Friday, May 10, 2013

 Restaurant Week
Boston 2013

Bistro 5

March 27th, 2013
Malden, MA

Abstract

Bistro 5 became a restaurant week choice in a game of point and click!  Wanting to find another restaurant but tired of putting in the effort of pouring over menus that just weren't meeting our needs as a diverse trio, Nick and Tara tried the "How about THIS!?" and dropped a finger on the scrolling mobile Boston Restaurant Week app.... Who knew that our game of chance would land us on a  menu that looked FANTASTIC right from the get go?! So we got our reservations on OpenTable and off to Malden we went!

Bistro 5


Tara noted upon arrival that, from the outside, it didn't look typical of our normal finds in Boston. It sits very near the commuter rail and seemingly in a neighborhood that's not well traveled after commuter hours! From the outside it seemed dull and potentially "dive-ish" but upon entering... your senses come alive from the classy entrance to the colorful, lively interior that changes from room to room.  The bar here is small but adequate and the bartender was friendly and engaged with the customers.  The servers buzzed in and out of the kitchen but when seated at our table, all the typical din of a restaurant sort of faded into a cozy, enjoyable atmosphere.  

Our Meal

Beverages

Tara: Nick and I ordered the wine pairings with their meals but did not take pictures of every pairing... nor was every pairing exactly to menu since the waitress was fairly well versed not only in the wines that would go well with the menu items but also in reading her guests and taking a shot at which TWO we might choose between. It became a little bit of a fun game!

Nick:  I would say  the waitress was spot on with her substitutions and the wine variations really added to the meal.  I would say their staff is clearly knowledgeable and responsive enough to know you are getting a good deal with a wine pairing.


Appetizers

This house made focaccia bread and spread - which was not so much hummus but had chickpeas in it, was a great meal opener.
Warm Golden Beets - Herbed Goat Cheese, Black Truffle Coulis and Honey

Tara: I have no idea where I developed my affinity for beets post-op but these were tasty. I have to say though, that the herbed goat cheese ball was the capper! The wine the waitress paired with this dish helped bring out even more sweetness in the beets and made the dish even more enjoyable. I didn't finish them for fear I'd fall asleep before my next course! They were beautifully sweet when mixed with the sauces!


John Crow Farms: Beef Carpaccio - Radish and Parsley Salad with Licorice Root and Parmesan

 Nick: This was not on the online menu when we planned our trip but it was a pleasant find for me.  Beef Carpaccio.  While you don't get alot to eat when you order carpaccio - each bite is this amazing tender beef flavored with oil and herbs, a little crunch and palette cleaning from the radish and sharp Parmesan to finish it out.  I would have shared but its hard to ....

Calamari - Semolina-Coated Fried Squid with Sweet & Spicy Tomato Chutney with Lemon Aoli

Stephan: I really enjoyed this, the semolina was a very light dusting so the calamari wasn't hidden, it was really fresh and the flavor.  It was cooked beautifully, with the snap crunch of calamari, but not rubbery or overdone.  The chutney could have been a little stronger it, I like a little heat with my calamari and although it had good flavor it didn't really have a large a heat.











Pasta


Gnocchi - Organic Mushrooms and Truffled Panko

Tara: This was perhaps one of the most tasty dishes I've had in a long time when it comes to pasta. Because of my surgery I often end up skipping pasta courses or eating around the pasta. Gnocchi is one of those "pastas" that I can sometimes enjoy some of and seeing this on the menu coupled with "mushrooms"... well, it was a must try.

I can honestly say, I am VERY glad that I did. The dish was beautifully executed, the portion was perfect and the balance of ingredients superb.  The wine pairing I had with this was great as well, bringing out the subtle flavors in the gnocchi (which were more pillow-like and less DENSE than many gnocchi) while enhancing the Parmesan and mushroom flavors.  If you go to Bistro 5 and see this on their menu GET IT!



Cavatelli Bolognese - Painted Hill Farm Beef Ragu and Shaved ParmesanNick: What can anyone truly say about Cavatelli Bolognese.  Simple, traditional dish of pasta and a meat sauce - every Italian restaurant servers this.

Oh yeah, this was Bistro 5 and they had perfected this dish in my opinion.  This is one of the reasons I love to order "typical" and boring dishes.  Everything was made perfectly in this dish.  Fresh pasta, soft, creamy, just enough chew to it.  The sauce had that deep tomato and beef flavor with fresh Italian seasonings that gave spikes of flavor to it.

Entrees

Grilled Free Range Chicken - Herbed Breast and Boneless Leg, Sauteed Greens, Cauliflower Puree and Parmesan

Tara: At first... I was sort of "bummed" to be ordering chicken during restaurant week. For us, it always seems like a cop-out to order something so common and something I often get when we go out on normal nights. But the fish didn't appeal to me (trout) and Nick was getting the steak so I "took one for the team" and got this chicken dish.

Well... so much for "taking one for the team"! I took this one and RAN with it! If you're going to have chicken, this is EXACTLY what I would have been hoping for in a restaurant week experience. It had that "open grill" flavor to the skin, was deliciously moist and the spicing was perfect and flavorful. Honestly, I didn't want to stop eating it.

The cauliflower puree was amazing. It was chopped raw cauliflower which normally wouldn't appeal to me but it was mixed with lemon juice and other spices and some Parmesan which made for a little party in your mouth.  Vegetables should do that more often... party I mean. It makes them FAR more tasty!

