Writer Shannon Severson
Photos Courtesy of Violá French Bistro

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]rizona has a way of enchanting visitors the world over with its beautiful weather, open spaces and friendly Western spirit. For one talented French couple, all it took was one visit to win them over permanently.

Voilà French Bistro proprietors, Chef Jean-Christophe and Ségolène Gros, first traveled from the verdant mountains of France’s Lorraine region to see the Grand Canyon. They spent one night in Scottsdale and fell in love with the area. That feeling never left.

In 2015, the Groses came with the intent of making a permanent move to their favorite vacation spot and planned to open their own restaurant once they arrived. Acting upon a friend’s recommendation, they went for a meal at Voilà French Bistro, which ended with the original owner spontaneously offering to sell them the business. They jumped at the chance, managed to arrange for visas, and packed their lives into seven suitcases for their new adventure. Today, they’re celebrating the second anniversary of their successful venture and welcoming a steady stream of new customers as word gets out about this little slice of France in the desert.

“It felt like home from the start,” says Ségolène, who runs the front of the restaurant, occasionally accompanied by daughter, Elea. “We love the quality of life here. It’s like we are always on vacation, surrounded by mountains and palm trees, and we have met so many nice people.”

Voilà French Bistro’s environment is one of friendly, casual elegance. When entering the petite space, it feels as though you’ve stepped right off a Parisian sidewalk. White linen tablecloths and fresh flowers grace the tables, and a sparkling chandelier hangs above the full bar.

Just outside, ample patio seating is perfect for cool weather dining. During my visit, French-speaking patrons were sipping champagne with lunch as another table of friends enjoyed quiche Lorraine, steak frites, and salade aux lardons topped with poached egg.

Jean-Christophe’s Michelin-starred experience shines through in his modern approach to traditional bistro favorites, and to his carefully crafted mouthwatering desserts, which include perfect vanilla bean créme brûlée and three types of soufflés.

Every French restaurant must have a fantastic wine selection and Voilà French Bistro delivers. Choosing wine to pair with your meal comes with a helpful geography lesson on the viniculture of France. The wine list is a series of regional maps, making the extensive selection feel much more approachable.

There was a bit of a learning curve to determining what Americans expect from a restaurant experience, and sourcing quality ingredients to fit Jean Christophe’s exacting standards required considerable time and effort. Still, he resisted the temptation to change too much of the cuisine he has mastered over 34 years of working at top restaurants and resorts.

Voilà’s menu is classically French, but not intimidating. It varies a bit between lunch and dinner and, as is common in Paris, a prix-fixe menu is available at lunchtime. Familiar offerings include flavorful French onion soup topped with hearty croutons and a melty layer of Gruyère; moules (mussels) steamed and presented in delicately seasoned broth; and savory red wine-simmered boeuf Bourguignon.

Chef Jean-Christophe wields his expertise with entrées that are a bit more adventurous: escargots in garlicky parsley butter; warm foie gras with caramelized apples; frog legs Provençale; and sweet breads.

“I decided that I’m going to cook what I know,” says Jean-Christophe. “I’ve made a few adjustments, but I still make authentic French food. It’s not just the ingredients, it’s the way they are prepared. We love having our own restaurant where we can manage every element to offer our guests the very best experience.”