July 7, 2011

Dinner @ Beer Bistro

I've previously eaten at Beer Bistro once almost exactly a year ago, and I had a very good meal. The restaurant has since modified the menu, so this time around, I brought my family over to try out more food. Beer Bistro is tucked in the corner of Yonge and King, and I remember the first time I was here, I had difficulty locating the restaurant. It's easy to walk right by if you don't know that it's there.
We ordered a whole bunch of things to share. First up, my sister requested the cheese and lager fondue with aged cheddar, emmental and hacker-pschorr edelhell. This fondue was disappointing compared to the ones I had from Bier Markt. First of all, the baguette was unremarkable and bland. The melted cheese was only lukewarm when it came out. We didn't have the patience to wait for the small candle to heat up the entire pot of cheese, so we asked the staff to heat it up for us. It was a lot better after they did that. However, I thought the cheese had a grainy texture and wasn't as tasty as the one from Bier Markt. I would've liked to have more ingredients in the fondue in addition to the cheese. After we were done with the baguette, there was still a lot of cheese left in the pot.
Nobody at the table really liked mussels, but I convinced them to get a pot to share anyway, since it appeared to be the restaurant's specialty (in addition to beer, but nobody wanted to drink). I opted for New England Style Mussels steamed in beer broth with beer bacon, leeks, potatoes, cheddar, parsley vienna lager and a touch of cream.
The mussels were served with a loaf of freshly baked Cantillon Sourdough, which tasted a lot better than the baguette that came with the fondue. In fact, I started using this bread for the fondue instead. However, the bread was cold and I would've liked it warm or toasted.
The mussels were definitely a pleasant surprise. Everyone enjoyed it a lot, despite the fact that no one actually liked mussels. The broth, in particular, was wonderfully flavourful, perhaps a little salty on its own, but perfect for bread dipping and accompanying the mussels. My mom was prying out every last piece in the pot.
Can't have mussels without some Belgian frites, blanched in beef and duck fat, and served with house-made mayonnaise and smoked tomato ketchup. Of course, the fries here are a must-order. For $6, you get a heaping portion of very delicious fries, and these are my favourite in the city! They are also probably the best valued item on the menu.
The last time I was here, I was underwhelmed by the Lobster Quesadilla because it was burned. However, everyone seemed very interested in trying it, so we got it again. This time around, the execution was much better (i.e. it wasn't burned). I enjoyed the combination of leeks, sweet peppers, corn, smoked cheddar, basil and cilantro stuffed in a tortilla shell. Of course, the avocado salsa and gueuze-soured cream were excellent accompaniments as well.
My sister likes to order fish (I rarely do), so she also chose the pan seared black cod with confit fingerling potatoes, fennel slaw and spicy tomato broth. I tried one bite and wasn't impressed. I wasn't a fan of the tomato broth. I don't think my sister enjoyed it that much either. Black cod is a fish that can wow me when it's executed well, and this version did not.
My choice of entrée was the Applewood smoked back ribs with grilled apple, arugula salad and roasted garlic mash. I was quite happy with these ribs, and they were almost fall-off-the-bone tender. The sauce was appropriately sweet and added a smokey punch to the flavours. However, my boyfriend said that he's had better ribs, and since no one else at the table really liked ribs that much, I got to devour most of it all by myself. However, the roasted garlic mash potatoes were really awful! It was dry, chunky, and bland. I tried folding in some of the cheese from the fondue to add some flavour and moisture, but that didn't really help. In the end, we left most of it on the plate and finished everything else.
For dessert, we ordered the Rocky Road Ice Cream Sandwiches again because we liked it so much last time. The coffee porter ice cream featured homemade marshmallows and walnuts, sandwiched between two stout brownie cookies. I enjoyed this dessert even more this time around for some reason. You can definitely taste the beer in the ice cream, and I really enjoyed chewing on the walnuts and marshmallows folded into the ice cream. To sum up, Beer Bistro had hits and misses. The Belgian frites, the mussels and the ice cream sandwiches were the high points of the meal. On the other hand, I would definitely stay away from the black cod and fondue in the future. That said, I look forward to coming back and trying out the other varieties of mussels.
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