Bistro 5 in West Medford
Had a first visit to Bistro 5 in West Medford last night and really I can't say enough good things about it. We had the 5 Course Chef's Tasting Menu.
Before the meal we shared a small plate of White Anchovies with Cannelini Beans. The beans were cooked well, but could have used a little more seasoning. It's hard to mess up white anchovies and this was no exception. The perfect sliver of briny pickled fish to compliment the house-made foccaccia.
Course 1: Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Brioche Croutons and Parsley Oil. Super luxuriouse with just a hint of acidity for depth and interest.
Course 2: Torchon of Foie Gras over house made cracker with seared and raw persimmon, topped with Cocoa Nibs. The torchon was laced with pastrami spice and Vahlrona Chocolate. Wow, just Wow!
Course 3:Hand Rolled Cavatelli with artichokes, toasted panko, mushrooms and white truffle oil. A deeply satisfying dish. I appreciated the light hand when applying the white truffle oil, which sometimes gets over done and overpowering.
Course 4: Pork Shank over white beans. This dish reminded me of a cross between a deconstructed Cassoulet and Osso Bucco. The shank was perfectly cooked and all of its meaty goodness simply fell off the bone. The white beans were a revelation here, with the appropriate amount of bite and flavor. The plate also came with a house made cracker topped with a Gremolata of cornichon and served with a minced pork terrine. The minced pork terrine was the least successful thing on the plate, but certainly no detraction from the dish. And... yes, I did suck the marrow out of that shank bone. Not pretty, I know, but oh so worth it.
Course 5: Poached pear over a Cardomon cookie with Sabayon foam and Marsala wine. We also sampled the Apple Tarte with the same cookie and whiskey ice cream. The Apple tarte was much better than the poached pear, and I would have to say the Pear was probably the only dish of the night that I felt was not up to the rest of the meal. Not to say it was bad, it just didn't live up to the rest of the meal. It seemed lacking somehow.
After the meal, the chef-owner, Vittorio Ettore came over and we began chatting about the meal and asked him about his preparation of the Torchon. Lo and behold, he invited me back to the kitchen to watch the Chef du Cuisine, Joe Carli prepare one! What an amazing treat for me and the perfect surprise ending to a very memorable meal!
Bistro 5 is great. It's not cheap, but not as expensive for what you would pay downtown for food of similar quality. Too answer the question of a previous poster -- They stay in business because they have a loyal following and it's usually pretty busy! On a recent weeknight there the place was buzzing. Medford has relaxed its liquor laws to allow smaller places to sell hard liquor. I asked the waitress if they were going to have a full bar and she said she thought it was in the works.
I've been to A Tavola, too. It's more casual than Bistro 5 and the food is not as elegant. The food is very good, more rustic than Bistro 5. It reminds me somewhat of Il Casale. Prices are lower than Bistro 5, too.
It sounds as though I should have ordered the tasting menu.
I started with calamari. The batter was crisp and light, the tomato chutney was sweet rather than sweet and spicy, and I couldn't find the lemon aioli. It would have been a reasonable dish had not the squid been so chewy.
My rabbit entree came with a puree of English peas, grilled radishes and pearl onions. The onions were the best part of the dish, if a little overdone.
The rabbit was dry on the outside, and had that rubbery texture that sometimes comes when meat is cooked ahead of time. You can get away with it with modern chicken, but not with rabbit. The brown butter sauce was just OK.
The puree of peas looked pretty but tasted of nothing. My fault, as at this time of year peas around here are either frozen or too young to have any flavour.
The grilled radishes were unpleasant. The essence of a radish is crispness and a slightly bitter flavour. These were hard and tasteless.
I find it difficult to believe that anyone working at this restaurant has sat down and eaten this dish with pleasure.
The service was good, and the room is pleasant enough, but until I read a review that convinces me that they can get the basic cooking right, I shan't be returning.