Rob's Bistro, Madison
Starting a separate thread for Rob's b/c the few posts I've seen on here are about Madison restaurants or searches for good bistros. I've now had the pleasure of eating a few dinners and a lunch here, and it's crystal clear to me why the chef has such a devoted following.
This week I attended a wine dinner at Rob's, and I'm still wishing I could have convinced a few more friends to join me, because it was SO delicious and really gave the chef an opportunity to show that he not only knows how to cook, but that he truly understands food and wine pairings.
For starters, a quick explanation of how/why a BYOB is holding a wine dinner. A new law that went in to effect last year now allows BYOs in NJ to partner with out-of-state wine distributors to offer their wines in addition to allowing a restaurant to remain BYO. (Only in NJ, I say...!) Rob's has teamed up with Domenico Winery (CA) to offer (mostly half-bottles, iirc) their wines, so this dinner was a chance for us to try those wines along with the chef's excellent food. Four courses, wine, gratuity, and tax were $65, which is insanely reasonable, and the menu read beautifully, so I had to go!
The menu and wines:
1. Vanilla Bean Salmon Gravalax, Mâche & French Bagel paired with 2009 California Chardonnay
2. Crisp Pork Rillette, Frisée Lardon Salad paired with 2007 Amador Barbera
3. Braised Short Ribs, Sweet Potato Purée & Roasted Asparagus paired with 2007 Napa Valley "Meritage" Merlot
4. Dark Chocolate Mousse*, Fresh Strawberries & Crème Chantilly paired with 2005 "Black Silk" Ruby Red Dessert Wine
*Note: I generally don't 'care' about chocolate the way many people do; I'm the one ordering something lemony or a cheese plate or better still, drinking my dessert. Rob makes THE. BEST. Dark choc mousse I've ever had.
There wasn't a miss anywhere, but without a doubt, my favorite course overall was the pork rillette. It was fantastic, and the balance of the vinaigrette on the frisée and the acid in the wine was just perfect. I'd eat and drink that combo again and again, thankyouverymuch. :-) And the Barbera was my favorite of all of the wines we tasted, but there wasn't a miss in the glass anywhere.
It was a terrific evening all around; the winemaker (Domenick) was happy to share the story of how he discovered his passion for the business, and how he has grown from a make-your-own-wine club (Bacchus, based down the shore) to a full-blown California winery with a mail-order club and a tasting room in Tom's River. That Jersey boy has certainly kept his roots on the east coast!
If you enjoy a seriously well-done bistro menu, you've got to give Rob's a try. www.robsbistro.com