Restaurants & Bars 2

Weekend in Lenox, GB, Stockbridge (long)

nyceditrix | Jun 3, 200808:38 PM

I've been a lurker for several years, mostly on the NYC boards. I consulted the NE board while planning a recent Berkshires weekend with my husband, and I want to thank you all. Your info was very helpful, and now I want to be helpful in return by offering my observations.

We went to Bistro Zinc in Lenox early on a Friday evening, when the restaurant was almost empty (the Tanglewood season had yet to start, so everyplace was almost empty at that hour). The maitre d' and servers were extremely pleasant without being overly familiar. The surroundings are light and stylish but a little worn (my banquette seat was ripped). We drank only champagne, so I can't speak to the wine list.

An amuse bouche of caramelized onions and olives in a pastry cup arrived quickly and boded well. I'm a pushover for duck, so starting with the duck confit rolls was a natural; the duck meat was moist and savory, and the sauce was sweetish but not cloying. We shared this (there was plenty) and moved on to the crispy goat cheese salad, which was a nice balance of flavors; the cheese itself was extremely tasty.

My husband chose the scallops special in what I remember as a gazpacho sauce; I didn't try it, but he practically licked the plate clean, and it seemed like half the clientele was eating the same dish by the time we left (when the place was mostly full, although the bar room remained nearly deserted). My veal entree came with the only clunker of the evening: fresh fettucine, some of which was stuck together in an unappealing mass, and none of which had much taste, although the addition of sugar snap peas lent some textural interest. The veal itself was lovely.

Desserts were lemon/lavender creme brulee, which tasted of only a little lavender (which I consider a good thing); two slabs of chocolate terrine were intensely chocolaty and dense. With coffee, tip and two glasses of champagne apiece: about $160.

Saturday lunch: Baba Louie in Great Barrington. Funky surroundings, rock-based soundtrack, and big fishtank to look at while you wait. We tried the Steel Rail Pale Ale, which was unfamiliar, but proved perfect to accompany our lunch. We started with the Salad Allegra, which features figs, apricots, pecans on a bed of greens; while somewhat sweet, I have to say this combination is one I would gladly eat every day. The pizza was a special whose name I have forgotten; it included gorgonzola, caramelized onions, arugula, and garlic sausage. The crust was crunchy but not charred, and held its own with the toppings, which were not excessive, although I know it sounds like a pile of stuff. Every bite offered a wonderful sensation of cheesy creaminess, garlicky tang, and sweetness from the onions. Our waitress seemed so happy to be serving us that we decided she had to be a robot. A lunch for the ages.

We were on a roll, so we had great hopes for Rouge in West Stockbridge, based in part on Hounds' comments. The bar up front was packed with attractive young things, and we had a short wait for a table in the back. It's a small room, painted '70s yellow with red accents, quite noisy, the clientele older. Our waitress was unsmiling and gave us the feeling of vacationing in France, minus the exchange rate. Ordering was distressing: I told her I was considering both the duck entree and the lamb; could she offer any help in deciding? Cold stare: "What do you mean?" she demanded, so abruptly that I was sure I had insulted her. (In NYC, I always get an enthusiastic response, even at humble restaurants, when I ask a waiter's opinion.) The food that followed never quite made up for the pall cast, even though every other staff member we dealt with was charming.

The camembert in the field green salad was luxuriously creamy, and the dressing made a nice sharp counterpoint. My husband had the lobster bisque; verdict: "Nice, but not life-changing." His entree was steak au poivre with frites; the meat was "flavorful," and he ate every bite. The frites were unremarkable, the accompanying spinach "fine, nothing exciting." My duck (yes, I made a choice all by myself) was basking in an almost velvety sauce that purported to include vanilla but which did not taste vanilla-y, just complimentary. The dish was rounded out by various "fine, nothing exciting" vegetables.

I worked up my courage to ask about desserts. Waitress visibly impatient. Decided to go with a classic and avoid further problems. But lemon tart had a wet-ish meringue topping (no idea why this unfortunate touch was thought necessary) and a crust so tough that it could not be cut with a fork. Husband had chocolate and espresso mousse, whose flavors were nicely balanced. No coffee; why prolong this? Total, including tip (yes, we tip 20% unless we are physically attacked, having both worked in food service) and one glass of cava each came to about $140.

Summing up: I would go back to Baba Louie at a moment's notice; Bistro Zinc, while not perfect, made me feel well taken care of and eager to return; and Rouge left a bad taste in my mouth. Although that duck . . . let's just say I braved Ms. Disapproval to ask for a doggie bag.

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