Blissful Dining: Kerrytown Bistro Earns High Marks
Blissful dining: Kerrytown Bistro earns high marks
By CONSTANCE CRUMP,
NEWS RESTAURANT REVIEWER
Kerrytown Bistro, in the former Tivoli space, is open again after a renovation hiatus. One of the warmest restaurants in town, its satisfying food put me in bliss and its long hours (at least until 1 a.m.) will help diners who wish sustenance after the 10 o’clock curfew prevalent in other local spots.
Tables are well-spaced for discreet conversation and booths are roomy, if sometimes too deep for servers’ reach. Simple presentations, almost stubbornly-plain, keep bistro tradition strong. The temporary contemporary art gives some diners indigestion. The music is sublime; the acoustics are not.
Lunch is modestly priced compared to dinner, which can be expensive. The midday menu offers sandwiches and salads, along with casseroles and stews. Dinner features more substantial fare.
The lunch menu’s vegetarian pattie is highly edible — crisp breaded vegetable and egg-white cutlet, topped with sauteed endive, on whole wheat bread. Salade Nicoise had interesting mix of greens, good with optional walnut oil-gorgonzola vinaigrette. Swordfish in pepper puree and a dynamite smoked-duck-and-leeks yuppie pizza made another lunch memorable.
I’m not sure what made well-seasoned crayfish pie with gummy but good jambalaya a Third World entree (“Third World” is one of the bistro’s standard categories on the specials menu). Perhaps, as the bayou Crumpet explained, Louisiana is really part of the Third World. The pie was sapid regardless of political or economic affiliation.
Tuna and white bean puree au gratin topped with bread crumbs, bland but well-executed, recalled food of the ’50s. Gratin d’artichauts, featured on the spring dinner menu introduced last week, is a rich and wonderful blend of new potatoes and artichokes with cream and Parmesan cheese.
Appetizers were generally good. Saucisson en croute, a just-spicy-enough sausage, was wrapped in perfect pastry, not too crisp or too soft. Beignets de gruyere weren’t to my taste — flabby cheese fritters in an undistinguished brown sauce. The pate sampler seemed expensive for the serving size at $11.75 — a narrow slice of each of three delicious pates: seafood, country-style and zucchini in herbed tomato custard (my favorite).
Tarte printanier, a delicate asparagus and onion tart, was a table fave rave. Snails were perfectly cooked, swimming in garlicky butter and blue cheese. Excellent tapenade (black olive paste) may be spread on crisp housemade croutons or vegetables. Petit chaudron de poissons — thick fish soup with broad noodles — was too salty; soupe de pistou, a vegetable blend with pesto and Parmesan, was just right.
Bourride provencale — a most superior shellfish stew with a delectable sauce of herbed cream and crisp croutons — has replaced the winter menu's good-but-flawed bouillabaise. I wasn’t hungry when I ordered linguine with rapini, garlic and Parmesan, but it all disappeared. Boned chicken legs deviled with hot mustard rated high approval. Dinner salads (served after the entree) were as good as home.
A weekly special of pike in beurre blanc looked monotonous on the white plate with white puree of potatoes and turnips. The puree was more flavorful than the fish, a waste at any price, dreadful at $15.
It's tough finding a wine to suit a variety of entrees, but thanks to open-minded imbibers and a good suggestion from wine steward and bistro partner Peter di Lorenzi, we enjoyed a spicy 1985 Kuentz-Bas Gewurtztraminer from Alsace. A 1987 Gavi di Gavi Broglio suited another widely varied dinner as did 1985 Black Mountain Gravel Bar Alexander Valley Chardonnay on another evening.
After dinner, a splendid lemon torte outshone an interesting tart of wine-poached pears, but only by a footcandle or two. Picture-perfect cappuccino topped the meal. A glass of aromatic Muscat de Rivesaultes was another good choice. At lunch, strawberry flan had nut crust only an earthquake could split.
Chocolate raspberry torte and carrot cake found favor with sweettooths. Most desserts are no longer made in-house, but come from high quality local bakeries. On another night, homemade vanilla-bean-chocolate-chip ice cream was a perfect conclusion to the kind of dinner that makes you sit back with a sigh of complete comfort — as you loosen your belt a notch.
On most visits, it was great to be on the receiving end of unobtrusive, competent service. No names, no muss, no fuss, no “Who had the pate?” (I’m known there as a reviewer.) Take note: The restaurant will not provide separate checks, an unfortunate omission.
NEWS PHOTO • ROBERT CHASE
A server presents the dessert tray to patrons at Kerrytown Bistro.
415 N. Fifth Avenue
FOOD 9 out of 10
SERVICE 10 out of 10
ATMOSPHERE 9 out of 10
HOURS: Monday, 5:30 p.m. until 1 a.m., Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 until 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. until 2 a.m.
LIQUOR: Full bar and extensive wine list.
PLASTIC: VISA, MC, AMEX.
PRICES: Moderate to expensive. Lunch for two, $16 with tax and tip. Dinner for four, $155 with wine, tax and tip.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Excellent.