45-20 Skillman Avenue
Sunnyside, NY 11104
(718) 729-0778

When I first moved to Queens, Sunnyside was where I went for cheap gas (a la the Hess station) and drive through fast food. I'm a Wendy's guy, but I occasionally have a Craving. Since then however, I've noticed a startling array of restaurants popping up like wildfire. Thai, Indian, tons of pubs, Nepalese. Bliss Bistro is French and sits a couple of blocks north of busy Queens Boulevard on a quiet, tree-lined street. Bliss is one of a growing number of restaurants that you tend to find mostly in the outer boroughs or in isolated, residential parts of Manhattan: the neighborhood place.

The neighborhood place is, using my definition, a small, upscale, high quality bistro. It has zero interest in being on the restaurant list of some midtown hotel and could care less if some celebrity walked in. Pretention and pomp are nowhere to be found. Instead, the focus is on the food, the customer, and an attentive staff. Lately, I appear subconsciously drawn to the neighborhood place. It's not within my control. I just wind up there. Five Front, Danny Brown, Le Grainne Cafe, Jolie. These are all restaurants that I've reviewed that fit into the category. Soon, I'll be writing about Lounge 47.

After meeting D in Astoria, driving south to Sunnyside took about five minutes. If I had come from Manhattan, I'd have taken the 7 train. We found a parking spot a block away, went inside, and were given a nice, cozy, corner table. It was only about half full, and people were talking casually, but it never got loud. There was something about the place I rarely feel, no matter how neighborhoody the neighborhood place may be: total comfort. I know that's an odd way to put it, but I felt totally relaxed. I'm stealing this from a person on Yelp or MenuPages, but it's just so true. With the piano music playing in the background, Bliss just begs for a fireplace. If only they had one... Even the bathroom. It's like going to the bathroom at your French grandma's house with the exposed brick walls, baskets of potpourri, and old dresser that I didn't think to look inside of. I can't think of a way that they could have made sitting on the can more relaxing without adding a massaging toilet seat.

Anyway, that said, Bliss is not perfect, decor-wise, by any stretch. The furniture is somewhat old-hat. I get this vibe from the tables and chairs that is aggravatingly similar to the vibe I get from an upscale diner I like in Connecticut. It's not bad, just really plain and flairless. The oil paintings on the walls, which I thought were fine, did kind of look like they were borrowed from a Ramada and are haphazardly placed. Sometimes, they're even cockeyed. The thing is, I was here to eat, not gaze at the wall. Only a real prick would care more about the place he's eating in that the food he's eating.

The meal started with the least important part: the bread basket (though some like Speeds will argue different. They are wrong). There were three types, French, raisin, and something I didn't know. The bread was served alongside a plate of small olives which were gone by the time the appetizers arrived.

Speaking of appetizers, I chose the Escargots a L'ail. Of course I did! I'm at a French restaurant! I'm pretty sure it's illegal for me not to order escargot. They were great. Oozing butter and garlic... oh man, if only they weren't so unhealthy I could eat them all day long. Seriously, they were some of the best escargots I've ever had. I introduced D to escargot at French Roast in Chelsea. She was not a fan. And with good reason. The escargot there leaves much to be desired. Bland and lacking in depth. French Roast just happens to be one of Mel Brooks' favorite haunts (I know. I met him there twice.), so Mel, if you're reading this, give Bliss a go instead. Trust me.

Anyway, D ordered the Salad d'Endive, an endive salad with blue cheese, walnuts and pears. Awesome. Escargot is not the largest of appetizers so I found myself picking off D's plate more than I probably should have. Figuring I didn't want to eat on an empty stomach, I decided to order a bottle of wine. Just before our dishes came, the customers at the table next to ours were served. They all ordered the French onion soup. I love French onion soup. I almost cancelled my order for the escargot. I could smell the Gruyere cheese and caramelized onions... next time. I'll have to do an update later.

My entree was the Canard Au Porto et Zestes D'Orange. Your French, however rusty it may be, will recognize this as duck in a port win sauce with orange zest. It was served with a vegetable side of potato, corn, sugar-snap peas, and spinach. Plus the chef tossed in some bacon for good measure. And the measure was damn good. I think the duck could have lost a little weight before being tossed in the oven, but other than that, I practically wiped the plate clean with my bread. D ordered Poulet Roti aux Champignones, a roast chicken dish served au jus with wild mushrooms and truffle mashed potatoes. Delicious. Very, very moist and the mashed potatoes were perfect. I liked it more than my duck, and that says a lot.

At dessert, for the first time ever, I forgot to order coffee. It's never happened before. My only explanation is that either D's a bad influence or we were still having wine. D ordered the Creme Brulee, which for those not in the know, is basically a vanilla custard with a scorched sugar crust on top. For those not in the know, it's basically what heaven would taste like if heaven were a French dessert. Damn fine food. As for me, I wanted something different, so I went with Bliss's Profiteroles. No two recipes for this puffy pastry dish are the same, so no matter who you order them from, you're guaranteed something new. This version was like a sandwich with pastry above and below, vanilla ice cream in the middle, coated in warm chocolate sauce, and topped off with almonds. Very good, but far heavier than it initially appears. A definite must try for all of you.

Bliss is one of the best restaurants I've eaten in recently, and once you look past the artwork, the poor layout and can accept that one of the best French restaurants in town is staffed entirely by South Asians (did I forget to mention that? Yeah, funny. But the staff was great), you'll understand that the only thing that matters is the food. Bliss wasn't crowded, but it deserves to be.

Our meal of two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts, and a bottle of white Bordeaux, plus tax and to came to $110 even.

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