I am so late to post this review... but like everyone else, my life is crazy busy... one large hoodlum going to prom, the small hoodlum went to Orlando on a spring trip, daily chaos and drama of the life of a single mom and I work too much. Way too much. I don't even have time to go out to eat. At least not to the places I'd LIKE to eat.
So one Tuesday in April... or it may have been March (yikes, time flies) I called into the restaurant and begged for the night off. Then, I called Thing One and Thing Two to inform them that we had reservations and they needed to get dressed. Shirts with buttons. No holes in the pants. No ratty baseball caps. When I arrived at the house, the "pinkies up!" jokes started because we were headed to a "fancy" restaurant. I warned them that they couldn't get burgers. Or taco salad. There would likely be no french fries, but probably a lot of things we couldn't pronounce.
We pulled up to Bistro Bethem for our 7pm reservations. There was no street parking. Ok, there MAY have been a parallel spot, but I'm a girl. And it was raining. And... we rounded the block and parked at another restaurant (Shhhh don't tell. It was Renato's. There were signs threatening to tow me, but I parked there anyway).
We walked into the restaurant, were greeted immediately and taken to our seats. My wise acre kids walked to the table with their pinkies up. Tables around us asked to be seated elsewhere. Not really, but if I was them I would have... Anyway, we sat down and my son said "Hmmm fahn-ceh" and proceeded to drink water from a giant wine goblet. Yes, his pinkie was still up. There was some discussion about trying to get through the entire meal with ALL of our pinkies up, but thankfully the menus arrived to distract them. I saw their faces as they perused their menus with words like "aoili", "fennel", "organic" and "anchovy-infused". I saw the nervousness in my son's eyes over the $28 grass-fed wagyu sirloin, and my daughter's apprehension over the potato soup with pickled hops. Me? I dove right in. Bring the wine.
We started with the cheese board and Prince Edward Island Mussels. The cheeseboard was lovely, albeit very small for $12, but satisfying. The cheese was a selection of grass-fed cow's milk cheese, mild and creamy, but flavorful. There was a small portion of apricot jam, some fresh orange blossom honey, walnut brittle and lemon confit, which I had to convince my son was ok to eat. There were also a few foccacia toasts and I think, if memory serves, a bit of smoked gouda. The kids ate that up. I got a tiny taste. For my appetizer, I was feeling particularly brave, and having recently tried and enjoyed my first oyster EVER in my life a few days prior, I decided that shellfish would be a grand idea. At $12, the portion of mussels was insane. Huge. I could have split them with three people. What I found most interesting about these mussels was what it was cooked in: a ginger and fennel sauce. I'd never heard of preparing seafood this way, and it smelled amazing. Therapeutic even. The taste was even better. I knew there was a meal on the way though, so I ate about five mussels and packed the other twelve or so in a box to take home.
My kids still had their pinkies up. Bring me more wine.
For dinner, I knew the Large One was eyeballing the sirloin, so I told him to order it. We never go eat like that, just the three of us. Live a little. He jumped on that like a fat kid on a cupcake. The sirloin was served over fingerling potatoes, but he is decidedly anti-spud, so we asked for a substitition of some kind of vegetable. Turns out they had some unidentified greens that looked like the chef emptied the bag on his lawnmower into a bowl. The steak came medium rare only, with shitake and hedgehog mushrooms. My son LOVED it. The steak was perfectly cooked, he ate the yard clippings as if they were the best thing to cross his lips and his mushrooms didn't stand a chance.
The Small One decided on a bowl of cream of potato soup. Yes, the same soup that was garnished with pickled hops, and contained a little beer as well. She also had a side of sauteed mushrooms. I was able to taste a little soup, and it was very good. I think there may have been some cheese involved. The soup was rich and had a very slight beer flavor. Excellent. She ate it all, and as many mushrooms as she could. The remaining 'shrooms were donated to her starving brother, who had finished his steak minutes before and was threatening to lick his plate.
For my entree, I chose seared sea scallops, served with crispy fried sweetbreads and brussels sprouts. Scallops, I love. Sweetbreads, I knew they were something gross but didn't recall what they were, however I'd just watched Anthony Bourdaine over the weekend and was feeling kinda cocky. Brussels sprouts? Are you kidding me? Gross... but I'll choke them down because that's what comes with the scallops. And they're good for you. Well, when the server set my plate in front of me, honestly my first thought was "really? Three effin' scallops?" My son leaned over and said "How much was that plate?" because it sure didn't look like a lot of food. And I'm a big girl... I can eat. The sweetbreads were still thankfully unidentifiable, but I was relatively sure based on the size and texture I wasn't dealing with intestines or anything, so I dug in. They. Were. Delicious. Velvety texture, crispy on the outside, with a very mild beef flavor. Veal. I don't eat veal. Pictures of baby cows flashed in my head as I took another bite. And another. And another until the baby cow pictures in my head disappeared. My son kept asking "what IS that?" My response was "I don't remember, but I think it's something gross." That thought alone caused me to only finish about half of the sweetbreads. Moving on to the food that I'm familiar with... the sea scallops were large and cooked perfectly, very tender and flavorful. The biggest surprise of the evening were the brussels sprouts. I'm not sure what the chef did to them, but they were incredible. No bitter, cabbagey taste, no nasty steamed ball of vegetable wrong-ness to try to swallow whole before Dad caught me trying to feed it to the dog... (that never worked, by the way. Beagles don't like brussels sprouts) but I wanted more. They were slightly sweet, slightly crisp, not overly seasoned. I want some right now. And, what appeared to be not enough food turned out to be exactly the right amount.
The server came to ask us about dessert. Of course we will! My son and I had the creme brulee, and my daughter had a chocolate pot de creme. A discussion ensued over the proper pronunciation of "pot de creme" and surprise, she ordered with her pinkie up. The desserts were perfect. The creme brulee at Bistro is one of the best I've ever had, and the serving size is just right. It's paired with a little crisp gingerbread cookie. The pot de creme was incredible. I am still on the fence which dessert I liked better.
Overall, I spent $167 for three dinners, two appetizers, two glasses of wine, three desserts, a 20% tip and a great evening with my kids. We talked about school, about different kinds of food, about trying new things, about really enjoying a meal and I even gave them a little primer on wine. We joked around (quietly, because we were in a fahn-ceh restaurant) and spent some really good quality time together. At least, I think so.
Ok, the nitty gritty: Should you go? Not just yes. YES! The service is top notch, the wine list is extensive, the food is unique, presented beautifully and delicious. I love the decor of the restaurant as well... it's full of original art by local artists - all for sale, of course.
309 William Street
The evening's wine: it's on the fridge at home... will update asap.