There may be other places like Éclair Bistro, but you won’t find them anywhere nearby. The downtown McKinney restaurant features New Orleans-inspired cuisine, late night jazz, and now, an in-house light show that can only be described as over-the-top.
Earlier this year, owner and executive chef Aaron Thomas introduced a projection concept designed to enhance the dining experience. When representatives from nearby Texas Instruments got wind of the idea, they offered him free equipment so long as he told people who made it.
“The whole idea is that we have a chef’s tasting menu,” Aaron said. “Between each course there is a dramatic graphics presentation that shoots on the table top.”
The presentation includes everything from wandering butterflies to bird’s eye views of space, all accompanied by lights that would make Pink Floyd proud. The technology not only projects onto the tables, but also the individual plates. Nearly every place in the dining area now has some projection elements with the exception of a few tables set aside for those who prefer eating without the light show.
Upstairs in the martini bar, interactive projection technology reacts to human motions, and occasionally even plays games. A handful of eateries around the country have experimented with similar technology on a limited basis, but Éclair Bistro is likely the first to implement it throughout the restaurant.
“They say this is about to blow up in the food and beverage industry,” Aaron said. “We are the only ones in Texas doing this now as far as I know.”
While the lights deservedly demand attention, Éclair Bistro’s foundation remains food and music. Before starting his first brick-and mortar location in Dallas, Aaron spent a decade running a catering business. He learned to cook from his mother and grandmother while growing up in New Orleans. His mom still boasts the nickname “Grandma Ramsey” because she is known to cook like Julia Child, but with the attitude of Gordon Ramsey.
“The more I studied food on my own, the more I realized how gifted they were,” Aaron said.
According to him, true New Orleans food is more than just commercialized “Cajun food.” It’s a cuisine that, while based on French techniques, includes elements from various different cultures much like the city itself.
Before going into food, Aaron was a professional percussionist who played a variety of styles. He says that music plays a big role in everything the restaurant does whether it’s the songs that accompany the meals, or the bands that flock to the after hours jazz lounge. Even some local non-jazz musicians have been known to take the stage from time to time.
“It’s great because most of the time jazz performers don’t get a dedicated stage,” he said. “It’s definitely a show – it’s not just background music.”
Éclair Bistro is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday. The Jazz Lounge stays open until 12 or 1 depending on the night, and has happy hour specials before and after bands play. The restaurant, lounge and adjoining VIP area are available for private events on days they are not open for business. Plans are also in the works to open for lunch when construction on a nearby parking garage is completed early next year.Éclair Bistro >