Chow Bella

Art Burn: Something's fishy at Nouveau Bistro

Every restaurant owner seems to fancy himself (or herself) an art expert these days, whether it's the Burger King franchisee with a taste for retro prints or the young, hip entrepreneur who decorates with bold abstract paintings. Each week, we'll be serving up a slice of the best -- and the worst -- local restaurant decor. Will these hand-picked paintings, sculptures and crafts be a feast for the eyes, or will they just leave you with Art Burn?

Chandler's semi-new Nouveau Bistro, in the P.F. Chang's shopping plaza in front of the Chandler Mall, clearly took a cue from local coffeehouses. Because, really, why buy tons of art outright when you can consign it for free? Or rather, for a profit.

If the painting sells, the restaurant gets a cut. And in the meantime, their walls aren't bare. Sweet deal! 

The downside's that the art isn't always fab, but Nouveau Bistro's eclectic selection is solid. The focal point is a series of whimsical "rock" paintings by Sharon Aebi [see photo above], which look like the Flintstones version of chess pieces (couldn't you totally see Fred and Barney playing with those?).

In one corner, a large canvas erupts in a stormy sea of blue, fused with green and yellow abstract lilypads that resemble tropical fish from afar. It's modern enough to coordinate with the streamlined dark wood tables and expo kitchen, but complex enough to warrant looking through the layers. It also pays a little homage to one of the menu's more intriguing items, salmon with wild blueberry sauce accompanied by mashed potatoes and veggies. 

The potatoes were decent and the salmon perfectly cooked, but unfortunately the blueberry sauce was seriously needed to combat the fishy taste of the salmon. Sigh. It's hard to find good fish in the landlocked desert, but at least Nouveau has lots of non-seafood entrees to offer, from big bowls of pasta to citrus-crusted chicken (though, as it has no crust, it prolly should be citrus-roasted chicken).

Across from the kitchen is a pair of passionate, orange and red-toned paintings by David Coven of CovenCreative. The eyes are haunting; the dripped paint technique lending an air of melancholy.

It's a moving piece, even if it's disconcerting to have a pair of huge peepers staring at you while you eat (especially when there's no mouth to tell you about the spinach in your teeth). Above the eyes is a larger work, with writhing abstract bodies in deep layers of burnt orange pigment -- like a modern dance club version of Dante's Inferno.

Half erotic, half creepy.


Tip: Something just feels fishy when a slice of cake costs as much as your main course. At $8.50 for a lemon poppyseed pound cake dessert ($9 for that citrus chicken), better to enjoy a second glance at the cool wall art, then pop off to nearby Cold Stone for dessert. We promise, the eyes won't tell.

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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden