The restaurant formerly known as Mirabelle re-opens its doors today as Bistrot Mirabelle, with a new look and a new chef. Owner Brian O'Neill bought the restaurant from Michael Vilim in September, but kept the old menu and interior for about a month as he made plans for the transition. O'Neill saw the space, the location, and immediately imagined a French bistro taking shape.
Lunch service on Tuesday marks the beginning of Bistrot Mirabelle's entrance into Austin's dining scene, now with a strong culinary influence from Provence and southern France under chef Clinton Bertrand.
Brian O'Neill has been around the food industry since he was kid, with his parents owning diners up in New York and New Jersey. Originally going to college to become a history teacher, he eventually moved back into the world he knew well. When he and his family moved to Austin from the northeast eight years ago, his first job was at Uchi as general manager. O'Neill was even the one who answered the phone when Dana Corwin from Food and Wine Magazine called to let chef Tyson Cole know he was just named as a Best New Chef in 2005. Since then he has worked at Max's Wine Dive and The Belmont, all leading up to his newest venture.
"Seven to eight years ago, Mirabelle was consistently voted as one of the best restaurants in town," says O'Neill. "When I walked in, I felt this warmth. It would have been easy to dump the name and start over, but I wanted to keep the name and its history."
When O'Neill needed a chef, he called a former coworker from Uchi, chef Mat Clouser (now part of the soon-to-open Swift's Attic), to see if he knew anyone. Immediately he was connected with Clinton Bertrand. A Texas native, he cooked at Vespaio before moving to San Francisco to work at Jeanty at Jacks, A16, and Conduit.
"It's exciting to bring our version of a neighborhood French bistro to this community," says O'Neill. "With Clinton's talent in the kitchen, we're certain Bistrot Mirabelle will be a must-visit dining spot, not only for this neighborhood, but for all locals and visitors who want a taste of Southern France with a big dose of Austin hospitality."
The decor inside includes copies of original French political cartoons that his family has collected. Bistrot Mirabelle will also have a full bar soon, moving away from the focus on "just wine." The restaurant will be open for lunch Monday through Friday, brunch Saturday and Sunday, and dinner service Monday through Saturday.
"All of the work during the changeover has been easy and fun. I am so, so happy." O'Neill says. As the interview ends, the perfect line is heard: "Good afternoon, Bistrot Mirabelle. This is Brian."