This past weekend brought about an impromptu late night dinner at Bistro Niko. Traditional French cuisine isn’t necessarily my favorite (excluding French fries, of course), but I was excited to finally cross Bistro Niko off my “list.” We arrived after 9 and the hostess informed us it would be a 45-minute wait for a table. We decided to grab a drink at the bar and wait it out. Not even five minutes later, the hostess reappeared to inform us that our table was ready. I understand the concept of “under-promising and over-delivering”, but perhaps they could have ball-parked it a little closer. It’s almost as if they were begging us not to stay…Glad they didn’t.
We were escorted to a table in the front dining room, which seemed a bit more formal and was definitely quieter than the main dining area. Bistro Niko’s menu screams classic-French with a modern twist. For the benefit of those less-sophisticated, non-French speaking Americans like myself, they graciously provided English “subtitles” for translating the French-written menu.
After enviously eyeing several flatbreads emerging from the kitchen, we decided to share the tarte au champignons. The flatbread crust was paper thin and crispy, just how I like it. The sauce-less tarte was topped with seasonal mushrooms and a gruyere-fontina cheese blend. The nutty, earthy flavor of the gruyere and mushrooms contrasted perfectly with the sharpness of the fontina. I think I can safely say that the dish beat out Del Frisco’s mushroom flatbread that I enjoyed several months ago. I would certainly order this again, but I’m dying to try out the smoked salmon and prosciutto tartes next time as well.
My dining companions started with the poitrine de porc roti (pork belly) and the salade de betteraves (beet salad). Naturally, I had to test out both of them just to make sure they weren’t poisonous. The pork belly was absolutely mouthwatering, by far my favorite taste of the evening. The pork was juicy and succulent on the inside and crisped to perfection on the outside. The salty jus that engulfed the dish only enhanced the flavor and tenderness of the pork.
The beet salad was pretty standard as far as beet salads go, but it did not disappoint either. The pickled beets were a light and refreshing contrast to the heaviness of the pork belly and flatbread we had enjoyed thus far.
I was immediately intrigued when the server mentioned a seared scallop appetizer special, and decided to go with that as my entrée. Whenever I hear the words “seared scallops”, I’m expecting a trio (or maybe a quartet if I’m being greedy) of perfectly bronzed U-10 sea scallops.
Needless to say, I was less than thrilled when my plate arrived with a handful of tiny bay scallops. The scallops were served over a bed of sautéed asparagus and endive, garnished with a citrus-olive oil reduction. Although I enjoyed the citrusy flavor of the dish, you just don’t get the same hard-sear-tender-center effect from biting into a bay scallop as you do from the real thing.
Dessert-wise we shared not one (because one is never enough when it comes to sharing desserts), but two orders of the profiteroles. The cream puffs were filled to the brim with vanilla ice cream, overflowing with a bitter chocolate sauce, and topped with a sprinkle of chopped almonds. My only complaint was that they weren’t served in a bowl, which would have made it easier to (politely) scrape up every last drop of chocolate sauce.
We enjoyed top-notch service throughout the meal, but I found the atmosphere of the front room to be a tad stuffy. I would love to return and enjoy a flatbread at the bar, or in warmer weather, a meal on the outdoor patio. Either way, Bistro Niko has officially moved from my bucket list to my “places I’ll try again” list, but I’ll be sure to go sans scallops next time.