Short of a couple of atmospheric annoyances, my meals at Bacchus were marked by very good food and attentive service.
Dinner begins with the wonderful rolls that DiLauro bakes daily at Bacchus. These treats are plump, fluffy and served singly so that they can be enjoyed warm with the olive oil waiting at the table. We then indulged in a handful of the appetizers available on the present menu. The selections change almost daily, so be prepared to confront different selections during your visit. We were very pleased with the mussels and clams steamed with white wine, garlic, shallots and thyme ($10) and an excellent plate of sautéed calamari with olive oil, garlic, lemon and thyme ($7). Someday all chefs will realize what a few around town, DiLauro among them, already understand: calamari generally tastes better if it isn't dredged in flour and boiled in oil. Such preparation is a disservice to the true appeal of the little critters. I relished the plate I received at Bacchus. It was a good example of DiLauro's focus on blending the few simple flavors of excellent ingredients. The oven-dried tomato and truffle vinaigrette over my arugula salad ($6) was a fine blend of zesty and earthy, but it couldn't hide the fact that the limp and chewy arugula was past its prime. The mixed greens with frizzled leeks and shallot ($5) on the other hand, were crisp and clean tasting.
We found both the New York Strip ($24) and the Roasted Duck Breast ($20) to lack much umph. The sides stole the show on both plates. The strip's accompanying turnip and potato au gratin was familiar, but jazzed up by the slight pungency that the turnip imparted. The duck was overshadowed by a crunchy and savory wild-rice salad. Two other entrees, however, sang a different tune. The Bacchus Bouillabaisse ($18) included scallops, mussels, clams and shrimp in a wonderful saffron and tomato broth. We appreciated the restraint with the broth. There was just enough to accentuate the fish and then to be soaked up with a bit of bread. The Braised Veal Ossobuco ($20) was everything it should have been: tender, moist and served with a small fork with which to scoop out the marrow. These were the highlights of our visits, robust and complex.
Desserts are, yes, all made in the kitchen and change regularly. We were pleased with a serving of apple-and-pear crisp ($5) and a strong cup of coffee.
The service is well-timed, particularly considering that a single waiter, assisted by the bartender, worked the entire room during both of our visits. The major drawback to the ambience is the incessant whirring of the smoke-eating machine that is perched over the center of the row of booths. This thing dominates all conversation and spoils an otherwise dark and romantic room. Add the music that, while a pleasing mix of jazz, blues and rock, blared out in competition with the smoke machine, and things are just too loud to be cozy.
Bacchus is offering an honestly "homemade" bistro experience. Though the room is louder than one might like, the food exhibits the time and pride that Chef DiLauro and his staff put into it. There aren't a lot of places that honestly make everything they serve. Bacchus is one of a few bistros that do, and it shows. S
Randall Stamper worked in restaurants in Boston, New Orleans and Indiana for 7 years and has filled every job from dish washer to general manager. All his visits are anonymous and paid for by Style.
2 N. Meadow St.
Dinner Monday through Thursday 5 -10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 - 10:30 p.m.
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