Bistro is used to describe all sorts of restaurants these days, but 227 Bistro comes close to the definition: a small, informal restaurant that serves wine. The tables are covered with butcher paper. The pitched roof is exposed, revealing a geometric structure of beams that looks sculptural. Its a cozy, friendly atmosphere. Although my visits were in August, which can be pretty dead for a suburban restaurant, one can imagine the scene when its crowded, people are talking and laughing, and jazz is being played on the beautiful grand piano that sits just outside the semi-open kitchen.
The menu at 227 Bistro sometimes strays from the informal, but its an eclectic mix we have come to call American, with a significant number of Mediterranean dishes. Steak, chops and seafood dominate the entrées, but there are three vegetarian choices, and such rarities as veal liver sautéed with onions and bacon. An entrée of veal marsala featured two good-sized scaloppini of veal, covered with sautéed mushrooms, and a strong taste of the sweet Sicilian wine for which this dish is named. Herbed linguini went well as a side dish. Eggplant and red pepper ravioli are paired with an enticing blend of spinach, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and blue cheese. Artichoke hearts were promised, but didnt appear. On another night, a spinach and bacon salad came without the advertised pine nuts; all the other ingredients were present, but as a whole, the salad failed to sparkle.
Appetizers include such favorites as hummus with pita, and fresh mozzarella layered between slices of tomato and fresh basil leaves. The most unusual, tuna carpaccio, is a Japanese twist on an Italian dish. Named for the Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, who was noted for his use of red in his paintings, it is usually made with raw beef sliced paper-thin and dressed with olive oil. The 227 Bistro version is made with thin slices of tuna and served with seaweed salad, ponzu sauce (a combination of soy sauce, vinegar and citrus) and wasabi, the hot green Japanese horseradish.
Another appetizer that includes seaweed salad is scallops wrapped with apple-wood smoked bacon. The combination of bacon and scallops always works well. Its a study in contrasts: the crisp, salty bacon against the sweet, smooth mollusk. Chipotle remoulade gives the dish a nice kick, while grapefruit segments are a perfect accompaniment. All of the scallops served at 227 Bistro are identified as day boat, meaning theyre caught on fishing trips that only take a day, guaranteeing their freshness (scallops caught in longer trips are often doused with bleach as a preservative).
Less successful: fried calamari strips. Though described as lightly breaded, I found the cornmeal breading too heavy. The calamari is cut into long, regular strips, and the yellow cornmeal makes it look like a plate of French fries. Unfortunately, the calamari tasted flat and uninteresting. Fortunately, its served with two good dipping sauces, one a rich lemon caper sauce, the other a fat-free marinara sauce.
Of course a bistro needs to have a good wine list, and 227s is extensive and tends to be pricey, although theres at least one reasonably priced bottle in each section. By the glass, wine is $6 to $9. Our servers on two occasions were knowledgeable about the wine list.
Wonderful sourdough rolls come with dinner, always hot from the oven, with a brittle crust that shatters as you break it open, revealing the distinctive, slightly acrid aroma and uneven pockets of air.
When we ordered chocolate tuxedo mousse, our server said it was a good ladies dessert. Is it a victory of the feminist movement that a sweet, rich, sticky dessert with a black-and-white theme would be identified with women? Other desserts include seven-layer chocolate cake and peanut butter pie.
Open daily for dinner. Full bar. Live music on (most) Friday and Saturday nights.
Elissa Karg dines for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].