so i finally made it to bistro k after all the hubbub, fully expecting it to go commercial and watered down in a matter of months thanks to j.gold and his sanctimonious radio plug. lucky me, it was the first day of their new winter seasonal menu, and what can i say?
to be honest, i might be the first hound here to post a not entirely positive review of the place.
ok here goes: it was good, but i think my appreciation of french bistro food is lacking due to not having had enough experience with it. i've been to paris on numerous occasions (and eaten an unholy amount of moules et frites), and i can understand french cuisine to a degree, but the influence of living in southern california, where nouveau restaurants sprout like backyard fungi and i tend to avoid them like the plague, has up until now put me off to the overall aesthetics involved.
usually when i see terms like 'salsify' and 'reduction' i look the other way, and my only memorable experience with french cooking has been with alain giraud, whom i sought out after hearing all the hype. his tasting menu at the peninsula was admittedly brilliant - the flavors combined magnificently and his inventiveness was unsurpassed. i'm sorry to have missed bastide when it was fully his.
bistro k, on the other hand, is properly 'rustic', i suppose. i thought the selection of unusual game meats was admirable, but i didn't think that the recipes worked as well as they should have.
maybe it was the first day of the new seasonal menu (service was really slow but i can overlook that, especially at a french restaurant) and they are still roughing out the edges. anyway i dragged fellow-poster gonzo with me and this is what we ate.
the thai-curry mussels - honestly, the best dish of the night. with fond memories of moules a la creme and moules l'ardennaise from Leon de Bruxelles in paris still dancing in my head, i wasn't sure what to expect, but the thai curry actually worked very well with the moules here.
duck gizzard confit with duck tongue, wintergreens, shredded bell peppers, and something-something in some oil - my point of reference is truly skewed, and all the flavors here combined to inadvertently remind me of generic chinese stir-fry with slightly olive-oily overtones. not bad but i won't need to have it again any time soon.
skate wing - gonzo wussed out here from all the game on the menu and opted for what our lovely and affable waitress promised as one of the least unusual dishes in the selection. it had a unique texture and left a stinging aftertaste on the tongue (some sort of toxin?) but ultimately was little more than a piece of fish in some light sauce. meh.
scottish wood pigeon with fois gras and some huckleberry doohickey in a brown reduction/glaze - when it came i started eating and momentarily completely forgot what it was i had ordered. amazingly it had the texture (and appearance) of a red meat, although there was this one chunk that was shaped like a bird's head so i thought they were giving me the whole pigeon. it turned out to be a clump of bone. at any rate, i thought that i had ordered the venison. whatever. i'm glad i tried it, but it was a bit tough and dry unless i loaded fois gras and sauce into every bite. flavor-wise it was all there, gamey-ness and all, but it could have definitely been a bit more tender.
maybe the evening would have worked better with some wine and romance; but as i only had bottles of two-buck chuck from trader joe's, i opted not to bring it and look like an uncultured fool, although this post will probably have the same effect.
on the plus side the ambiance is phenomenal and amelia the waitress was friendly to a fault. overall the place seems very unpretentious, with a comment/suggestion card folded into the bill.
i'll probably go back again to try the ant eggs next season, and i'll definitely bring some wine next time, but i don't think i'll be craving bistro k like i do most of the restaurants i adore.
incidentally gonzo requested we hit a chinese bakery in alhambra for dessert afterwards, as she wanted to get rid of the stinging skate sensations on her tongue and the overtly european aftertastes, something she definitely wasn't used to.
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