People ask me all the time for restaurant recommendations. I often hesitate to answer, though, because it can sometimes be difficult to separate out my personal opinion from my “professional” palate. With this in mind, I thought it might be fun to have a non-food industry person come with me when I check out a new restaurant. How would her opinions differ? Would there be a huge discrepancy in our taste buds? These questions led me here, to my first dual food review.
I asked my friend Amy to accompany me to Bistro B in Bridgeport. Amy is the owner of Healing Touch Wellness Center in Trumbull (www.healingtouchct.com) and is the mom to two amazingly adorable and energetic children. Suffice it to say that she’s a busy lady and doesn’t go out often enough. Some of her favorite restaurants include Bar Taco, India Raj, Chip’s, Biaggio’s and Molto. On her list of favorite foods are a good burger, fresh pasta, and Carl Anthony’s Banana Rama dessert.
This was her assignment: we were to try the same foods and rate them on a scale of 1 (“I’d rather eat massage cream”) to 7 (“This is almost as a good as a glass of wine, chocolate and a massage.”) To keep it interesting, we didn’t compare notes until after dinner.
To start, we had three appetizers: House-Cured Salmon, Chicken Lollipops and BLT Sliders. The salmon was served with brown bread toast points, star anise pickles and horseradish mustard cream. Amy rated this a 6; I gave it a 5. We both agreed that it was very fresh and tasty. We met eye-to-eye on the Chicken Lollipops and the Sliders. The chicken was a bit dry and the barbecue sauce was slightly too sweet, resulting in a 4 from each of us. The sliders, however, got a 7. Three little soft rolls held a slice of braised pork belly, slices of Roma tomato, iceberg lettuce and a wonderfully sweet maple aioli. One caveat about these: while they were fantastic, they’re the sort of rich food that needs to be eaten in moderation. One was plenty.
After all that meat, it was time to move on to a salad. To be honest, the “Lamb’s lettuce with crispy artichokes and roasted garlic hummus” didn’t really sound particularly intriguing to me. The reality of it, though, was a whole different matter. Once again, we both agreed and gave this salad a 6. “There were a lot of textures,” Amy said. “There were crunchy artichokes, creamy hummus, tangy and refreshing lettuce.” I think she has a future in food reviewing. This was an unusual salad with a lot going on.
Once we got to the entrees, though, our opinions started to differ just slightly. Crispy duck confit with warm frisee, bacon and grilled Yukon potatoes sounded like the perfect dish for a cold evening. Each of the individual components was well-executed, but all together, it was too much. I found the dish to be super rich and way too salty. Amy said she was glad to have the potatoes, which gave her a rest from the fattiness of the duck. I gave it a 3, she gave it 4. She also enjoyed the chicken fried chicken, which was served with mashed potatoes, black pepper gravy and cinnamon-scented carrots. I thought it was good, but wasn’t wowed. She gave it a 6; I gave it a 3.
Another “Large Plate,” Potato and onion encrusted halibut was served with a forest mushroom ragout, asparagus tips and truffles. The fish was very light, and the mushroom ragout gave it a contrasting meatiness. The dish paired surprisingly well with a Rioja. Amy gave it a 6; I gave it a 5.
The winning entrée of the evening was a roasted hangar steak with pommes frites and roasted pears. “The steak melted in my mouth,” Amy said. It was sliced thin and was juicy and meaty. The crispy, salty frites were a perfect accompaniment. The pears, however, didn’t really add much. I wouldn’t miss them. Amy gave this dish a 7; I gave it a 5.
After all that food, you’d think we would pass on dessert, but the salted caramel pudding and flourless chocolate cake needed to be sampled. They were both very good, although we were too stuffed to even rate them. The evening ended with a surprise, however. We both ordered decaf coffee, which came in French press pots. I have to say, it was the best cup of coffee I’ve had in a long time. Amy, who put herself through massage school by working at Starbucks, agreed. It was dark and rich and had that thickness that only a French press can give. Perhaps the owners should think about opening an adjunct espresso bar.
On a personal note, I hope Bistro B does well. It’s so exciting to see upscale food coming into downtown Bridgeport. When asked why he chose to open a restaurant in Bridgeport, Chef Jason Milanase said, “I believe if we do it right, people will come. The culture is changing. This is going to be next place people come to. It used to be the epicenter and it will be again.” Amy and I both agreed that we would go again. The location is terrific, the ambience is wonderful and the menu is varied enough so that you can go for a small bite and cocktail or a substantial dinner.
Taking everything into consideration (ambience, price, food variety and taste), I give Bistro B a 4 and Amy gives it a 5.
1006 Broad St., Bridgeport