We found a slice of Europe in the most unexpected place — a strip mall in Parkland contains a culinary gem that even French foodies would fawn over: Citron European Bistro.
Just down the street from the Frugals on 108th Street South, distinguishable only by the overly cheery sign on an otherwise blank industrial building, this restaurant is one that you’ve likely driven past without knowing the mouthwatering eats within. But one step inside the bistro, and you’ll realize you’ve found something special.
Time seems to slow. A romantic, instrumental ballad fills the restaurant — one that you might find on the soundtrack of a foreign art film — and it seems only appropriate to relax into a seat with a full glass of wine. The brightly colored walls welcome you, as does the owner and head chef, Christophe Durliat, as soon as he approaches you. His thick French accent and vivacious attitude inform you that you’re in for an authentic European evening.
Durliat’s hometown is situated in the Alsace region of France, bordering both Germany and Switzerland. The culinary influences from neighboring countries made quite an impression on him when he was a budding chef. Durliat began studying cuisine at age 14, but he was an active participant in the kitchen from an even younger age. His mother was a pastry teacher who dabbled in catering gigs. Durliat was a dedicated assistant until he was experienced enough to create dishes and build a clientele of his own.
By the time he had completed culinary school and served a mandatory year in the military, Durliat was ready to expand his international palate tenfold. He found cooking jobs that took him all over the world: Guam, Australia, China, Japan, and South Korea — where he first met his wife of 20 years, Cho Soo Yong — to name a few.
By the time Durliat was ready to settle down, he had more than enough inspiration to start a business, a longtime goal of the chef and his wife. So, the couple and their son made a home in DuPont, and began to work on bringing Citron into the culinary world.
The cuisine draws primarily on the foundational influences of Durliat’s youth: strong French and German flavors. But his international influences become evident in his ingredient choices and technique, and it attracts customers of varying cultural heritages that recognize flavors of home.
We recommend starting off your meal with a salade de betteraves aux aromates (in English, a beetroot salad). The green salad is topped with an abundant portion of tart beets and apples, along with a sprinkling of creamy goat cheese. The combination creates a unique balance, only enhanced by the smooth vinaigrette and chopped pecans. On a particularly frigid winter day, swap out the salad for a bowl of soupe a l’oignon gratine (French onion soup). You’ll be able to tell instantly that this dish required years of practice to master. The tanginess of the onion dissipates into the warm broth, and a smokiness from the toasted bread and cheese creates a warmth that flows from your taste buds through your body.
For the main dish, you really can’t go wrong. If you’re craving authentic German food — better than Leavenworth and much closer, too — we recommend ordering the wiener schnitzel. The pork is perfectly tender with just the right amount of breading and mushroom gravy. The boeuf bourguignon is equally delicious. It features beef braised in red wine for an hour and a half — long enough for it to immediately melt in your mouth — served with traditional spaetzle noodles that sponge up the delicious drippings. Finally, if you’re in the mood for pastry, we recommend the bouchee a la reine aux fruits de mer. A perfectly seasoned seafood ragout doused in basil pesto white wine sauce is served in a beautifully baked puff pastry crust.
For dessert, there’s an obvious standout: The crepes citron. Citron, meaning lemon in French, is the namesake for both the bistro and our favorite dessert. The delicate crepe encases a mascarpone limoncello cake, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of citrus caramel. The result: unbeatable.
Although the dishes are of the utmost quality, Citron is anything but pretentious. The paper napkins and glass tabletops remind you that this is somewhere you can relax and enjoy, without the fussy facade of high-end dining. The massive portions are a departure from the typical upscale joint as well, so pace yourself as you work through those behemoth plates.
It’s safe to say that Citron has officially been added to our list of usual haunts. We’ll be visiting frequently (when we can’t make the trip to Europe) to satisfy all of our cravings abroad.