Update 6/2013: Bistro 55, after changing hands a few years ago, will be closing at the end of June, 2013.
Where were you yesterday? (That was rhetorical; I really don't care). I bet you weren't eating one of the best pork chops, if not the best pork chop, in the state of New Jersey, were you. No, you weren't, because I didn't see you at Bistro 55 ("Bistro 55 Seasonal Kitchen & Bar", more formally), that new place in Rochelle Park that opened in the old South City Grill space (by the same restaurant group).
Much has been said, mostly by me, about Beestrow Bistro 55's menu. All fine and fun, but let's get down to brass tax tacks: how does the restaurant perform.
I could hardly weight wait to find out four for myself, so I stopped in early in the weak week to give them a test run. It wasn't long into that meal that I new knew I'd be returning four for moor more.
Before boring everyone with descriptions of food, lettuce let's talk about what this restaurant is doing write right, and theirs there's alot a lot of that:
- They are serving their red wine at an appropriate temperature, rather than at behind-the-bar temperature. The temperature at which wine is served is one of my biggest peeves. This isn't even a pet peeve. It's a flat out peeve. It literally peeves me off (that phrase should be used more often, and I'll do my part): whites are served much too cold, reds much too warm, rosé not often enough. Some restaurants likely know this (although the vast majority no doubt don't realize it), but don't care enough to change their policy. Bistro 55 knows, and cares.
- There's a big ol' beer list written on a large black board, which is center stage behind the bar, well-lit, listing the brewery, the location, the name of the beer, and the ABV (alcohol by volume). All great, and essential, pieces of info. And this board isn't your typical cookie-cutter list of Bud and Sams: it's filled with small producers, many local. "Craft beer", as it's now called.
- You'll find about 10 or 12 of those craft beers at Bistro 55, and they encourage that you have a little taste before committing to a full glass.
- The bar has hooks on the underside for your purse. I'm told this is a good thing. I don't have a purse, but it makes perfect damned sense to me.
- The bar area includes 2 large communal tables, which no doubt pick up the bar overflow. Great for people like us who'd prefer to not sit at tables when there's no available bar seating (bar dining, as you know, is almost always preferable).
- Back to that menu for a moment. The fact that one sheet of paper contains all of the food, the beer selection, the wine list (both bottle and glass) and the cocktail list, is refreshing and a pleasure. Give me everything that you have to offer in one spot, and I can make informed decisions.
- They have an actual, real, live, cocktail program, with experienced bartenders creating and making the cocktails. They're using interesting ingredients and hard-to-find booze.
- The bartenders and hostesses are tops. Very friendly, very efficient.
- They really are focusing on ingredients, and sourcing local, seasonal, natural ingredients whenever possible. Expect to see the menu changing as the seasons progress.
- Music is always on, and you feel as though you're *somewhere*. There's an energy, even when the place is half empty.
That's off the top of my head. And believe me, for me to get to about 10 positives off the top of my head for a New Jersey restaurant, well that's saying something right there, because, as you know, I'm a hard-to-please curmudgeon.
I don't even know that it's necessary to talk about the food, since they could be serving mediocre food, and given the above points, I'd probably still like the place. Happily, they're not just phoning it in. Here are some highlights:
Bistro 55's restaurant group had opened and closed South City Prime in Little falls (now a Fire & Oak...same restaurant group, more confusing than you think) not too long ago, and they had an exceptional grass-fed burger on the menu. So I was pleased as punch to see another grass-fed burger make an appearance on Bistro 55's menu.
We ordered the burger on two different trips. The first burger was exceptional, and the second was good, but slightly over-cooked from the m/r we ordered. The juiciness suffered. Each time, however, excellent fries were served in abundance. Bistro 55 is making some good fries, and when it's on, one of the best burgers in the area. That said, I'd still recommend pulling some of the guts out of the top bun for a better ratio of burger-to-meat.
A dish of mac and cheese w/ tomato and chorizo was outstanding. Not too cheesy and gooey. The chorizo, I'm told, is from a place in Newark (Newark, NJ, known for, among other things, chorizo). This appetizer can and should be shared by two or three people.
The "slow roasted all natural pork chop" was easily one of the best dishes that I've had this year, and very likely the best pork chop that I've ever eaten. That might sound ridiculous, but it really, truly was. The fat and muscle melted in my mouth like warm butter. Listed has having "crispy german dumplings (I don't remember seeing these), caramelized apples, swiss chard, and cinnamon-clove demi glace", I was concerned that the dish might be a bit on the sweet side. But, it wasn't nearly as sweet as I had feared. This double cut bone-in rib chop is certainly a steal at the 18 or 20 bucks that they're selling it for.
The staff is eager to please, and management is certainly present. Annoyingly, one of the owners figured out who I was (I'm just an opinionated food blogger) during my first visit, simply by hearing what I ordered, and, presumably, how I ordered it. Apparently he's read my blog, and put a few things together (ordering and discussing rye whiskey, burgers, fresh lime juices, looking and acting like a douche, etc). I have to say, that was quite impressive, as I do go through some lengths to make sure restaurants do *not* know that I'm a blogger (contrasted with much of the food blogging community). I pretended as though I didn't know what he was talking about when he confronted me with his suspicion. That ruse lasted the entire meal, making me somewhat uncomfortable, since I knew him, yet was pretending to be someone I wasn't, or rather pretending I wasn't who I am, or something like that. I emailed the fella when I got home to congratulate him on his keen powers of blogservation. The jig was clearly up.
Bistro 55 is exactly the type of restaurant that I've been saying we need around here. A chef-driven, ingredients-focused, cocktail program-having, interesting beer-serving, doing things right restaurant.
I'm obligated by nothing but my own principles to mention that two of my visits included comps, offered by the owner at the end of the meal. "Comps you say!?!?!?. Hmmmm...", you say? Yes, comps. But I think everyone who reads this blog knows that I cannot be bought, so rest assured my opinions are honest and untainted. I'm here for the fun, not the free shit.
Bistro 55 Seasonal Kitchen & Bar : 55 Route 17 South (ah, now I see where they got the name) : Rochelle Park, New Jersey : 201.845.3737