We went to Bisto Aix (Steiner and Chestunt in the city) on Saturday night. The joint was rocking when we came in around 7:30 (which is, apparently, no longer 'early'!). The very hurried host told us 10 minutes, and was true to his word. I gave him our name, but he didn't remember it and called us "you two" and pointed at us -- but I will try to not be too picky about the finer points of ettiquette when the restaurant was so busy!
We were put in the enclosed and covered back patio, and seated at a nice-sized table for two in plastic chairs. It wasn't uncomfortable. The heatlamps were on full blast, but the server did turn ours down at our request. I started with the mesclun salad with taragon vinnaigrette, with the optional (+2$) fried and breaded goat cheese. The salad was good -- hard to mess that up -- but the chevre was fantastic. It was super-hot, very obviously just fried, and was an explosion of flavor. My only criticism is that it was only one golf-ball-sized disk. I would have like one more with my greens, or more smaller-sized discs. A good start.
Our entrees were the sirloin and the lamb. The lamb was somehow magically infused, but not drenched, with a lemony garlic essence that contained some flavor I could not identify. I detected notes of lemongrass, possibly (at a place with "Aix" in it's name -- how unexpected!), or, don't laugh at me, bitter chocolate in the tiniest amount. I don't know but it was delicious. It was a sliced lamb steak over garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach. It arrived piping hot from the kitchen, and really rare as I like it (the rare being bloody-red here, not blue as I've heard it is with a steak ordered rare at Albert's). The slices were thick and about 7 of them -- almost too many for me to finish. I was pleased with the heat of the dish -- as so often a sliced meat that doesn't have a sauce on it arrives just a little too cold, as sliced meat cools so quickly. The garlic mashed potatoes were not overly salty, as is so often the case with garlicky potatoes. They were slightly sweet, and the texture was remarkably light and fluffy. My spinach was just fine -- nothing fancy but it was a good foil to the other flavors on the plate. The sirloin was pronounced adequate, with the same potatoes, and an okay ratatouille. I had a rather short pour of an Olivet Lane Pinot for 7.75 (I'd have preferred a slightly larger glass to roll it around in), but it was fine. The bread on the table was a very narrow baguette and an extremely soft foccacia. Mr. Smith enjoyed these with the extra-virgin olive oil on the table. I'd have liked a little better quality oil for dipping (I used the salt shaker on it) but for the prices it was certainly just fine. The service was hurried, but accurate, with only the slightest traces of 'tude. We got out of there for around 50 bux, though we were dining spare that night because we had birthday cake at home. One salad, a soft drink (beware to the beer-fussy, no Budweiser here-mostly imports), one glass of wine, two mains =50$. Certainly reasonable for the quality and the location. I will go back and try more appetizers and the desserts sometime. Wine list was two pages, but I didn't peruse other than those sold by the glass, as we weren't getting a bottle that night. Looked like 5-7 were sold as half bottles. I'm assuming the "Aix" refers to Aix-en-Provence (or possibly Aix-les-Bains), so this restaurant is serving Provencal-type food? I don't know enough about French cooking to say, would love to hear other Hounds opinions. A nice dining experience, even on a crowded busy night.
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