I've come to that conclusion before during Saturday afternoon window shopping jaunts and former lunchtime trips to Mineo's Pizzeria but was happily reminded this past Friday evening as PID and I ventured to Bistro 19 on the corner of Washington and Central.
We waited just a bit too long to make reservations so our only available time slot was 8:30 p.m. but I've been dying to try this place for a while. So we headed down a bit early to grab a drink at the bar and hope for early seating.
It was a bustling Friday evening during Halloween weekend and with Molly Brannigans and The Saloon just a stones-throw away, those late reservations came in handy as we got to catch an entertaining glimpse of countless vampires, fairies, Ninja Turtles and Super Mario characters walk by. We were also highly entertained with Kevin, the Bistro "regular" who seemed to have gotten a head start on the weekend.
The space was quaint, but the atmosphere was well thought out. It made me hungry just sitting there. For the smallish size of the restaurant I didn't feel crowded in the least which -- as you know -- is one of my biggest pet peeves. I really liked the feel here.
No go on the early seating, but I was OK with that because I spent the time at the bar looking over the menu in an attempt to make a VERY difficult decision on what to order. Everything looked so good! Both the hostess and server were quick, efficient and quite pleasant. I made my decision. We started with the bread...
None of the bread options were particularly appealing so I was relying on the butter to nail it home. It was a sweet butter with chives. To me, an extremely odd combination of flavors which left an odd aftertaste. But PID liked it quite a bit, so don't necessarily take my word for it.
Then, on to the appetizers...
Though it looked absolutely delicious, we were strongly against ordering the calamari because we wanted to shake things up a bit (and we always order calamari) so went for what was called "Crab Grilled Cheese." It certainly sounded interesting! But once our server read the specials we knew we couldn't pass up the Mushroom Bisque, either. So we ordered one of each.
We were torn here. The crab grilled cheese was served atop a balsamic glaze and baby greens and while I'm typically a balsamic junkie, I actually thought it really took away from the flavor of the crab. However, I tried a bite without any glaze and it was rather bland. It was either too much or too little. PID and I were both pretty disappointed. (I have to say the Parmesan encrusted tomatoes were VERY good, though!)
But -- though it could have used a better presentation method -- the Mushroom Bisque blew us both away. I actually sent my compliments to the chef (which I don't often do) and filled out a comment card requesting that it be put on the permanent menu. Typically bisque's are composed of pureed seafood of some sort, so the mushroom really intrigued me. It was perfectly creamy and had that hint of buttery aftertaste which I love. Technically this was PID's order, but I made sure to sneak as many spoonfuls as I could when he wasn't looking. Hey Bistro -- add this to your permanent menu PLEASE... but dress it up a bit, would ya? It deserves a prettier presentation!
Since it was a Friday, PID ordered another Captain and Coke as we waited for our entree...
At PID's suggestion, I ordered the first listed item on the entree menu, the horseradish encrusted Chilean Seabass served on a bed of Napa slaw. PID went for the Jamison Farm Lamb Shank with whipped potatoes and a truffle ragout. The lamb fell of the bone and was deliciously tender. PID said that his first few bites we absolutely delicious, but it became a bit redundant as he continued through his meal. I only had one bite, so I have to give it two blazing thumbs up. But I'm wondering if a few greens would have helped the cause at all? (And the inedible sprig of rosemary just doesn't count.)
But now we get to the fun part. My completely delicious, pleasantly surprising Chilean Seabass. Seabass is tricky (for me, anyway). If you don't cook it perfectly, I find it far too fishy which is why I rarely order it. But I was feeling adventurous so I gave it a shot. And I'm so happy I did! The fish sliced like butter with my fork and every bite melted in my mouth. The oriental horseradish crust fit the fish to a T and the crunch of the slaw gave it a great texture.
I wanted to save some room for dessert so I boxed up what I didn't finish (knowing full well that I rarely EVER eat leftovers) but I have to tell you that I woke up thinking about it the next morning and wound up eating it -- cold -- for lunch. Yes -- I liked the meal THAT much that I ate a left over, a FISH leftover, a COLD FISH leftover!! That certainly says a lot.
The dessert I saved room for wasn't half bad either. Once again, PID and I had differing opinions (three in one night is quite odd for us...) but I loved the Wildberry Sorbet. I had seen a neighbor order it when we were first seated and new I wanted to be a copy cat. Sadly, however, I made a point to ask if the sorbets were made in-house and the server responded "I wish." What a bummer, because it was GOOD. But served on a doily? C'mon Bistro....you're better than that.
Address: 711 Washington Rd. Mt. Lebanon
Reservations: Taken, strongly suggested especially for Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Hours: Monday – Thursday 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Friday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Sunday 11:00 – 2:30 (brunch) and 4:00 – 9:00
Cliffs Notes:Beverages: 1 Cab Sav @ $8
2 Captain & Cokes @ $5.50
1 Diet Coke @ $2.00Appetizer: Mushroom Bisque @ $5.00
Crab Grilled Cheese @ $10.00
Entree: Jamison Farm Lamb Shank @ $28.00
Chilean Seabass @ $29.00Dessert: Wildberry Sorbet @ $4.50
Tax: @ 7% (Allegheny County only) @ $6.83
Total for two: $125.33
Total for two: $125.33
It was a roller coaster evening. There were a lot of ups and downs but I'd have to say the downs weren't as low as the ups were high. Combined with the pleasant atmosphere, fast and friendly service and great (in my mind) location, I'd have to highly suggest Bistro 19 as a place to add to your list. Let's hope it's not as long as mine!