Bienaimé has been working since February to transform the space at 565 Bryant St. (long ago occupied by Roast Shop) into his vision of a market-driven, modern take on a classic French bistro.
A sample dinner menu includes "legumes," or vegetable plates like a tomato salad with shallots, watermelon, French feta and mint ($11) or carrots glacé, glazed and served with orange preserves ($6). You could have an entire dinner just from the starters, which include a "soup du moment" (always vegetarian, $7); ricotta gnocchi ($13); beef tartar with chive, black truffle and fingerling chips ($14); and roasted bone marrow with toast and herb salad. Diners can also choose to snack from three different charcuterie plates, all $9.
Entrees are friendly to meat lovers (short rib bourguignon, roast chicken breast, beef filet) and fish lovers (sole beurre blanc, Skuna Bay salmon). All are above the $20 mark.
Zola (named for French author Émile Zola) serves beer and wine only.
Bienaimé is a native of France who was raised in Palo Alto and Philadelphia. He eventually received a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts in Providence, R.I.
Locally, he spent two years at French fine dining establishment Marché in Menlo Park before it closed in March 2011. The next year, he went on to open Portola Kitchen, an Italian restaurant in the Ladera County Shopper on Alpine Road.
He said in March that he has always wanted to open his own place.
"This space just came up at a time when I was ready for it," he said. "Preparation meets opportunity I guess. I'm just trying to bring some honest food to Palo Alto. Inspired by the market, a menu driven by chefs, progressive wine, down to earth service."
565 Bryant St., Palo Alto
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.