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F. Pigalle is a fun, funky and novel spot downtown

We knew we were in trouble when our server at F. Pigalle said the red wine was burgundy — which, we felt sure, wasn’t Burgundy, mainly because it’s all-you-can-drink, included with dinner, and therefore probably arrives in tanker trucks.

Well, we knew were in trouble, wine-wise, before that, because we’d heard that F. Pigalle serves that wine in baby bottles. Even setting aside the weird symbolism, serving it in baby bottles negates pretty much everything that goes along with drinking wine, even if, like us, you’re not a wine snob.

So the first question is why do they serve it that way? There’s a subtext about an early 1800s French glass tax, which seems like kind of a stretch. A better bet, we’d say, is the novelty factor, and maybe because with this wine, things like aeration and appropriately shaped glassware don’t matter a whole lot. The next question might be what it’s like to drink wine from a baby bottle, and, well, it was just weird. The restaurant cuts the nipples to increase flow, but you still have to suck on it (and there’s a 51-cent “nipple tariff;” maybe you can bring your own?). Suffice it to say, we didn’t ask for seconds.

But here’s the thing: This isn’t the kind of place you’d go for the wine anyway.

As I’ve written about a few other newish downtown spots, F. Pigalle is just the sort of place Fremont East needs — fun and funky and novel enough to pique the interest of millennials and adventurous non-millennials like us. It’s named for the red-light district of Paris, and that’s reflected in the decor, which is kinda schmaltzy with lots of reds and fringed lampshades and a big crystal chandelier. Yes, the servers wear sequined booty shorts; yes, there’s a stripper pole near the entrance; yes, there’s a mannequin dressed in a racy outfit and, yes, there is a glass case with a display of vintage sex toys, but none of it’s in-your-face; the overall effect is whimsical.

And the food was a pleasant surprise — especially in contrast to the baby-bottle wine. Our dinner started with a good-sized plate of pickled vegetables, which were refreshing on a couple of levels (and, yes, pickles don’t usually go with wine, but as I said …). There were green beans and cucumbers and carrots and a couple of mild red peppers, plus some more unusual choices like cauliflower and broccoli, all of them firm and crunchy and nicely vinegar-y.

The menu is limited, in a way we’ve never really seen a limited menu. There’s cheese fondue, and shrimp or beef fondue, and chocolate fondue, and some fries (fries?) and that’s it. We guess the fries are there for those who come in only for the wine (just kidding, they also have some specialty cocktails and craft beers, priced separately), but the fondues we had were a pretty good choice.

The cheese to start ($22), which was a pretty interesting blend, served in a ceramic pot heated over a liquid fuel. With the cheese we were served a tray bearing dishes of Granny Smith apple, baguette cubes, cooked tiny potatoes and some salami that was so mild it was really more of a summer sausage. Each person gets two fondue forks, and you can dip at will.

The beef ($24) was to be cooked in oil (the shrimp comes with a seasoned broth), heated in a metal pot, also over liquid fuel. This one came with potatoes as well, plus bread and butter, roasted carrots (which we requested instead of the kale that’s normally included) and a dish of thinly sliced squares of meat, plus a little tray of dipping mixtures, some of them quite nice (there was a steak sauce, and oil with herbs, and horseradish and bernaise). It’s my understanding that one of the backers of F. Pigalle is Sam Marvin, chef/owner/butcher of Echo & Rig at Tivoli Village, and it struck me that neither the beef slices nor the salami seemed up to Marvin’s standards.

We were evenly split on the chocolate ($9), which one of us thought was a reasonably complex, darkish blend but the other compared to Hershey’s syrup. This one was served in a small stoneware pot, gently heated by a candle in a contraption that was placed atop a regular fondue pot. The dippers were especially good — house-made Rice Krispie Treats, chunks of banana and strawberries, cubes of pound cake (our server said espresso pound cake, but we couldn’t detect it).

Service throughout was very good, our adorable server refilling water glasses extremely frequently, the courses timed well. After-dinner coffee was French-press style, and pretty good.

I do have a few quibbles, which you probably saw coming, in large part since I’m not 22. One is that we couldn’t spot a sign, although I understand that’s been remedied. Another is that while the bordello accents aren’t in-your-face, the music, some of which is rather graphic rap, is. But the biggest is that for the cheese and the beef, we were given fondue forks and no other flatware (small fondue forks for the chocolate). There’s a little inherent danger there — you don’t want to put a fork coming out of a hot pot, especially if it contains oil, directly into your mouth.

But then there’s the ick factor. F. Pigalle is a smallish, long and narrow room with seating lining both sides, a layout that makes it especially suitable for large groups. The two of us don’t have a problem swapping spit, but imagine going there with everyone from work. Maybe it’s a farewell party for someone, or a birthday, with the whole group invited — including that co-worker prone to cold sores, or whom you feel sure harbors a number of communicable diseases.

In that case, the wine would be the least of your worries.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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