I’ve kind of been avoiding the Bistro for a while. Maybe it’s because the last time I ate there, it was disappointing– this was January of last year, right before the big Jean-Robert de Cavel and Martin Wade throwdown. I’d heard rumors of quality degrading since then, but then post-remodel, I’d heard really great things. I was still hesitant. When Katy suggested we meet there for dinner because she had a gift certificate and a Groupon, I said– what the heck? Let’s try it. I’m very glad I did.
The Bistro, formerly JeanRo Bistro, was recently remodeled and reopened under the name “The Bistro”. They didn’t remodel much– it was mostly cosmetic: a fresh coat of paint, new decorations. The lighting is a little brighter (but still difficult to take iPhone pictures; sorry). The menu has changed as well: it used to be excluslively French bistro-style, but now it’s a little more casual, a little less French. Prices range from $10 for an appetizer to about $30 for their steak entree.
We decided to meet at 8, but I had come from work, and got there early. I ran into a coworker and his partner at the bar, and ended up having a drink with them. At their urging, I tried a sip of their Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale, which was excellent. They had several other craft and imported beers on tap (as well as Bud Light and Mich Ultra), which keeps up the Bistro’s reputation as a good place for craft beer.
Once Katy arrived, we sat down to order. We ended up having a fairly beefy meal, starting with steak tartare. I happen to love steak tartare, but rarely order it. It always reminds me of stealing bites of uncooked meatloaf or meatballs– a major childhood memory. This one was lovely– with a spicy mustard sauce, capers, pickles, and onions to accompany it, as well as thin slices of garlicky toast. A great starter, and perfect to split for two.
We continued our beefy theme. Katy got the strip steak, medium rare, served with duck fat fries. The presentation was a little plain, but the steak was so good that it was gone before I had a chance to ask for a bite (Katy and I have a sharing-bites kind of friendship).
My friends at the bar suggested I get the burger, so I did. It was a huge burger, topped with caramelized onions, maple-candied bacon and white cheddar, served with duck fat fries. The burger itself was huge– I had half of it left over for lunch the next day– but cooked perfectly. The candied bacon was sweet and unique, and the whole thing was a bit greasy and messy (but that’s okay). The fries were fantastic– thin-cut and dusted with what I thought was Parmesan cheese. I was so confounded that I called and asked: I was correct, but they also have duck fat powder (duck fat rendered and powdered) in there as well as some salt and pepper. They are fantastic, particularly paired with their house-made aioli, and worth the price of admission. They were even good leftover and cold. High praise.
We decided to get dessert, but went for the cheese plate. Our only service flub of the evening was that the server didn’t tell us which cheeses were which, and by the time he came back to check on us, we were already deep into the cheese plate. The bartender had told us what was on the plate before dinner– I know that there was Boucheron goat, butter with Hawaiian salt, and manchego, accompanied by dried-and-reconstituted blueberries and the aforementioned garlic toast. There were a couple of softer cheeses that I couldn’t identify, but would have liked to. It was very well presented and the cheeses were great; the “small” size was plenty for two to split.
I’m glad that I gave The Bistro a second chance, and I’m hoping to get back to get their $3 drafts (essentially half price- $6 for craft beer is very fair; $3 is fantastic) or their half-price wine nights on Sundays. It’s added to my regular downtown rotation.