June 6, 2008
mark this bistro
The blue bird bistro, 1700 Summit St., emphasizes organic, all-natural, sustainable and local ingredients throughout its menu. Other factors add to this restaurant’s special appeal.
During lunch in the sunny, brightly painted upstairs dining rooms, my friend, Amanda, ordered grilled polenta appetizer ($7.50) — three polenta triangles with plenty of heat, a creamy, seductive herbed goat cheese mouse, house-made pesto, spicy, organic tomato puree and a classic black olive tapenade that had just the right amounts of tiny chunks and salt. The dish tasted great but wasn’t terribly filling, and the spiciness might put off an unsuspecting guest.
My Blue Bird Salad ($8 for small, $12 for regular) combined plenty of dark, fresh greens with mildly crunchy Missouri Northern pecans, savory/sweet caramelized onion bits and organic blue cheese. Blueberry vinaigrette provided sweet goodness without overpowering the dish.
There were several service glitches. We never received table bread and our entrées arrived before the appetizers. Although our server said the kitchen could re-prepare the entrees after our appetizers came, the lukewarm food returned only moments later.
Amanda’s Wild Caught Scallop Special ($11.95) was billed as “all-natural pan seared scallops served with an herbed cream sauce.” Three plump, succulent scallops were well cleaned and cooked, with just a touch of crunchiness. But salt and pepper on the scallops contributed more flavor than the cream sauce and, because of timing problems, the sauce wasn’t warm enough. Fortunately, our waitress removed the charge from our bill.
My traditional Eggs Benedict ($11) was filling and satisfying. All natural bacon that resembled Canadian bacon sat atop whole grain English muffin halves, which were soft with crunchy edges. Layers of fresh tomato and soft cheese followed, and twin poached eggs flooded the plate with a touch of my fork. A light hollandaise had just the right touch of lemon.
Our waitress apologized that there was only one dessert option — apple croustade ($7). She then delivered just one serving, perhaps assuming that, because we shared our entrees, we would share a dessert. A large triangle of thick, dry crust enfolded lightly cooked apples prepared with loads of cinnamon, and sugar and butter. Toasted oatmeal and nuts decorated the top and a dollop of natural whipped cream completed the dish.
Quite a contrast from the croustade Ellen ordered at dinner. This time a tender, flaky crust enfolded the apples. In fact, the entire dinner visit was a stark contrast to the first. We sat in the cozy downstairs dining room where white paper topped white linen, a tin ceiling and tile mosaic floor signaled the building’s historical roots, and modern art pieces in vibrant colors lined the walls. Our waitress, Monique, confidently recommended wines and menu items and allowed me to taste one wine before choosing another. She flawlessly filed our orders in her head, and kept our water glasses well filled.
Ellen’s Killer Tomato Appetizer ($9.95, a special) paired thick, flavorful tomato slices with pungent feta cheese, crunchy mixed greens and soft, handmade white bread for a vegetarian twist on a BLT. My bruschetta ($8) combined fresh bread, oyster mushrooms roasted with garlic and sage, and a healthy dose of crumbled and melted chevre, and garlic Colby cheeses. The appetizer was delightfully earthy, creamy, soft, and crunchy, but the bread became a little soggy for eating by hand.
The fish special featured a large wild-caught pan-seared halibut filet ($29) that was flaky and moist. Deep green braised bok choy anchored the plate’s center, which also held plump Israeli couscous with cherries and almonds, atop a rosemary lemon cream sauce. The lemon and rosemary were very subtle and I thought the cherries added one-too-many flavors.
House filled Ravioli ($25) featured six chewy, thick raviolis filled with creamy chevre, cheddar and garlic Colby cheeses that were accented by ginger-tomato sauce full of sun-dried tomatoes and ginger that was barely discernible. I would have liked additional sauce.
As I sampled Ellen’s croustade, I also enjoyed Vegan Orange Cake ($8), with a light moist crumb finish, deep chocolate and coffee glaze, and almond slivers on top. By the time we finished, Ellen and I had lingered over dinner for more than two hours — signs of a good meal and good company.
Lisa Waterman Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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