Well, another fabulous dinner at R Bistro. As I think I have mentioned before, you can get on R Bistro's email list and they send out their new menu each week. This is a much anticipated event in my house (sad, huh?). Basically, every week we have one nice dinner out and we take turns choosing where. We usually have made up our mind in advance with our constant caveat, "unless there's a good R Bistro menu." You see, what we love there, we really love. Unfortunately, often the menu isn't up our alley. But this week, 2 or 3 very appealing appetizer choices and skate for a main! I love love love skate and why it isn't on more menus I don't know. (In case you don't know, skate is a type of fish, really the wing of a ray, it is delicate and flavorful, and has a sort of layered texture.) If you see if on a menu, try it.
I first had it probably 10 years ago in San Francisco and it was on menus occasionally. When we lived in England a few years back, you could get it in any grocery store and it was on lots of menus and we cooked it quite a bit at home--a favorite of Jamie Oliver and for several months, that was our only cookbook until our sea shipment arrived from the US. After moving back to San Francisco, my fishmonger would order it for me and it was becoming even more popular. Here, I have only seen it R Bistro and Oceanaire.
A funny side story, recently, I thought I would ask my fish guy at Marsh and see if he could order it, as he has special ordered other things for me in the past. He had no clue what is was, which was fine, except he got a little aggravated with me, I think because he didn't know what it was, asked me some questions and when I told him, he informed me, if it is a ray, no one should be eating it and furthermore, I specifically shouldn't eat it since I am "of childbearing age" and it probably contained mercury. Thank you Big Brother.
OK, back to R Bistro. I had a broiled shrimp appetizer on scallion pancakes with a wonderful cilantro cream. It was awesome. Hubby had the mushroom crostada which was good, but nowhere near as good as mine (I always love it when I out-order him). What the mushroom crostada lacked in brightness (really could have used a dollop of goat or blue cheese for some tang) the shrimp made up for with the tangy creme fraiche like sauce. Yum.
The skate was lightly coated and sauteed with corn meal (I actually prefer it just lightly dusted with flour, but who's asking?) and served over mashed potatoes with a bacon and I believe apple sort of vinaigrette sauce over it. The sauce had the requisite brightness to keep the dish from being too heavy or rich. Oh! Also, there was some cooked cabbage on the side which was tasty as well. For some reason, cabbage seems to be the natural accompaniment to skate. I am not sure how this pairing came to be, but it works really well.
It was nice that the chef served our entrees as well, I always like seeing the chef involved in their restaurant.
And you will never believe it, WE HAD A GOOD DESSERT. Just when I had given up hope that is was possible at R Bistro (the few I have tried have been anywhere from unmemorable to not very good), they did it! I basically stopped ordering it here (and it is generally not the highlight of any meal for me anyway). For some reason, though, ok, the waiter convinced us, we tried the rhubarb and lemon cream tart and it was quite good. Not the best dessert I have had in this city (hmmm...that may currently go to Bugg's Temple's banana tart) but very tasty.
I definitely think R Bistro is in the top 5 restaurants in our fair city. It stands out as a modern- feeling place with a menu that doesn't cater exclusively to the steak and potato crowd. It reminds me of a restaurant in San Francisco, and I think if it were there, it would do just fine, which is a mighty compliment since SF is a city of such amazing restaurants.