Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Bristol

One of my last meals in town before my big trip was at The Bristol, and we couldn't have picked a better spot. I am very cautious about giving out 5/5s, but this qualified. The meal was a catch up with friends Geoff and Ashley, and since they live in the neighborhood The Bristol was an easy choice. I really liked the feeling when you entered the room. It's relatively small, but the brick walls and chalkboard gives you a local and friendly feeling. Our server and service all night was first rate, supplying us with detailed explanations and suggestions on request. Even though there is a high demand for tables, we were never rushed through our meal and casually dined for a solid two hours. The menu is approachable and not overly complex. There are 3 distinct sections, with the majority in the starter section, 4 choices of pasta, and 5 choices for large plates. Over half of the selections are "daily specials" and I image the menu has high turnover. Our only suggestion would be to reduce the number of starters and increase the number or large plates. Pricing is very reasonable with starters ranging from $4-$12, $14 pastas and entrees $18-21. Our entire bill for 4 people with drinks and dessert was around $150; great value in my opinion. All of this praise and I haven't even mentioned the food yet. We ordered 3 starters, 4 entrees, 2 desserts and cocktails. Everything was delicious and it was obvious to taste the effort and precision that went into each dish.
I started the evening with one of their handmade cocktails, a traditional pisco sour. I'm not a pisco sour expert, but it tasted great and went down fast.

We were in a starch mood that Monday evening by evidence of our starter selections. We went with monkey bread, flatbread and fries. The monkey bread was a more flavorful way to serve "bread." It is served pull apart style with sea salt and dill butter. Tasty. The duck fat fries were great, made even better by the garlic aioli. The house made ketchup was interesting, almost a cross between marinara sauce and Tabasco. Well cooked and well seasoned. My favorite was the flatbread, actually served on very thin, oven roasted flat bread as opposed to other places that just call pizza "flatbread." It came topped with bacon and melted sweet onion, some of my favorite cooking ingredients.

The group made a nice variety of selections for the main course. Geoff and I stayed with the pastas (gnocchi and pappardelle), while Erica and Ashley ordered the halibut and hanger steak respectively. My pappardelle tasted fresh and delicious in a bolognese and basil sauce. The portion wasn't huge, as I could have ordered two or three more because I love good pasta.

I had a bite of Geoff's gnocchi and that was all I needed to know how good all the food was at Bristol (not that there was any doubt at this point). It was a different kind of gnocchi than I had ever tasted; it was similar to fresh mozzarella and melted in your mouth. The accompanied veal also exploded with flavor and seasonings, a very nice dish.

I also stole a bite of Erica's halibut (loved the fish, didn't like the too strong herb garnish) and a piece of Ashley's hanger steak (under cooked for my liking but I heard no complaints from that side of the table). The pastas stole the night, but everyone agreed the food was excellent.

We couldn't leave without trying some desserts. There are only 4 on the menu, so we split the difference and ordered a sweet chocolate sabayon with home made nutter butters, and a savory banana bread trifle. Since dessert is my least favorite part of a meal I didn't mind that they were the weakest part of our meal. We all loved the nutter butters dipped in a very rich chocolate mouse, and the trifle was served in a glass jar with banana bread and creme fraiche all mixed together. An interesting presentation and not overly sweet (we were warned), but tasty none the less.

I am very glad to experience this wonderful restaurant and hope more follow after me. There are many times when hype and reviews do not do justice to the product served, but this an occasions where I wasn't let down and add my praise to the long list before me. The formula of serving great food (and cocktails) at reasonable prices in a welcoming environment seems obvious, but few restaurants execute this formula as well as The Bristol.

Bristol on Urbanspoon

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