Say “Oui!” to Claude & Uli’s Bistro

Local softshell crab is what’s for lunch this spring at Claude & Ulii’s Signature Bistro. C’est magnifique!

While I do not possess the ‘collector’ gene that my mother and her side of my family seem to embody as a way of life, there is one set of treasures that I have staunchly defended throughout the years whenever my family has moved: my collection of old cooking magazines. Mostly they are classic issues of Gourmet magazine with a healthy dose of Bon Appetite and Food & Wine plus a sprinkling of Travel & Leisure and Southern Living. Since I am firm believer in appreciating quality over quantity or one better…quality over fads, my treasured magazine collection is like an old friend and it never fails to inspire me.

No, most of the recipes found within those pages would never be considered ‘trendy’ by today’s restaurant and tv cooking show standards, but I adore them just the same. There will always be a place for classically prepared, continental cuisine and as luck would have it, there’s no better place for this indulgence in the Hilton Head Island area than Claude & Uli’s Signature Bistro.

Chef Claude in his element. Not only is he from Normandy, France, he has worked in some of the most famous kitchens in Europe and America, including Maxim’s in Paris! That’s France, ya’ll!

After enjoying a fine meal at Claude & Uli’s, I found myself again appreciating the nuances of true classic cuisine prepared by the experienced hands of a master chef who truly loves his work. Chef Claude Melchiorri is a European-trained chef and restaurateur who has, over the years cooked in some of the finest restaurants in the world – Maxim’s in Paris, the Connaught in London, and Ernie’s in San Francisco. Chef Claude and wife Uli, have created a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere at their restaurant, making it easy to understand why so many locals adore their bistro.

While there may be many a restaurant making claim to be a gem hidden among the over 200 in the Hilton Head Island area, Claude & Uli’s is the real deal. The menu here is large and yes, you will see familiar classics like Mussels & French Fries, Onion Soup Gratinee, and rack of lamb. Rest assured that whatever your choice, it will be superbly prepared under the discerning eye of Chef Claude.

Cheese crepes – a real treat for this Francophile cuisine lover. Yum!

“We make everything here in our kitchen from scratch, from the sauces to the desserts,” Chef Claude told me as he pounded out fresh veal cutlets for his melt in your mouth Wiener Schnitzel. Claude and Uli previously owned a fine dining restaurant on Hilton Head, when they sold it a few years back and decided to retire. Within a short while they both realized retirement wasn’t for them, and the kitchen came a calling again with the opening of the Bistro in Moss Creek Village, just over the bridge in Bluffton.

There are many French dishes on the menu (Chef Claude was born in Normandy, France by the way) but the menu also touches on the tastes of Italy, Belgium, and Austria while offering a nod to Lowcountry cuisine with specialties like silky she-crab soup and a lovely local softshell crab entrée. The Bistro is a sought-after dessert destination too – think crème brûlée and bread pudding with créme Anglais. Their signature dessert, soufflé Grand Marnier with chocolate sauce, hits ALL the high notes for this dessert lover. Chef Claude was kind to share the recipe with us too!

The Grand Marnier Souffle. Try making it yourself using Chef Claude’s recipe below – or just get yourself on over to Claude & Uli’s! Order it with your entree, though – remember its made from scratch.

Thinking about my old issues of Gourmet, I remember how this South Carolina gal relished reading – and then dreaming about – the oh-so cosmopolitan cities of Paris, New York, London and San Francisco, and the bastions of fine dining covered within the pages. Several of those kitchens Chef Claude himself worked in and to think now he’s right here in my neighborhood, making me lunch!

Visiting the Island and environs? Take it from me, grab your sweetheart (or perhaps a Francophile loving friend!) and point yourself in the direction of Claude & Uli’s Signature Bistro for lunch, dinner or even brunch – you’ll be shouting “c’est magnifique” in no time!

Grand Marnier Souffle

Claude & Uli’s Signature Bistro

  • 2 oz Sugar
  • 8 oz Milk (whole)
  • 2 oz Unsalted butter
  • 2 oz Flour
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 2 oz cocoa powder
  • 2 oz Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil milk with 2 oz sugar and melt butter with flour to make a roux. Mix the sugared milk and the roux and boil again, stirring frequently. Add egg yolks and Grand Marnier – remove from heat but keep in a warm place.

Whip the egg whites and the other 2 oz of sugar together until very stiff. Combine the yolk mixture and egg white mixture with a spatula, carefully folding. Gently add the cocoa powder.

Fill prepared ramekins with the batter; fill almost to the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately. Serves 6.