Bistro R 10190 W. Broad St. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m.; Saturday, 5:30-10 p.m. 747-9484
We've found it: gourmet food for the hearty appetite at a practically affordable cost. Twenty-one dollars for an entree isn't all that bad if everything isn't a la carte and you're not paying $3.50 for a side of green beans. After a few years as just another bistro, Bistro R seems to have found its niche.
Early dining seems to be the order at Bistro R, even on a Saturday night. My friend and I went early to accommodate a movie schedule and found we were the youngsters (at middle age) in the crowd. So if you want to avoid a mash, come later. But not too late. Rather than rush, we decided to come back for dessert after the movie. When we arrived a full 30 minutes before the closing time posted, the door was locked. We were welcomed, however, to take out dessert, which we did. (Word of advice: If you want to cultivate an audience, don't close early on Saturday night, no matter how dead it is.)
Having scoped out the sidewalk chalkboard, I'd already settled on the soft-shell crab special. On the chalkboard, it sounded wonderful: soft-shells with andouille sausage under a green onion-laced jumbo lump-crab cream sauce. But when our waitress described the specials, she made the sausage and sauce part of the lamb special.
Aside from that, everything else was worth the visit. Service was prompt and accommodating, with a considerable amount of charm, and the food was expertly prepared, with the emphasis on taste rather than on looks.
My friend chose the portobello mushroom appetizer ($5.95) to start. When it came, it looked like a cowpie, but it was actually a portobello sandwich of two palm-sized caps encasing artichoke hearts, Roma tomatoes, fresh basil and parmesan. It tasted much better than it looked, which is preferable to those stacked creations now in vogue that emphasize visuals over palate.
My shrimp appetizer ($7.25) was only slightly less successful. Four large shrimp sautéed with garlic and tomatoes were overwhelmed by the gorgonzola topping. We managed to sneak a few sops of the sauce, though, and found it exquisite.
Entrees include choice of house or Caesar salad, so we got one of each. Although the dressings were homemade, both were on the strong side. The Caesar led with garlic and, even for a garlic lover, had a bit too much of a bite. Friend's vinaigrette was heavy on vinegar. But since we were almost full from appetizers, no loss.
Delightfully light and crispy, the soft-shells were presented on a mound of smashed potatoes and napped with (the chalkboard was right) plump lumps of crab and the cream sauce, with tender bits of andouille and green onion. While it wouldn't win any awards for presentation, it was a bountiful plate of delicious food.
My friend's lamb chops ($21) were prettier and just as flavorful in a rosemary mushroom demi glace. They were lean and thick with the meat as the star. Both entrees came with beautiful slender fresh asparagus and fresh, shredded and sautéed vegetables.
Our waitress helped us speed out the door to make the movie, with promises on both sides that we would return for dessert after the flick. The rest is history. But we did make away with two delicious sweets, key lime pie and white chocolate ricotta cheesecake. All desserts are made on-site at $4.50 per slice.
When all was said and done, we considered the meal a success. Dinner for two, without drinks or wine (not even iced tea) came to almost $80, including tax and tip. We were there for the food, and food we got, plentiful and tasty. No
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