Since I happen to be in the SDSU area once a week for a class, I greatly appreciated Gayla's recent post on restaurants in the surrounding area (see link below). Today I visited the European Bistro in La Mesa.
I had a little trouble finding the restaurant, since there isn't much signage, but finally spotted it in the Lake Murray Square Shopping Center (6062 Lake Murray Blvd at El Paso). There is a European deli on the corner (run by the same owners), a copy shop in between, then the Bistro.
The dining room, with its green leaf wallpaper, gold crown molding, heavy drapes, and fireplace, looks more like a parlor than a restaurant. There are wooden chairs and white tablecloths with cloth napkins, even for the lunch service. Yet, despite the formal setting, the service was friendly and casual--my waitress patiently answered all of my questions.
The restaurant has been open for 8 months, she told me. The chef is from Latvia. The restaurant bills itself as a "new concept from the Old World--Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany." A quick look at the menu--pirozhki, herring, blini, pelmeni, beef stroganoff, schnitzel--confirms this.
I started with a European coleslaw--$4.50 for a generous 8 oz. portion. The light, tangy coleslaw consisted of finely shredded carrots, apples, lettuce, cucumbers, green onion, and dill. Although I found it a little too salty, I preferred this to its American counterpart, which is usually drowning in sweet sauce. This salad was perfectly dressed, with barely any liquid left in the bottom of the dish after I finished eating every bite.
The bread which is served with the meal was pre-sliced (sandwich thin) and a little dry.
For the main course I chose "Golubtsy," Polish stuffed cabbage rolls ($7.50). The same entrees are offered at lunch and dinner and come with a choice of mashed potatoes, french fries, or rice. If you order a salad with the meal they take a dollar off, so the coleslaw only costs $3.50.
The Golubtsy are cabbage leaves stuffed with ground meat (beef?), carrots, and rice. The two fist-sized rolls arrived covered in a light orange-colored sauce--tangy, sweet, and tomatoey. I found it too sweet after a while (it reminded me of ketchup), but I liked it anyway. Since I've never had these before, I don't know what the norm is.
A generous portion (3 large ice cream scoop balls) of mashed potatoes accompanied the entree. Although undersalted, they had a nice flavor (not overwhelmed by butter or cream) and the texture (small chunks of potatoes) reassured me that they were made from real potatoes and not a box of flakes.
The total for lunch came to $11.85 plus tip. Not the cheapest lunch, but I left feeling stuffed (and I didn't even finish all of my food). The waitress also encouraged me to try the sandwiches at the deli two doors down and gave me a coupon for my next visit.
Has anyone else eaten at either of these places? I would be curious to hear what others think.