There’s a new French restaurant opening at 707 Union St. that brings a little bit of France to Schenectady.
Andy and Heather Chestnut said they are looking to introduce people to classic French cuisine, and decor, at Chez Nous. They are preparing to welcome their first customers on Tuesday.
“We are truly French. We are not serving alternate foods,” said Heather Chestnut, who owns the restaurant with her husband. “It’s an elegant, intimate place. Everything is perfect.”
Chez Nous, translated as “our house” in English, is one of a few French restaurants in the area. The Chestnuts said they strived to make the restaurant as French as can be.
Chez Nous will be open Tuesday through Saturday with seating for dinner available from 5 to 9 p.m. Heather said they opted not to serve lunch and focus on dinner instead.
“French food generally is programmed to be a longer, slower seating,” she said. “We don’t rush through our food.”
The main dining room, with gold walls and red furniture, features paintings from the owners’ private collection and collector’s items like a 20-foot church pew from St. John the Baptist, which is now the Schenectady Light Opera Company building.
“I thought it was the cat’s pajamas,” Chestnut said about the pew. “All of the paintings are from our personal art collection from France, places we visited around the world and art shows, like the Stockade Art Show.”
Off the main dining room, which seats 38, is a smaller room that seats 12 people. The green-colored room has a television for meetings and a window and door that could be closed for privacy.
Upstairs is a lounge and library. The red-colored lounge has a fireplace, television and unique pieces of furniture like a copper bathtub with a glass top for a table and a 20-gallon barrel filled with wine corks.
“One of our liquor vendors is giving us a giant bottle of champagne to lay in the bathtub and put the glass back on top,” Chestnut said. “The wine corks are from the wine we drank.”
The lounge, like the dining room, also has a church pew from First Reformed Church in the Stockade Historic District. The lounge can seat up to 20 people.
“This pew has followed me to France and back and it has been everywhere I have been,” she said. “I decided it needed to live here.”
Down the hall from the lounge is the library, which seats 16 people. The library has framed maps of France and a large bookshelf with old hardcover books and Santon dolls.
The blue building with red doors and shutters at 707 Union dates to 1875. The Chestnuts purchased it in October for $175,000. Heather said she fell in love with the building the first time she saw it.
“As soon as I saw, it I said, ‘This is perfect,’ ” she said. “I said, ‘We need to buy this building. This is what I want.’ I knew it immediately.”
Chez Nous offers a dinner menu and a bar menu. Chestnut said she plans to add a theater menu, for when Proctors has shows, in the near future. Chef de cuisine, or executive chef, Rob Gavel said they use all fresh food that’s locally sourced.
“We make our own butter for the table, goat cheese,” Gavel said. “There isn’t anything we buy that is prepared. Everything is made in-house. Everything is our own and it’s true French cuisine.”
Gavel, along with sous-chef de cuisine Michael Friello and garde manger/patissier Jay Bunn, were in the kitchen on Friday preparing lunch for Chez Nous’ first paying function.
On the menu: Poulet, or chicken, with mushrooms, onions, mussels and saffron. Starting with onion soup and Caesar salad. Finishing with crème brûlée and chocolate torte.
“I designed the kitchen, so I like it very much,” Gavel said. “We have all marble surfaces. It’s probably the most aesthetically pleasing commercial kitchen in Schenectady.”
Chez Nous’ inaugural menu includes six appetizers (les entrees), six soups and salads (soups et salads), and nine main courses (les plats principaux). Entrees include homard thermidor (whole shelled poached fresh Maine lobster) and cassoulet (baked casserole of duck leg quarters).
Chez Nous joins recently reopened Persian Bite, which relocated to Union Street from Jay Street, and several other restaurants along Union Street, like The Bier Abbey, Cafe Nola and Marotta’s Bar-Risto.