Tuesday, March 3, 2009

off the beaten path: bistro 33

restaurants are a dime a dozen in NYC, it's almost too easy to get a good meal. but there's a catch; this type of over exposure breeds complacent diners, and complacent diners breed mediocre restaurants. BREAK THE CYCLE - venture off the beaten path. discover a hidden treasure, enjoy its muted charm and esoteric allure. what you find might surprise you.

my girlfriend and i spent this past valentine's day at bistro 33, a franco-jap fusion locale just off of 21st street in astoria, queens.

bistro 33
19-33 Ditmars Boulevard
Astoria, NY
, 11105

they offered a 4-course tasting menu with wine pairings as a valentine's day special. the tasting menu both failed and triumphed, however, bistro 33 earned high enough marks to remain on the off the beaten path radar; i'd love to try their regular menu.

Buckwheat Risotto
King Trumpet Mushroom & Black Truffles

Paired with Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley, Chile

an "interesting" dish, to say the least. risotto is a timeless italian classic; simple and to the point with no room for the ostetatious. of course, no up-and-coming chef can leave well enough alone, and as such, wild interpretations pop up on menus all over, and most are rather uncivilized. i won't mince words, the first two bites tasted like dirt - straight up, however, i suppose that's to be expected when you order any buckwheat dish. the trumpet mushrooms and black truffles further muddled this dishes already struggling, overly-earthy flavor profile. texture was this dishes only saving grace; it ranged from properly toothy to uniquely chewy, something i've never quite experienced.

traditional or well executed? - no. playful and overall enjoyable? - sure.

Lobster Ravioli
Stuffed with Maine lobster, fontina, piave, mozzarella cheese
Cognac cream sauce, tarragon oil
Paired with McWilliams Riesling New South Wales, Australia

large, house-made ravioli are seldom a disappointment; these were no exception. plump with lobster and fine cheeses, no one ingredient overwhelmed the other. the stuffing's texture was creamy and luxiriant, but not overly processed; robust shreds of fresh lobster were an easy find. the cognac cream sauce was a lobster stock reduction, no doubt. i'm a sucker for shellfish sauce reductions but they've got to be done right, slowly and with care. bistro 33 successfully delivered.

Tekka Don Bluefin Tuna
Kinshi, tamago, rice

Sake pairing Ichinokura, Junmai Nama

a simple, traditional dish. the tamago, a sweet egg omelet, had been shredded into ribbons, a technqiue i've never seen before. the result, egg noodles - quite literally. the tuna was some of the best sashimi i've had in many moons; sliced uber thin, it was ever so delicate on the tongue. the rice, a shining example of how properly cooked sushi rice should be - humble and unassuming. my only gripe: with a dish like this there's nothing to hide; EASE UP ON THE WASABI.

Hotategai Trio
Scallop Sashimi - arugula, ginger dressing

Tartare of Scallop – meyer lemon, sea salt, fresh parilla leaf

Tataki Scallop – kaiware daikon, den miso glaze

Sake pairing Otokoyama – Tokubetsu Junmai

each more promising than the next:

the shashimi was positively fresh and handled with the utmost care, what more could you ask?

the tartare sang a sweet and sour song with enough restraint as to not take away from the molluscan main attraction.

the tataki, lightly seared and fully flavored had no trouble holding its own against the rich miso glaze or exonerating daikon radish.

Black Bass
Roasted kohlrabi, edamame, mussel nage
Paired with Fontanelle Chardonnay Castello Banfi Estates, Montalcino, Italy

look at that crisped skin, i swear it's better than bacon. this was a really fun and generous dish; a proper portion of bass, an ample amount of muscles and plenty of veggies; edamame and kolrabi no less! kolrabi is similar to a turnip but with a more "green" flavor, if that makes anymore sense. it's almost like a cross between a turnip and broccoli, flavor wise. the menu claimed that the kolrabi was roasted, but i beg to differ; looked and tasted steamed to me. no worries though, save for the veggies, that could have used a proper roasting, this was a well-executed entree.

Pan Seared Duck Breast
Brussels sprouts, lardon, water chestnuts

Paired with Buena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir, Sonoma, California

okay, where are the water chestnuts and lardon? if you are going to serve brussles sprouts and carrots, just say it; don't mislead the hungry with false hopes of alluring ingredients. deception aside, this was a solid entree. duck breast should ALWAYS be served rare, and rare it was. the skin crisp, the fat unctuous - 100% proper execution. the brussels sprouts had a rich nutty flavor, as any properly roasted sprout should. the sauce was rich but not heavy and had a strong five-spice component.

Triple chocolate bread pudding
White chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, hazelnut crème anglaise

again with the misleading menu description. anyone who's ever experienced an elementary school bake sale knows this confection as a "blondie". there's nothing wrong with blondies; they are delicious. furthermore, i don't think bread pudding comes across as any more sophisticated than a blondie, so why fudge (sic) the description? as a bread budding, this dessert is an epic fail. however, as a blondie, it gets a "C", average; next time just be yourself, blondie!

Blue Cheese Fig Torchon
Candied walnuts, balsamic glaze

bold, blue cheese in every bite; THE anti-dessert, i loved it! the dried fig, candied walnuts and balsamic reduction provided enough sweet and tang to chisel through the cheese's feet-flavor defenses, successfully neutralizing a somewhat cloying blue cheese overdose. make no mistake, this dish was a CHEESE dish, NOT a DESSERT. perhaps they should have made that more clear on the menu's description, as i noticed a few diners were put-off by this moldy marauder -- they expected a dessert, but what they got was a crash course in BLUE CHEESE.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" - http://missioninsatiable.blogspot.com/

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