Sunday, March 6, 2011

revisited: eau bistro

gorgonzola moat? yes, please.
last time we went to eau bistro, it was, to put it mildly, not to our satisfaction or their high standards.  (read the original entry here.)  as we said we would, we revisited them recently and are happy to say that this time they blew us out of the water... or the eau (wocka wocka).  they reminded us of why we fell in love with them in the first place, and we hope you'll fall in love, too.

eau bistro | chase park plaza
central west end

see the original entry.

we want to make a special note about the staff because they've always been very pleasant and genuinely warm.  our last two visits we had the same server and she is exceptional.  we're fine with it when servers only ask how we're doing because they must, but we always get the feeling that this server wants us to enjoy our meal and she really wants to do everything she can to make it better.  she's on top of her game.  everything comes out promptly, she's observant and attentive, and she communicates well with the kitchen.  and not that we tried to listen, but sometimes you can hear them talking; it's encouraging to hear them cooperating and orchestrating everything.  most important, it always sounds friendly.  they sound like they're having fun. 

last time, the bread basket was in an unfortunate state, but we're really happy to report that on this night it was flawless.  the chive and cheddar biscuits were flaky, soft, warm, and so flavorful.  the ciabatta rolls were spongy with a lovely crust and gave the most delicious exhalation of warmth when you broke them.  the pretzels were a perfect combination of dense and soft.  everything tasted very fresh.

we started off with a bowl of the wild mushroom bisque, which they divided into cups for us.  it was divine!  perfect on its own or with bread, we slurped and sopped up every last drop.  the serving size was also just right: too much of this decadence and you'd be turned off from the rest of your meal, but this was just enough to kick off the meal and make us look forward to the next courses.  the mushrooms were plentiful, and the garnish of truffle slices was such a treat.  clark basically moaned through his entire portion, but we'd be surprised if anybody could help themselves not to.

the baby spinach salad was one dish we enjoyed on our first visit, and we were thrilled to see this again.  a bed of fresh, plump baby spinach leaves was dressed with golden raisins, spiced walnuts, red onion, strawberry poppyseed vinaigrette, and  a goat cheese fritter.  sounds a lot like awesome dressed with awesome, right?  it is.  the flavors are perfectly balanced: a little spice, some sweetness, a pungent bite from the onion, and the creamy comfort of goat cheese make this unique salad worth coming back for.  (we do want to note that it's usually served with hearts of palm, but we didn't want to ask if they're sustainably harvested so we just left them off.  truly, we doubt the salad suffers from their absence.)

as an extra option this evening, the kitchen prepared a warm root vegetable salad.  it featured roasted carrots, asparagus spears, wild mushrooms, and patty pan squash on a spread of pea puree.  we've certainly had roasted root veg before, but not quite like this.  the garlic, the char, and the sweetness of the peas all blended beautifully, enhancing the vegetables' flavors without detracting from them.  it was deceptively simple but undeniably delectable.

for our entrees, we had another go at the sous vide eggplant and the mushroom risotto.  the difference was obvious as soon as our server laid down our plates.  everything was cooked and prepared with so much care this time, and it showed--not just in the plating, but in the flavor.

we'll start with the eggplant.  clark felt that the dish was too tangy and didn't have a strong enough sauce to stand up to the papardelle, and it's not likely that he'll ever be able to endorse it.  but even clark's reservations don't prevent him from admitting that the dish was definitely improved.  lois and clark rarely don't agree, especially in food matters, but lois is actually a fan of this one.  there was actually a little sauce in the pasta this time, and the vegetables were plentiful.  the eggplant was better than any lois has had before; the tomatoes were tart but tamed by light charring; and the noodles were slightly sweet and perfectly al dente.  the addition of pine nuts and pecorino shavings are a nice touch when you get a bite with them.  all in all, the flavors are uncomplicated and clean. 

the risotto was, in our experience, as good as it gets.  it wasn't stiff, starchy, or soggy, and it had a really lovely flavor that wasn't diminished by the accompanying vegetables.  the mushrooms, shallots, roasted red peppers, and baby spinach were tasty but not intrusive.  the gorgonzola dolce cream actually had some blue cheese bite.  full as we were, we wiped it clean.  they should jar that stuff and call it "magic moldy yumsauce." 

the first time we reviewed eau bistro, we were dismayed not to be able to give it the endorsement we fully expected to.  even though eau bistro is decidedly omnivoriented, they do at least have some tasty and thoughtful selections for vegetarians.  a helpful tip from our server: when you make reservations, let them know if you're vegan or vegetarian.  she said that the kitchen likes to be able to prepare special options if they know that someone will probably order it.  oftentimes, they don't prepare other vegetarian dishes because they're not sure they'll do so well.  we know a lot of places are happy to accommodate, but to let us know that they encourage us to alert them really demonstrates that they want us to feel welcome.

a- (but do note that you will be dropping a pretty penny here)

vegetarian-friendly score:
b+ (for flexibility)
Eau Bistro on Urbanspoon

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