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An Invitation to Le Bistro

February 5, 2018

Just this Sunday the Albany Times Union published a review of Le Bistro in Crossgates Mall written by Susie Davidson Powell. It’s unusual for her to visit a place three times in one week, but this spot is intriguing, and her curiosity seems to have been piqued.

And that’s fair. It’s a curious place. I’ve been following Spa Mirbeau from the beginning, and I’m really hoping to take advantage of their February offer of a day pass to the facility for just $25. It’s only Monday through Thursday, but that’s the benefit of having a flexible schedule. A yoga class alone can cost $15. But this would include yoga, access to the gym, hot tub, sauna, and lounge area by the fire.

On Instagram the Spa said guests could take a nap by the fire. And since that post, I’ve been dreaming of such a thing.

Anyway, I was invited as a guest of the Spa to enjoy a complimentary dinner and experience the dining room for myself. The upside of this is that was able to get a sense of the food being put out from the kitchen, talk with chef Alex Qualey about the menu, and observe what the dining room was like on a late Thursday evening.

The downside is that I can’t quite write an objective review. Yet. For that I’ll need to return. But based on this first outing, I’m closer to triangulating my way to what I think Le Bistro might do best.

What I want Le Bistro to be is a French inspired restaurant aimed at the healthy living set.

That would make a lot of sense. It’s the restaurant attached to a day spa, in a French themed property, with plenty of classic bistro trappings. But one thing I learned after talking with the owners a while back, is that not everyone comes to the spa to work out. Many people come for a day of indulgence. And that indulgence is pretty much everywhere on this menu.

Still, there is a lot of diversity on this menu, and I really wanted to see if I could cobble together a healthful bistro meal.

The most likely dishes were the warm mushroom salad with a crispy egg and the seared shrimp with grilled asparagus and wild mushroom risotto. The hanger steak is very French, but it came with fries. The potato crusted salmon could have been a contender, but crusted with potatoes and served over risotto was carbs on carbs. And the filet mignon came with mashed potatoes, which I love, but could be a worse fat and calorie hit than fries.

What I also discovered for the first time was Le Bistro’s Small Plates menu, which I’m looking forward to exploring in the future. It has a grilled chicken sandwich with gruyere and bacon for $8. When I think about the eating options in the mall, this or the filet mignon skewers with potato and chive croquette ($9) have the potential to be the best food values on property.

Although I wonder if guests receive a popover and honey butter if ordering just a small plate. Because those popovers, besides being Instagram gold, are a real treat. And yes, I know they are easy to make at home. But I still don’t do it.

So that warm mushroom salad? It’s huge. Which again, looking back at where we are, makes a ton of sense. Seriously, even without adding chicken, salmon, or shrimp, this salad is a meal in itself.

There were some things that I didn’t quite expect.

For starters, the sherry vinaigrette is sweet. I asked about this, and it turns out the kitchen uses a sweet sherry vinegar. It’s a new idea for me. But a couple turns from the giant peppermill, and that sweetness is brought into check.

I also kind of expected the mushrooms to be the star of this dish, with all the other components playing a supporting role. But there’s so much going on in there, that the mushrooms become part of the larger tapestry of greens, artichokes, and smoky roasted red peppers. The sheer quantity of vegetables, makes this a great choice for a day at the spa. There’s just enough goat cheese on top to make it treat, without making it too heavy.

Speaking of treats, let’s talk about that crispy egg. When I read “crispy egg” on the menu, I was expecting a fried egg with beautiful crispy edges. So when the salad arrived, beyond my audible gasp at its size, I was wondering how the kitchen could have forgotten the most important part. Except they didn’t forget. The crispy egg is a soft boiled egg that has been breaded and deep fried. It’s a real treat. Because slicing into it, the yolk is still runny and warm. But you also get just a little bit of crispy fried breadcrumbs to make the salad into a decadent treat, without being too decadent.

Interestingly, the egg is nestled into a corner of the plate, but I moved it into a position where it crowned the salad with its glory. Then when I cut into it, the yolk could enrich the entire salad and not get trapped in the corner.

After that salad, I didn’t need the seared shrimp over risotto. It sounded like Susie had a similar experience with her seared shrimp dish too.

Despite my best efforts to eat moderately, curiosity got the better of me, and I concluded the meal with the specialty sundae, where a chocolate dome gets melted under hot caramel to reveal the vanilla ice cream topped blondie below.

I’m glad I had the chance to experience it. But in reality, I’m just not a sweets person. That said, I am looking forward to getting back and trying the creme brulee. Maybe even for a dessert one night after a movie.

There is a definite charm to the dining room. Especially at night. Although I can also imagine sitting out on the bistro chairs out front and doing a little people watching. Maybe while munching on some duck liver pate from the small plates menu and nursing an aperitif.

Better options in the mall are a good thing. And while the menu may look expensive, compared with other mall options, it doesn’t have to be. I’d rather have that warm mushroom salad than a burger, fries, and shake at Johnny Rockets. Both will set you back about $13.

More exploration of the menu is clearly needed, but I’ll be back on my own dime for sure.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. albanylandlord permalink
    February 6, 2018 2:16 am

    Very interesting, you definitely piqued my interest.

  2. enough already! permalink
    February 6, 2018 5:51 am

    The food looks delicious, but was the salad overdressed?

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