It’s telling when a dessert menu includes a “Carnival Row,” described by our waiter as “everything you wanted as a kid in one dish”: funnel cake, popcorn ice cream, a cracker jack crumble with a vanilla caramel drizzle. But this is just the beginning (or, more appropriately, the finishing note) of the creative combinations that make Res American Bistro unique in their palate.
Located on the corner of Empire and Washington Streets, the recently opened Res – which combines the three owners’ initials, Ryan, Evan, and Stephen – pays homage to its predecessor, Bravo Brasserie, by maintaining a French bistro vibe of wood paneling and large windows. The corner of the dining room holds 50 small succulents on mirrored shelves; vines crawl down from ceiling fixtures and vases of tulips adorn every table. Before the sun goes down, the restaurant is wonderfully airy and full of light.
While my friend and I decided on drinks, the waiter brought us rolls fresh from the oven, delivered in small paper bags. We each opted for a drink from the cocktail list: The Sanchez – an espresso martini made with fresh Nespresso, Grainger’s Organic Vodka, Kahlua, and Baileys – and Family Practice, made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, blood orange juice, vanilla syrup, and fresh lemon juice. Usually I enjoy bourbon-based drinks in the winter, but the citrus from the juices brightened the drink and made it perfect for late summer.
The rotating menu is divided into three parts: “In the Beginning” featuring appetizers and small plates, “Soon After” for salads, and “The Middle”, where you’ll find your mains – filets, tenderloins, and lobster rolls – though the menu leans heavily on smaller shared plates.
Unable to pick just two “Beginnings,” we opted for a trifecta, starting with Bacon Teriyaki: six long strips of bacon skewered on sticks, marinated, and crisped before delivery in a red, Chinese-lettered take-out bag. “I’ve never eaten bacon on a stick before,” my friend said, but we were pleased to find it both crispy and sweet, like glazed honey ham.
The Pan-Fried Halloumi, a Mediterranean favorite, is a salty white cheese that doesn’t melt but instead becomes golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside when heated. Topped with a spicy Pomodoro sauce, the first bite had a nostalgic quality – like a sophisticated (and healthier) rendering of childhood mozzarella sticks.
Lastly, and a first for me, the Scotch Egg, a soft-boiled egg wrapped in flavorful sausage, surrounded by a crisp golden shell, served atop tomato jam. It was perfectly cooked: the yolk still runny, the sausage shell crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, a combination of sweet, savory, and spicy in each bite. This is the appetizer of champions.
For the “Middle” dish, we ordered the Fresh Pappardelle, a large bowl of wide noodles tossed with roasted pulled chicken, bacon, and kale in a parmesan broth. Served with a giant spoon and tongs, this pasta hit all the right spots. The most difficult part of the evening was saving enough room for dessert.
Thankfully we did: the Sweet Tart – blueberry filling in a pastry crust, a scoop of homemade blueberry basil ice cream, and a sprinkle of brown butter almond streusel – won us over. Although it wasn’t the Carnival Row, the swirling dark blue of the berries and towering bright turquoise of the ice cream completed with streusel and balsamic drizzle created a fun-house of a dessert. Res American Bistro truly captures sophistication wrapped in festivity.