strange thing happened the other night: clark found himself eating dinner alone. in a mall. ouch, right? surprisingly, it wasn't so bad. not bad at all, really.
cafe bistro | nordstrom | west county mall
cafe bistro is bright, spacious, and comfortable. there's an emphasis here on sweeping lines and soft edges. it's nice, too, that the kitchen is exposed for all to see. we've always been fond of watching chefs prepare food and interact with each other. for a mall cafe, it's really pretty good looking.
one orders at the front of the restaurant and then takes a seat in one of the many plush booths. on this night--blustery, snowy, bleak--the patrons were few and the waitstaff were plenty. clark's waiter was quentin, a guy genuinely concerned about his customers' well being. clark and quentin exchanged some banter before the food arrived, during which time clark learned about quentin's kids and ex-wife. one wonders how these conversations begin sometimes, and they're certainly not always comfortable places to be, but quentin's disarming disposition made this experience downright pleasant. in any case, after clark explained the foodblog to quentin, the dutiful waiter made his way directly to the kitchen to inquire about some of clark's general food questions. originally, the cashier told clark that nothing went in the fryer other than vegetables or cheese, but clark was dubious, and after quentin's digging, he revealed the truth: meat and vegetables are fried in the same oil. bummer, yes, but we're grateful for clark's diligence.
there are very few strictly vegetarian options at cafe bistro, but incredibly, the food was quite good. clark began with an organic greens salad, which came dressed with bing cherries, marcona (!) almonds, roma tomatoes, a goat cheese fritter, and homemade champagne vinaigrette. unfortunately, quentin didn't find out about the fryer until clark had wolfed down the fritter, but even without the fritter the salad would be far above average. the greens were fresh and vibrant, the tomatoes were full of flavor, and the cherries were beautifully tart. the marcona almonds were, as always, insanely good (they're clearly the cadillac of almonds), but it was the homemade dressing that really made this salad exceptional.
clark concluded with a wild mushroom brick oven pizza. the flavor of the pizza was quite good, due in large part to the roasted fennel. the cheese--combination of ricotta, gruyere, and mozzarella--was tasty indeed. it's the ultimate comfort food, really, particularly on cold, lonely nights. unfortunately, though, the crust was a bit undercooked around the edges, and the pizza was soggy toward the middle from the fennel. still, the biggest disappointment was the relative flavorlessness of the mushrooms. a better marinade was in order if those mushrooms are ever going to rise above the powerful cheesiness of this pizza.
overall, though, these are minor quibbles with the pizza, and clark had no trouble polishing it off. and, besides, the quality of the salad makes cafe bistro easily worth a return trip if a vegetarian finds herself stranded at west county.