This was an opportunity that F and I could not resist. So in our effort to get out more and to explore
First, I read the reviews for each and every restaurant on Yelp.com and dismissed any restaurants that had received fewer than three-and-a-half out of five stars. Then, I divided the remaining restaurants by cuisine. Our options included French, Italian, American, Steak (evidently a subset of American), Japanese, Vietnamese, Continental, Fusion, Latin,
Then I visited the website for each restaurant within a given cuisine and reviewed their Restaurant Week menus side-by-side. I whittled down each cuisine category to two restaurants and did away with a few categories all together—like the gastro tavern, The Gage, whose menu featured various foams and a “reconstructed root beer float.”
I narrowed our options to the following four: Bistro 110 (French), Naha (American), David Burke's Primehouse (Steak), and Tizi Melloul (Mediterranean) and printed out the menus for F to review. It was really very close, but we went with Bistro 110, mostly because of the duck and the snails.
The Dinner Menu:
French Onion Soup
Endive and Goat Cheese Salad
Escargots en Croute
Pizza de la Maison
Wood-Roasted Half Chicken
Grilled Steak Frites 110
Duck a l’Orange
La Fameuse Crème Brûlée du Bistro 110
Bistro 110 turned out to be a spacious restaurant tucked onto
F looked up in near panic, “This is the regular menu!” he whispered. It was, indeed, a full list of $15 appetizers and $30 entrees. When I asked for the Restaurant Week menu, we were presented with a simple 5 x 7 card, and while our waitress remained friendly, the flutter around us ceased. It seemed we were still part of the impoverished masses despite our elegant setting, but we didn’t mind. F ordered the Escargots en Croute and Grilled Steak Frites 110, while I ordered the French Onion Soup and Duck a l’Orange. In the meantime, our waitress presented us with the bread basket and a huge, whole roasted head of garlic, from which we scooped generous lumps, hardly making a dent.
The Escargots en Croute was OK. It was essentially a gigantic croissant, beneath which were hidden six slightly tough snails. The French Onion Soup was fantastic, but we had to break through a thick cheese seal to get to the soup. Both appetizers suffered from excess; too much pastry, too much butter, too much cheese. But F thoroughly enjoyed his steak and thin, crispy frites. My duck was tender and the sauce was tasty, but the sweet potatoes were the highlight of the dish—small, cubed, and lightly caramelized. Even F liked them, and he claims to hate sweet potatoes. So far, we rated our meal a 3 out of 5 stars. And then the dessert arrived.
F ordered the Gateau Breton and I ordered the La Fameuse Crème Brûlée du Bistro 110. The famous brûlée was a fine dessert, but the Gateau Breton! I have been dreaming of it ever since. It was a very simple, warm, crumbly shortbread cake dusted with sea salt and accompanied by an unnecessary but delicious scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream and a drizzle of caramel. This Gateau Breton was absolutely fantastic. F laughed as I returned again and again to his dessert, forsaking my poor crème brûlée. While as a whole the meal rates 3 out of 5 stars, this dessert was a 4.5 (I reserve the 5 for any dish that can rival a gorgeous dessert named “The Dieter’s Dilemma” at the now-extinct Brush Hill).
As we fought over the last crumb of the Gateau Breton, F and I pondered whether we had ever had a restaurant meal we would rate the nearly unattainable 5 out of 5 stars. Between us, F and I came up with only a very few. Here is my list:
Once a year, my parents would take my sister and me to Brush Hill for a special dinner. Brush Hill was a restored 18th century post-and-beam barn at the top of a hill in Vermont. I remember the drive up the hill along a winding path through the woods. I remember the dining room with only three tables and a gently roaring fire in the 12-foot-long brick fireplace. I remember ordering perfect, tender, pink lamb chops with mint essence, garlic, and grilled leeks. I remember that the kitchen was directly through an oak door near the fireplace, and the chef would come out to talk with my parents. I remember walking up the creaking stairs to the restroom on the second floor, past two bedrooms furnished with antiques. I remember that at the time, my sister and I were in the habit of rating bathrooms from 1 to 5, and we gave Brush Hill the highest honor. And I remember the reason we came back again and again to this restaurant at the top of a hill deep the woods of
F and I were married at my parents’ house in
Those are my top three restaurant experiences to date. What are your 5-star restaurant moments?