When we first moved to Sarasota back in May, one of the first events we attended was the Forks and Corks Grand Tasting (reviewed here). One of the restaurants that we have wanted to try since then is The Bijou Cafe and last night we finally got the opportunity to do so.
We arrived about 30 minutes early for our reservation, but they seated us immediately. Of course this was the day before Thanksgiving, but it was still nice since we were both hungry. We had both looked at the menu briefly online, we still needed some time to make our decisions.
To start the evening off, we both had a glass of NV Charles de Fere Blanc de Blanc Brut. These are served as splits (187ml bottle) which is great — every glass is fresh. This was a nice, lighter style sparkling with notes of apples and melon. For $7 this was a great start.
Allison knew that she wanted the trio of pate – duck, pork and mushroom – for an appetizer and I am always a sucker for bisque so these were our starters. The shrimp and crab bisque was delightful, full of rich savory flavors and a hint of the Cognac used to finish it. The only, albeit minor, complaint is that I would have like to have had more meat in it. Allison loved the duck pate, declaring it the best that she has had in an awfully long time. She like the mushroom ok but did not care for the pork at all. This was served with a small salad and bread.
For dinner I decided to give the special a try — seared Virginia striped bass with shitake couscous, topped with fennel, grilled zucchini and paprika oil for color. This was wonderful. The fish was nicely seared on the outside while remaining moist on the inside. The shitake couscous was very good, though I would have personally preferred more shitake.
Allison decided on the Bijou pepper steak, which is NY strip steak crusted with freshly cracked black pepper and seared in what was called an outrageous spicy hot sauce. Unfortunately, while it was still very good, the sauce was not at all spicy hot but it did remind us of A-1 steak sauce. Allison asked our waiter what the base for the sauce was and he came back with vinegar and molasses. So, not sure what the spicy hot is all about but otherwise the steak was very good. It was served with a generous portion of mashed potatoes and green beans.
With dinner we split a bottle of 2007 Foley Rancho Santa Rosa Pinot Noir which worked very well with both plates. Moderately full-bodied, with notes of dark cherry fruit it did not overpower the finish but held up well with the steak. Our waiter recommended this to us, and I think he did a great job.
Allison closed out the evening with the molten lave cake which is infused with Grand Marnier and served with raspberry sorbet and vanilla bean creme anglaise. She thought it was quite tasty.
Overall, this was definitely one of the best dining experiences we have had to date in Sarasota. There were only 2 things that detracted from the evening — Allison ordered a side of pommes gratin dauphinois with her meal. Our waiter did not deliver our dinners when they came up, and the one who did serve us did not realize that the side was ours as well. Not a huge deal as there was plenty of food without them, and they did comp us an order with our take home so all is well.
The other thing that we found odd is that the wines were served poor wine glasses. While the shapes were basically correct, they were thick, heavy glass with a rolled edge which is terribly for tasting wine as it floods the mouth. As a previous Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner, we had hoped to have decent wine glasses. We understand that restaurants can not necessarily have the proper Riedel stems due to cost but there are a lot of great wine glasses out there.
We will definitely go back, even if we do have to take our own wine glasses!