Inside, the décor is intentionally similar to the original restaurant, dressed casually with warm colors, dark furniture and low lighting for dinner service. On a random Monday, the bulk of the activity probably will be in the bar, though the dining room has more visual appeal, with a few welcome pops of color on beige walls. There’s a diverse demographic, from happy hour sippers, to family gatherings, to couples on date night. Overall, there is a friendly neighborhood vibe. In the bar, high-top seating is available for small and large parties, and seating at the bar itself is abundant.
The wine list is fairly eclectic; a collection of recognizable varieties available by the glass (mostly $7), each with detailed descriptions of flavor profiles found right on the menu. I went with the Alamos Malbec from Argentina, whose narrative indicated it would complement most anything—and it was right. A separate list of slightly higher-end wines by the bottle also is available.
The “Starters” menu consists of mostly seafood-based appetizers, such as fried calamari, crab cakes and shrimp in garlic sauce. We opted for the homemade lobster ravioli, an absolute delight.
The ravioli were light, well-seasoned and with a hearty portion of lobster situated inside. A light lemon cream sauce and accompaniment of fresh tomatoes and baby spinach made for a most appealing first course to whet the appetite.
Bread and salad can tell you a lot about a restaurant. The bread, while bearing a rather ordinary appearance, was warm, soft and purely addictive dipped in seasoned olive oil. A simple salad was served with fresh, crisp varieties of green and purple lettuce, julienned carrot, cherry tomato, red onion and a zesty, sweet pineapple vinaigrette, a homemade Bistro original recommended by our server.
Which brings me to one of the highlights of the whole experience: the impeccable service. Having been open for only a short while, it’s definitely a gamble (to say the least) in terms of the quality of service you’ll receive. We’ve all been to restaurant openings, eager to try something brand-new, only to be greeted by looks of confusion and clueless shrugs in response to routine questions about the menu or ingredients. In contrast, our server blew us away with her knowledge, care, passion and delivery of a fantastic dinner service. Courses were timed perfectly, wine was poured tableside, and our droves of inquiries were met patiently with informed responses—all with a style and grace that comes from experience and zeal for one’s profession.
In addition to a fantastic server, we also received not one, but two visits from owner-chef Roger Stewart, who chatted and encouraged us to return. It’s always fun to meet the one behind the vision, and it was obvious that he was exceedingly proud of his new digs.
A pan-fried salmon with fresh tomato bruschetta, balsamic reduction, garnished with fresh basil was the featured seafood of the evening. The portion of salmon was generous, and the preparation, lovely. Some might prefer slightly less cook time, but overall, the dish was a success. The tomatoes were noticeably farm fresh and literally bursting with flavor. As a side dish, squash and zucchini ribbons (an alternative to pasta) with garlic cream sauce captured my attention. This veggie version of pasta seems to be part of the growing trend toward gluten-free options.
Coincidentally, The Bistro offers an entirely gluten-free menu upon request. Even for a die-hard pasta fanatic such as myself, surprisingly the pasta was not missed. The veggies were flavorful and hearty, not limp and overcooked as you might expect. Bravo to chef Roger for offering a well-prepared vegetable; this isn’t always the easiest thing to come by.
My dinner date selected the featured pasta dish for the evening: linguine, grilled chicken, asparagus and tomatoes in a rosemary cream sauce. While the vegetables and sauce were flavorful, the chicken was somewhat underseasoned, and ended up being cast to the side of the plate. That said, minus the chicken, it was a satisfying vegetarian dish.
Dessert was a must after a successful first few courses. All sweets are prepared in-house, with the exception of the tiramisu and cheesecake. To satisfy a chocolate craving, try the Kahlua-chocolate truffles, served with chocolate drizzle, raspberries and mint. One bite of the truffle left us “oohing and ahhing” in a blissful state to which only a true foodie can relate. Of course, there is creme brulee, which delivered the appropriate crack of a perfectly browned sugar shell into a sweet, creamy center. These two desserts are reason enough to visit.
At $100 for two, including wine, it’s a bit of a splurge. But if you are looking for an unpretentious neighborhood feel, classic American-fusion dishes made from high-quality ingredients and professional and attentive service, The Bistro of Oakwood just might land on your short list. Personally, I’ll be back in the colder months to try a blue cheese, bacon and brandy-topped rib-eye.