Dear Foodies,

Bon Noel! I’m thrilled to inform that French and Spanish gastronomy exists in this city’s historic neighborhood.

Jaber’s Restaurant at the Art Village should be on your list (naughty or nice) this December. You might not have noticed the restaurant on Main Street, but it stands out right away once you have your first taste of their fine cuisine. The handsome contemporary dining room with low lighting and well-spaced tables is perfect for mingling after work or taking a loved one out on the town. The staff goes above and beyond the call of duty.

The evening we visited was special because my husband and I were accompanied by our dear friends who appreciate a good meal. There was also a sweet anticipation on my part because . . . I love all things French! My friend Abraham Jaber happens to be the proud owner and chef of this establishment. I’m glad to see that his wish came true. His earliest childhood memories (Mexico City) are deeply intertwined with food and fondness for it. This culinary proclivity cemented his choice for a career in gastronomy.

He attended two reputable culinary institutes (for more information visit his blog or Facebook) in Madrid, Spain and Lyon, France — The Paul Bocuse Institute. When he mentioned Lyon, France, I smiled and remembered my sister (Gallerist/Curator Yvonamor Palix) and I attending the Lyon Biennale d’ Art Contemporain. It was all about Beaux-Arts! The narrow cobbled streets, the magnificent Renaissance buildings and the appreciation for charcuterie are not forgotten. Its home to legendary Paul Bocuse, the original celebrity chef who made Lyon and truffle soup famous.

Before I start commenting about my own personal experience at Jaber’s, I would like to address that everyone has their own personal opinion when it comes to food and taste. Yes, many restaurants are not consistent with their dishes and that, my friend, is a reason to send a dish back or ask for the manager to correct the problem, especially if you are paying high dollar price$.

We began this heavenly experience with their Salmon Tar Tar which is prepared with avocado puree (refreshing zest of lime) and cherry tomatoes. The texture was smooth and memorable. I also tasted some of the best fried calamari (tapas menu) in the Valley. The golden calamari ($5.50) was perfectly seasoned and came with a green aioli (garlic oil) sauce.

My husband ordered a Kobe slider ($6.00) that disappeared in a wink of an eye. He looked like a happy camper after that special treat. Chef Jaber learned from the French, therefore portion sizes are naturally smaller, and this helps re-calibrate your expectations. I know some of you might have stars and stripes eating habits which cause you to overindulge, but for this kind of experience, you savor like the French do.

Their “Tasting Menu” was very creative and impressive. I treated myself to la crème de la crème, “The Lobster Art” ($28.00) which was a perfect choice. The Maine lobster (cold) was laid on a bed of cauliflower mayonnaise topped with fresh mixed greens. The presentation was artistic and utterly beautiful. The colors (red-chili and green-garlic sauce) of the sauces used to decorate were also abundant in taste.

How could I forget to mention the wine? We enjoyed a bold red Cotes Du Rhone 2008 and remembered what Thomas Jefferson said; Good wine is a necessity of life for me. How about the bread, you might ask? For the French and myself it is what we would call a utensil, and to my great fortune there was a variety to taste: baguette, ciabatta and warm rustic bread. We capped the lovely evening with a cool citric sobet that was truly the kind of dessert anyone who belongs to the Texas Produce Association would approve of.

The music, the art and the company also added to this lovely adventure. I wish them much success!

Bon Appetite,

Madame Gourmand

Jaber Restaurant at the Art Village, 800 N. Main Street, Suite 420, McAllen. 956-802-2523. Make sure to call in regards to their sensational Christmas Eve Dinner and “New Years” Event.