Translation: Everything is so-so… and that is how it was at Craigie Street Bistrot last night.
My disappointment began with the parking situation. On their website, they indicate there are four parking spaces available next to the building and “ample parking” down the street, in front of the Armenian Church. Obviously we knew those coveted four parking spaces would be taken (which they were), so we continued on to find the Armenian church. A good 2 or 3 blocks later, we found the church… and ample cars parked in front of it. Luckily, there was one space left… the furthest away from the restaurant. It was quite chilly out last night, I had high-heeled boots on (thankfully wedges) and I was tired… so to say I was not looking forward to the 10-minute walk back to the restaurant is an understatement.
We were seated upon arrival, though they tried to put us at the worst 2-person table (a very tight spot, right on a busy corner). I quickly intervened and asked for a table along the wall; they graciously accommodated.
Our waiter was actually pretty good… he knew the wine list well and made some great suggestions for us. I started out with the 2005 Vouvray “La Cuvée des Fondreaux” Champalou ($9) — a demi sec white wine, bordering on being classified as a sweet wine. It was nice… with a floral bouquet and an almost syrupy finish. Dan chose to go with a red — the 2005 Chinon “Les Petits Roches” Charles Joguet ($11), a light-bodied, fruity and almost “crunchy” wine.
For dinner, we both opted for the Vegetarian Tasting Menu ($61 each) — 4-courses, including dessert with a dessert wine ending.
The first to arrive was the Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Gnocchi, served atop a sweet beet and butter reduction. This was definitely my favorite course. There were two large gnocchi, which were light an airy (unlike traditional potato gnocchi), having the consistency of thick-cut French toast. The beet reduction was a perfectly sweet match, almost reminding me of toast with butter and jelly. Weird, but yummy!
Next came a Ragoût of Crispy Fromage de Tête and Local Forest Mushrooms (normally $16) with a farm fresh egg (par-boiled), garden herb coulis, herbs and flowers. This was interesting… definitely different than something we’d had before. The waiter suggested that we break open the egg sack, so that the runny yolk was eaten with each bite. I liked this, though I thought the herbs added an almost overpowering flavor.
The entree was a Fall Vegetable Glacée with a crispy squash-risotto cake (normally $21) with mushrooms and some type of broth. The actual risotto cake was very good. The overall combination of flavors was good, but nothing really bowled me over.
Lastly, I had a dessert special of the night (a layered pastry with chocolate ganache, graham cracker and phyllo) and Dan had a Market Fruit Crisp (normally $10). I opted for cappuccino (rather than a dessert wine) and Dan thought his dessert wine was okay, but not great.
All-in-all, the meal was good… just not great. Especially considering the prices, which I thought were quite high. Our entire bill came in around $150… too much for what it was. The ala carte prices were too high as well (ranging from $25 to $36 for entrees, $12 to $17 for appetizers!).
My last comment is on the menu itself. This restaurant is really focused for meat-lovers… especially those loving pork in their meals. Even the one fish entree had a “ham salad” that accompanied it. If we had eaten off the ala carte menu, my only option would have been the vegetarian one… which was the same as the tasting menu — so not a lot of variety. One nice thing this place does is to buy all their food from local suppliers and natural/organic growers. This is great… however, from a diversity perspective, the common vein running through their entire menu is whatever item was available and fresh that day. We thought the commonality of the dishes was discouraging… not enough diversity to make it interesting.
Date night worthy? I would pass on this one. Kid-friendly? No way. Will we go back? Nope… never.