River Bend Bistro: More hits than misses.
Since they've only been open for a week, we went in with low expectations and were impressed. River Bend Bistro is located in Hollin Hall in the former location of The Warf, a notoriously bad eatery that died a slow and lingering death of mediocre food and worse service. The new owners split the restaurant (no more sprawling rabbit warren) and cleaned up the interior: they kept the exposed duct work, but added a nice bright wine bar and comfortable furnishings. Sunday dinner at 5pm, there was a thin crowd, but the place was at capacity by the time we left at 7. The cod fritter balls with aoli were so good, we ordered a second helping. Addictive. Entrees were a mixed bag: the salmon and lentils were underseasoned, but the seared duck breast breast with fig and madeira sauces was outstanding. Had there been a bread basket, it would have all gone to sopping up the juices. My pan roasted sweetbreads were a little too firm for my taste; I'm used to the creamy, deepfried version at Restaurant Eve, but for $23 this is a steal, considering how generous the portion is (two BIG honking sweetbreads). The wife's spinach and ricotta agnioloti with walnut and parsley pesto was also a high point, as was the carefully thought out wine selection. The server recommended a crisp chardonnay that worked really well with all the dishes. Docked a star for the middling beer selection (food this good deserves some decent craft beer), but add a star for having some decent port, sherry, and madeira options. Surprisingly, no kinks in service; staff was attentive but not intrusive. Yelpers are already complaining about the lack of a kid's menu and burgers, even though the menu is IN THE WINDOW and there's no kid's menu or burgers to be found on it. I'm confident that soon, they will pull a Marvin and offer a $15 burger that will end up being the most popular item on the menu, given the number of families with fairly well-behaved kids dining here. All in all, a welcome neighborhood addition at a reasonable price point (the most expensive entree is the ribeye at $24). So glad we don't have to drive into Old Town for a decent parents' night out. http://riverbendbistro.com/