The one unfortunate time in our entire meal was in this dish though... I was crushed when I was part way through my breast to find a very small under-cooked part. I will say, however, that the dish could not have been swept away quicker and with more sincere apologies from our waitress who went back to the kitchen with it to show the staff and then came back to ME and asked what my wish was to remedy their error. I was sort of surprised at the request but, frankly, since given the option I asked if they had a small piece I could have to finish because, frankly, it was GOOD! Instead of a "small piece" I ended up with a whole second breast and a new boneless leg! I knew I could eat that all but was happy to work my way through those flavors again until I had enough and the rest was boxed up to go home. Serious yum and VERY well handled snafu!

Veal Milanese - Pistachio-Panko Bread Crumbs, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Porcini Demi and Zucchini

Stephan: I was really excited for veal, it is one of those things I don't get often, but I truly enjoy.  The crust was perfect, crispy and crunchy, but the meat for me was that standard fried veal, it was good but a little bland in all honesty.  The demi didn't have the flavor and you can see in the picture it broke slightly.



NY Strip Loin  - Fingerling Potato Chips, Asparagus and Cabernet-Rosemary Sauce

Nick: When you think Italian - you rarely think of steak.  Fact of the matter is, Stephan got the Veal, Tara was getting Chicken and the other choice was Fish.  So I went for it with the NY Strip.

New York Strip, Asparagus and Fingerling Potato Chips (which I did not read the chip part when I ordered and though I was getting potatoes) - the whole dish topped with some fresh cracked smoked sea salt and atop a Cabernet-Rosemary Sauce.
Red meat and wine sauces is becoming a regular thing for me when we go out - but not because I look for them, they are just every where.  I order my steaks rare and I think this picture shows they know how to cook it right.  I don't have alot to say about the steak - it was fantastic, it was cooked perfectly, it was a high quality cow stock.  The Cab glaze went really well, sweetened the whole dish up.

I DEVOURED that asparagus though.   Blanched and drenched in the Cab sauce, they were clearly locally grown and/or organic and came across so crisp and fresh.  Narrow stalks and sliced they took on the flavors of the sauce really well but also had that semi-sweet and hardy asparagus flavor I am used to.

The chips were really good, I actually think they are almost out of place in this dish - but since I love chips so much, I was not really complaining.




Desserts


Flourless Chocolate Cake - Chocolate Mousse, Caramel-Ginger Ice Cream & Orange Candy

Tara: Yeah, I know you're all shocked that I got the flourless chocolate cake right? :)  I have always loved multi-element dishes like this presentation. They're even better when they unify properly which I felt this one did quite well.  Sure, my plate was a little "messy" but the quality of each element is really what mattered most at this point and this cake was dense and flavorful while not being OVER THE TOP sweet.

The chocolate mousse, though seemingly mostly just an accent was very well balanced and had the perfect consistency.  The ice cream itself was the only element that I didn't really feel lived up to the flavor description but I wonder, after the fact, if that had more to do with the richness of the other elements drowning out the subtly of the caramel-ginger flavors which would be potentially light if done right in my opinion (no one wants a mouth full of ginger in their ice cream... okay, well I don't at least...)

The Orange Candy? Well, while most people would probably just dismiss this as "garnish" the way it was laid out, I have a tendency to ensure I try everything placed on my plate and this... was delicious. Just the right balance of citrus and sweet, it went very well with the darkness of the cake proving once again that citrus CAN enhance the experience of chocolate (though this is not typically one of my favorite "enhancers".)

Overall a very well executed dessert.

"S'mores" - Vanilla Gelato, House-Baked Graham Crackers, Chocolate Soil and Toasted Marshmallows

Stephan: Nick and I agreed to share this as this was the dessert he wanted, unfortunately for Nick I forgot.  Fortunately for me, I forgot.  Homemade toasted marshmallows with  the graham crackers were just like by a  fire side.  The chocolate dust was a little light but the dessert was awesome.

Cortland Apple Torta with Vanilla Whisky Gelato

Nick:
After a little bit of hemming and hawing over the dessert menu and all the choices, we asked about other choices.  This to my left is a Courtland Apple Torta with vanilla whisky gelato and homemade caramel.  I almost didn't get it - but half way through my meal I switched to it.

The apples were definitely fresh - they cooked up well.  The torta part was a little sweet but had that taste and texture of homemade pie crust.  Smokiness came through in both the caramel and the gelato.  Clearly made the right choice switching.




Summary 




Bistro 5 is a solid restaurant.  The interior decor is really cool in my opinion.   The dinning area is separated into 3 distinct parts of an old street front - probably used to be 2 - 3 different stores.  Each room has its own style and it all just built into a really nice atmosphere for fine dining.  In most of the higher end dining experiences the atmosphere is just clean, this was much more cultured and rustic.




The wait staff clearly is up to muster.  Our waitress is not there often - a few nights a month (meaning Nick lucked out cause she is totally his type) - but she recommended if we come back to ask for Angus.  No matter who, I am sure they will be able to help you out appropriately.





Food quality, freshness was top of the line.  Everything was cooked well and the one snafu we had was immediately rectified.  Flavor complexity and choice was right where you expect it to be and lastly deliciousness was everywhere to be found.

This gets the seal of approval and would be a revisit for sure.



Stephan: If you read just my reviews you might think I did not enjoy the experience, however, this place was really good.  I nitpicked everything, because there were a few minor technical errors, but overall this place was amazing.  The quality of ingredients and the degree of skill with which it was cooked was spot on. I would revisit this restaurant in a heart beat, and I truly did enjoy my experience, I know since we visited on restaurant week Tara and Nick have been back, I am not sure how they enjoyed their experience but I am committed to returning






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