Joy Bistro in Boone easily sets itself apart from its merchant neighbors with the twinkle of taverna lights strung from the pergola sheltering its cozy terrace. Inside, black wooden shutters cover windows to artfully cloak the busy side street, and mirrors and vintage photographs line the dining room, made rich with dark wood walls.
Stylishly subdued in atmosphere, the bistro saves its punch for the Italo-Franco-American menu by Chef Melissa Claude, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu Institute of San Francisco, who honed her culinary craft in Lake Tahoe. Take the pâte a choux gnocchi: a light crust envelops delicate bite-size pine nut-prosciutto dumplings dressed in basil marinara sauce. The flavorful nuances include hints of nutmeg and cinnamon.
A voluptuous and peppery OZV Lodi Zinfandel from California pairs well with the gnocchi, and proves a fine accompaniment to an entrée of pressed, pan-seared duck. A ruby port reduction balances the richness of the sliced fowl with sweetness and mellow acidity, while grilled fingerling potatoes and a medley of seasonal squash, green beans, and pearl onions provides an unfussy, fresh backdrop. I wisely saved my pomegranate salad of shaved fennel, shallots, and arugula to enjoy with the main course. The brightness of the salad complemented the well-executed classical French dish.
Like many chefs today, Melissa works with local farmers and crafts her menu around their seasonal harvests. The pastas and other dishes change accordingly. “The best part of my day is when I get to walk in the fridge and pick out the feature ingredient—depending on what fish has been flown in or a local farmer dropping off his goodies,” she says.
Melissa and her husband, Gary, both from Kentucky, met during college. After a stint in California, they relocated to Boone to be closer to family. A year and a half ago, they bought the restaurant, then known simply as The Bistro. Gary is the restaurant’s manager as well as a professional jazz musician, and performs at the restaurant with the Andy Page Trio.
The evening my dining companion and I visited the bistro, the Claudes were diners themselves. With family in tow, they sampled chic martinis and signature beverages. A new cocktail lineup includes ingredients such as muddled basil and kiwi. There’s also a selection of ports from Portugal.
The majority of Joy Bistro’s creations fall into classic and comforting categories. But pecan-encrusted salmon over black quinoa and parsnips, veal meatloaf, and escargot elevate a menu that welcomes a traditional Boone dining crowd, as well as those seeking the pleasures of culinary exploration.
115 New Market Centre
D (Closed Mondays); $$$