10 great places to master the art of French eating

Julie & Julia, the film based on TV chef Julia Child, hits theaters today. For foodies craving crêpes and quiches from someone else's kitchen, Saveur editor in chief and Top ChefMasters judge James Oseland dishes with USA TODAY on the best French restaurants to hear "bon appétit."

BouchonYountville, Calif. "Chef Thomas Keller's brasserie is bustling, friendly and just a few miles from his famous, groundbreaking restaurant, the French Laundry," Oseland says. "No one in the U.S. does a better job with French bistro fare — duck confit, steak frites, bacon and onion quiches, croque-madame and towering plates of chilled, raw shellfish. We could linger here for hours." 707-944-8037, bouchonbistro.com

Fleur de LysSan Francisco "Chef Hubert Keller (a competitor on Top Chef Masters) is the talent behind the popular Burger Bar in Las Vegas, but Fleur de Lys remains the most dazzling showcase for his assets as a cook," Oseland says. "In addition to inspired takes on French classics — his choucroute (sauerkraut), the signature dish of Keller's native Alsace, is incomparably good — we also enjoy his more whimsical creations, like tuna tartare topped with a gelée of oxtail consommé." 415-673-7779, fleurdelyssf.com

DanielNew York For the ultimate see-and-be-seen dining experience, head to Daniel. "Daniel Boulud's flagship restaurant, Daniel, is the epitome of modern haute French cuisine," Oseland says. "The chef's dishes reflect an approach that is inventive but firmly grounded in old-world tradition — the slow-baked striped bass, for example, comes with artichoke barigoule as well as lemon arancini." 212-288-0033, danielnyc.com

EverestChicago "On the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange tower, in a room rimmed with windows overlooking the Loop, Alsatian-born chef Jean Joho has earned kudos by serving refined and updated versions of old-country fare and French classics," Oseland says. Think cream of watercress soup with quenelles and frog legs. "The wine list is one of the most extensive and diverse collections of Alsatian wines in America; Joho exports a good number of bottles himself." 312-663-8920, everestrestaurant.com

La GrenouilleNew York Opened in 1962 by Charles Masson and now operated by his son (also Charles Masson), La Grenouille is one of the most recognized French eateries in the USA. "The fare is sumptuous, and the setting lavish, with mirrored gold damask walls and crystal and silver table settings brightened by bouquets of fresh flowers," Oseland says. "This is the place to try old-school dishes from the Gallic canon like cognac-flambéed veal kidney with mustard, or Provençal-style fried frog legs in a butter-tomato-garlic sauce." 212-752-1495, la-grenouille.com

Restaurant EvangelinePortland, Maine "Chef Erik Desjarlais describes his menu as 'rock and roll French,' and he's spot-on. At Evangeline, nose-to-tail dining meets French technique: Think crispy roasted calf brains and roasted beef shins with warm marrow for spreading on crusty bread," Oseland says. "Dishes are built from the ground up with the highest-quality ingredients and with an eye toward what's local, seasonal and ripe for experimentation." Oseland suggests the poulet à la moutarde, served with royal trumpet mushrooms and slow-cooked onions, for "a deeply soothing yet palate-awakening dish." 207-791-2800

CitronelleWashington "For the past 20 years, chef Michel Richard has wowed the world with his playful reinvention of French cuisine at this perennial haute Beltway destination," Oseland says. "The space is modern and urbane, and Richard's food manages to be both tantalizing and comforting." Don't skip the "virtual eggs" of mozzarella and yellow tomato or the tender beef short ribs that are braised for 72 hours, Oseland suggests. 202-625-2150, citronelledc.com

Joel RobuchonLas Vegas When Joel Robuchon came out of retirement to start opening outposts of his casual L'Atelier eateries, the staff of Saveur cheered. But it was the opening of his namesake restaurant in Las Vegas that most excited these foodies. "Robuchon exhibits a command of the rule book of classic French cuisine — not to mention an incredible flair for presentation and craftsmanship — that is unsurpassed anywhere in the country," Oseland says. "Don't miss the chef's famous whipped potatoes, enriched with an insane quantity of butter and cream." 702-891-7925, joel-robuchon.com

Le Bec-FinPhiladelphia "They don't make restaurants like Le Bec-Fin anymore, with its ornate chandeliers, high-backed chairs and perfectly executed haute cuisine," Oseland says. "Chef Georges Perrier, originally of Lyon, prepares a seasonal menu that recently included crisp veal sweetbreads with coddled egg, and escargots cassoulette with a Champagne-hazelnut garlic butter sauce. This is no place for weak appetites: The main courses find their equal in the restaurant's justly famous dessert cart, laden with sweets like opera gilded cake with 24-karat gold leaf." 215-567-1000, lebecfin.com

Le Veau D'OrNew York For a trip through culinary time, try out this tiny bistro, which has been serving French fare in Midtown Manhattan since 1937. "The menu, straight out of Escoffier — house-made pork terrines, monkfish in lobster sauce, pot-au-feu — has outlived such one-time regulars as Orson Welles, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Jackie Onassis," Oseland says. Don't dare miss out on the restaurant's signature dish, Oseland suggests: escalopines de veau in a lemon-butter sauce. 212-838-8133