Rosé Wine and Roses
Valentine’s Dinner at Bistro 218 boasts aromatic bouquets.
By Jan Walsh
I made reservations well in advance at Bistro 218 for the Saturday before Valentine’s Day. Afterwards, owner and executive chef, Tom Saab decided to open the restaurant on Monday night for Valentine’s dinner with a special, four courses with options, Valentine’s Menu. Oh, my! He had me at “Butter Poached Lobster Risotto.” Fortunately, by popular demand, this special menu is served this Saturday evening too.
Bistro 218 is one of the city’s most romantic restaurants and one of our favorites. Every night, not just Valentine’s, live roses crown candlelit, white tablecloth adorned tables. Back in the day, when the Bar was open for lunch, I had a view of the dining room where they were placing roses on the tables. Chef Tom noticed the wishful look on my face and brought me a long stem yellow rose. What a guy! I still have the dried rose on my dressing table.
Tonight, we are seated at our favorite window table, complete with a live rose bouquet. Typically, we start with a drink from their signature, handcrafted cocktail list. Yet knowing how Kev loves a chocolate martini, we both start with his favorite. One sip shows this is a serious slow sipper. Not sweet and creamy, it is deep, dark chocolaty, light in body, and luscious in flavor. Next, we order a bottle of Italian sparkling wine for dinner, Tenuta Maccan Pinot Nero Rosé. Tiny pink bubbles dance to Louis Armstrong playing the French tune, “La Vie En Rose.” Made in the Charmant method, of 100 percent Pinot Nero, the wine expresses a raspberry bouquet and a lovely acidity. Perfect for our Valentine’s toast. Bistro 218’s GM, Matt Dunn stops by for a visit, and afterwards happily obliges our request for Valentine photo.
We both start with the scrumptious, steaming Shrimp and Corn Chowder. Other tempting options include Oysters and Crispy Artichokes and their famous Charred Spanish Octopus. Not too thick, not too thin, the creamy chowder is chock full of succulent Bay Shrimp, fresh yellow corn, and comforting red potato. For our second course, Kev selects the Bok Choy Salad. Already a devotee of Bistro 218’s duck confit, I opt for the Duck Confit Rillettes. The other option is their signature New Orleans Style File Gumbo. Kev’s salad is a healthy mix of leafy bok choy, pungent chèvre, crisp bacon, fresh yellow corn, red potato, haricots, and tomato. Eating your veggies comes easy with this lovely, well sourced salad. Chef Tom is as diligent in his selections of and sourcing his food as he is in the execution of each dish… I have seen him shoo haricot verts, which looked good to me, out the back kitchen door as soon as they arrived. My delicious duck is a decadent spread that I slather onto grilled country bread and top with acidic pickled red onions and crispy cornichons.
For entrees we both catch the Butter Poached Lobster Tail in Vegetable Risotto. Other hard to resist options include Pan Seared Gulf Red Snapper, Char Grilled Center Cut Ribeye, and Oven Roast Lamb Rack. Yet both here at Bistro 218 and at Tom’s other restaurant, Bocca, the risottos are always a must. Each of our plates arrive with a bed of creamy risotto adorned by lobster tail, curled atop. The lobster is pristine white in color with deep sea freckles, soft and tender in texture, and mild, sweet, and rich in flavor. Each heavenly bite of this buttery crustacean melded to the velvety rice is melt-in-the-mouth memorable. Highly Recommended!
For dessert, Kev selects the French Almond Gateau and I order the Chocolate Pistachio Entremet. The gateau is a fancy and fabulous, moist, almond cake. But my entremet is everything! Three layers of chocolate—from the glistening dark chocolate top, through the chocolate mousse middle, and deep down through the crunchy pistachio crust—is this chocolate lover’s dream! Never had a better dessert. And this course ended even sweeter with a table visit from Chef Tom.
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