Kevin L. Hoover
UNIONTOWN – The southeast corner of the Uniontown Shopping Center, best known as the escape route for Safeway liquor ripper-offers, is experiencing a serious infusion of elegance with the arrival of an upscale new restaurant named Bizou.
You might think of it as Avalon north, since Bizou is the brainchild of Beverley Wolfe, Avalon’s owner. The menus may be similar, but even in partially assembled form, Bizou has ambience all its own.
Having been through so many iterations as a fooderie, from bakery to Korean restaurant, Wolfe did the equivalent of cleansing one’s palate, clearing the space entirely to start from scratch. “We gutted it and started over,” she said. The effort has taken months, detail by meticulous detail.
Uninstalled lighting sconces rested on dining tables Saturday afternoon as Wolfe and Chef Ron Garrido served grilled oysters to passersby out front. But even partially assembled, the bespoke interior radiates quality with its black wainscot cladding, assisted in no small part by an array of Lynn Carlin paintings on the theme, Le Poisson Pond. Even the caramel-stained concrete floor looks good enough to eat.
A few steps away, the kitchen is a marvel of compact design. It had to be; the tiny space had to balance regulatory requirements with a workable space for two cooks to make magic. “It took two months with a CAD program to design this,” Wolfe said. “It’s absolutely like a ship’s galley.”
Every detail plays into making the micro-sized space work. Like most of Bizou’s appointments, the dishes were purchased at restaurant auctions, and among the finds were plates designed for another compact, elegant space – the Concorde. “They’re lightweight and they pack tight,” Wolfe said.
Bite-sized Bizou’s influence extends well beyond its interior. In fact, it has transformed the entire corner of the shopping center from an area generously described as “seedy” to something genuinely welcoming. The alley to the parking lot has been repainted and lined with redwood planters, while even the back parking lot looks relatively civilized.
Squads of sketchy hangers-out used to literally snatch garbage bags out of the hands of Murphy’s Take & Bake employees, Wolfe said. Now, the dumpsters have been moved away and the back wall painted in one of those modern, darkly-saturated hues that makes even the aged cinder-block wall look rather stately. Soon, Bizou’s logo will adorn it, creating a hitherto unknown sense of arrival.
“I wanted people to be comfortable arriving,” Wolfe said. Uniontown’s out-of-the-area landlords, by the way, contributed not a penny to the overhaul.
The extreme rehab extends around the corner to the wing’s south side. Bizou’s backside is painted red and gold, feng shui-friendly colors for a south-facing wall.
When an obscuring back hedge was removed from the lot’s perimeter, it revealed a shin-deep trench full of human waste and litter. “I can’t believe what we found in there,” Wolfe said, shuddering. It’s all gone now, and soon, shade trees will be planted to provide a cooling canopy with no cover for creepy doings.
Months in the making, Bizou – “kiss,” in French – will open June 30. avaloneureka.com, (707) 825-0900