- 2320 E. Osborn Road, Phoenix, AZ, 85016
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People who stumble onto this long-running French bistro for the first time are apt to say, "Wow! I didn't even know this was here!" Hidden behind a walled front patio and ensconced in a converted house, Sophie's Bistro is easy to miss from the street. But it's a hidden gem worth finding, and during happy hour, classic French hors d'oeuvres become downright affordable.
The scene: If you've tired of high ceilings, hard surfaces and the racket they engender, you're going to love this blessedly quiet little place. Wood floors, lace curtains and walls cluttered with art lend warmth and coziness to the dining room at the back of the house. Happy hour is offered up front - either at the small curving bar, in the grouping of leather easy chairs near the entrance or on the secluded patio, softened by greenery.
The food: Sophie's happy-hour menu contains seven selections: four of them drawn from the hors d' oeuvres found on lunch and dinner menus (offered at half price during happy hour), the other three created specifically for the occasion and offered at similarly low prices.
If you love Brie en croute, don't miss it here. Coated with toasted-almond slivers and enveloped in puff pastry, the Brie is baked to melting creaminess, ready for spreading on toasted baguette slices, the pastry encasing it thoroughly browned and crunchy ($5.50). A puddle of port reduction adds raisiny depth.
Crimson rosettes of house-cured smoked salmon arrive with sauce gribiche, a thin, piquant mayonnaise bolstered with hard-cooked egg, capers and gherkins. Toasted baguette slices, dabbed with lemon-caper creme fraiche provide crunchy transportation ($6.50).
Noisettes de boeuf Dijonnaise - choice morsels of beef wrapped in crisp hickory-smoked bacon - arrive surrounded by tiny pools of sharp mustard sauce ($6.50). They're gone in minutes.
The same fate awaits puffy beignets, filled with goat cheese and sweet corn, plated over spoonfuls of herb-freshened leek fondue ($6). Lemon-black-pepper aioli adds similar richness to crisp-edged mini crab cakes ($6). Burgundy-style escargots, ($5.50) broiled in a ramekin with aromatic herbed garlic-butter (no shells, thank goodness) are a bit too salty, but they're soft rather than chewy.
Silky duck-liver pate ($5.50), enriched with Madeira, cognac and lavender honey, is among the best in town. Traditional accompaniment includes toasted baguette slices, whole-grain Dijon and cornichons. Trust me, it will take all the good manners you possess to share.
The drinks: Look for $8 designer cocktails, including a sugar-rimmed Pear Martini, made with Absolut pear vodka and a splash of fresh pear puree. Yum. Or check out the global wine list, which leans toward France and California. Wines by the glass average $9.50.
The lowdown: At first blush, portions seem small, but relax. This food is rich. Three or four plates will fill you up, and you'll have spent $24 (for two) for elegant French food. Expect Wi-Fi in the near future.
Details: Happy hour goes from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Fridays only. Ladies get half-priced drinks during those hours on Tuesdays