Confession #1 - I have a new chef crush - move over Eric Ripert.
Confession #2 - I never imagined that I would have a really amazing meal in MEDFORD of all places.
To be perfectly honest, I had never actually been to Medford before...But if Bistro 5 is indicative of the dining in that fair city, then I might just have to leave the Back Bay for greener pastures.
Bistro 5 invited several area bloggers to sample their heirloom tomato tasting menu. Our meal was complete with complimentary wine pairings. Although the meal was complimentary, the opinions are all my own!
Since the restaurant is outside my usual green line wanderings, I carpooled with Megan, Michelle and Rachel for the drive to Bistro 5. The restaurant is situated on a quiet street near the train. Parking is abundant on the street (compared to downtown). The interior of Bistro 5 is warm and cozy, with a few private and secluded areas for more intimate dining. There is also an open kitchen and a wine room.
Upon arriving we greeted our dining companions and settled in for our meal
The dinner began with an introduction of the chef/owner: Vittorio Ettore. Chef Ettore spent a few minutes discussing the menu and his philosophies of cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients. While he reviewed the special heirloom tomato tasting dinner we realized that it was slightly modified from the original menu presented on the invitation to the dinner. He explained that his seasonal menus change weekly based on what is fresh and in the market. I believe that is when I first felt a little bit in love.
Each course would feature a different tomato and basil pairing - as well as a wine pairing.
Before our first course we were given some bread with a delicious white bean spread. This was smooth and garlicky, and just a little fruity from the drizzle of olive oil.
Our first course was one that I was VERY excited for. It was a lobster bisque. The bisque was made with lobster stock, pineapple, tomato and lemon basil. Topping the soup was a tender piece of lobster and some saffron foam. I never would have thought of this pairing, but as I sipped the broth I realized that the creamy bisque and the tomato were a perfect compliment and mimicked the same sweet and rich notes.
Our second course was a fried green tomato en carozza with an Opal basil pesto. I loved this dish. The tomato crust was crispy but not greasy. And the pesto was the perfect accompaniment. I could have eaten this all night.
The next course actually elicited squeals of glee from one of the diners in attendance. This was the heirloom tomato risotto with Red Brandywine tomatoes, goat cheese, crispy prosciutto (cue squeal), and lime basil.
I don't know much about wine, but this course was my favorite wine pairing. We had a 2008 Lancon, Domaine de la Solitude Cotes du Rhone Rose. The wine and the risotto elevated the flavor of one another and made for a really well paired course.
This next course really blew me away in terms of creativity. I also questioned whether I was really in Medford. I've never had this inventive a dish in Boston, let alone the suburbs!
The pastry bite to the right is a duck confit strudel, under the strudel is the sweet and sour kuri squash, the dish toward the back is a smoked tomato creme brulee - and on top of the brulee is a port poached seckle pear.
This course was so inventive, and pushed the culinary limits so much more than any meal I've had in Boston. I loved the idea of a savory brulee. The duck confit was a little bit salty, and the brulee was just a smidge too smoky. But when I took a bite with the two together, the flavor was outstanding. The saltiness of the duck could really stand up to the smokiness of the brulee. I really think this meal would have benefited from slightly different plating - like putting the strudel directly on top of the brulee to encourage them to be eaten together. This was a great dish, and with a little tweaking would have been phenomenal. I would love to see it become a regular part of the Bistro 5 menu.
Even though these were small portions, and they were very well paced courses, I was pretty full by the end. I only had a few bites of the organic peach tomato napoleon. It had cinnamon basil yogurt gelato, vanilla creme anglaise, and pistachio estevia pesto.
It was fun to experience another variation of tomato ice cream. This was good, but I think it would have tasted even better if I had not just had the tomato and olive oil desert at Upstairs on the Square. A cool dessert was a great choice however, and I was happy that we ended the meal on a lighter note.
Following dinner, the entire party mingled and chatted. I took the opportunity to thank Chef Ettore for a wonderful meal, and share my thoughts on the brulee/strudel course. He was warm, welcoming, and very open to feedback.
After speaking directly with the chef, I was even more enamored with the restaurant. He is so passionate about his food. We saw him chatting with other tables in the restaurant. It was important for him to be present to all diners, not just the food bloggers, which I appreciated. Eating in his restaurant, you feel like you are in his home, sitting at his kitchen table. He wants everyone to be comfortable and happy and he strives to make dining fun, inventive, but still approachable.
Take a drive out to Medford and try this restaurant. Bistro 5 does seasonal tasting menus often, so call and check availability. I would love to check them out for a fall menu, and visit my new chef crush: Chef Ettore.