by Bertrand Auboyneau and Francois Simon

Flammarion, $34.95, 215 pages

Should you be looking for a new cookbook, French Bistro is only mediocre at best. But as an outstanding coffee table and reading book, this certainly excels. The full-page photo illustrations are magnificent and chances are you are eyes are going to linger over each. The writing is equally superb; in fact, I suggest prolonging the pleasure of reading over days and weeks, taking small nibbles at a time. The recipes are good, mostly for accomplished cooks. For many, you will be shopping around for some time to find ingredients (e.g. piquillo peppers, Ukrainians heirloom tomatoes or gelatin sheets). In many recipes the authors insist on weighing but the average home cook will have difficulty with 7 oz egg yolks or 4½ oz egg whites.

Yet this book is so intriguing that some of you may consider a reservation to Paris to visit the elegant, upscale bistro Paul Bert (take a stack of Euros). Suggested wine pairing will also be a problem unless you live in Paris. Little tidbits under Dash of Advice are great. Inconveniently for the reader, many page numbers are missing (aesthetic reasons?). Reading this book, you feel your presence in a Paris bistro.

Reviewed by George Erdosh,