Bistro Bistro Is Fully Booked

The first thing to know about Bistro Bistro is that no one answers the phone. Instead, you hear a funky downbeat accented by a contrapuntal bass, followed by a sepulchral voice that intones, “This is Bistro Bistro—leave a message.”

This is disappointing on two fronts: first, the distinct absence of a personal touch; and second, the lack of an opportunity, in this case, to leave any message at all, since the line immediately disconnects. Follow-up visits were equally disappointing.

Attempts to book on Open Table proved fruitless since Bistro Bistro isn’t on Open Table or Reserve. Random Twitter feeds indicate that the place is booked solid for the next six months. That didn’t stop this critic from writing a review.

The decor: Judging from the website photos of the interior, Bistro Bistro is dark, with a clutch of little tables lit by votive candles, unless that’s a mix-up with the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church next door. The bar boasts a solid array of bottles, including Ffrimp’s Artisanal Vodka and some intriguing azure aperitif cut off by the picture frame. (I imagine the Salvage cocktail, which apparently contains bitters sourced from beer kegs, is delightfully astringent, with a kick from the promised Fire Ant Gin.) The restaurant’s website itself is decorated in muted browns and grays, with a sort of wainscoting effect in the upper border. The site headings, from “About BB” to “Contact us [!],” are in a hip, dare I say supercilious, font. The menu, predictably enough under the heading “Menus,” is hand-lettered on pearl-grained pixels.

Google maps shows Bistro Bistro situated on 171½ Hudson Street, with a facade that makes it impossible to look inside, cozy but covert. If the voicemail soundtrack is any indication, the noise level is tolerable. I suppose the service is professional but not overdone. The patrons are probably a mix of Brooklynites with money, coming over the bridge to splurge, downtown financial types, and other people who have somehow wangled a reservation like seeming losers who magically show up at a sold-out Selena Gomez concert.

What to order: Recommended starters, chosen by Chowhound users, include the double-leek potage, country terrine (no picture supplied), and the house-cured charcuterie, which frankly looks a tad too salty. Chef Marcel Meursault is reputed on Yelp to have a way with greens of all kinds, however, and the mock Caesar salad for two is in fact big enough for four, unless the pic posted on Pinterest was taken at a funny angle. As for entrees, definitely try the Berkshire pork loin—I would. @thegourmand called it “big pig,” and that line was retweeted a lot. The truffled sweetbreads, judging from the description that enfolds marrow, garlic confit, and musk, may be a trifle too compliqué. The brick-grilled chicken, confusingly, seems to go off and on the menu (accessed over three successive weeks).

I couldn’t see the wine list.

The desserts may be uneven at best, ranging from a raclé of burnt orange panna cotta, its tranquil surface disturbed only by what looks like a wafer of some kind, to the chocolate profiteroles, which are, after all, chocolate profiteroles.

Meursault, who is both chef and owner, sees Bistro Bistro as “the kind of place where you can enjoy a perfect coq au vin or just sit and quaff a Belgian farmhouse ale” (ChefBites). Of course, that assumes you have a place to sit.

I’m giving Bistro Bistro one star, and maybe more if I ever eat there.

Written by David Galef

David Galef

David Galef publishes far too much for his own good, according to his writer friends. Besides novels and short stories, his humor ​has appeared ​in places ​ranging from the old British Punch​, The New York Times Book Review​ and Cosmopolitan​ to McSweeney’s, The Village Voice, and Inside Higher Ed, where ​he​write​s a column about a school called U of All People.​ His day job is directing the creative writing program at Montclair State University.