just one visit. We neither have the time nor the money (or often, the inclination) to visit most restaurants multiple times. So, please keep in mind that a single-visit review is a snapshot - the restaurant may be "on it" that day - or not. If the meal has a calamity involved (foreign objects in the food, wine poured on us, etc.) we try not to let it shade the overall review.
We pay for the food and beverages; restaurants never comp us. We try to be discreet about taking photos so that the staff doesn't notice/get an idea we're going to do a review. We rarely take notes in the restaurant.
Like the rest of our website, we update our restaurant review pages based upon subsequent visits.