A Goodbye Dinner at Bistro Europa

One of the restaurants I’d most wanted to visit for the last, well, year, was Bistro Europa, the eclectic little eatery on Elmwood near W. Utica. With a mere two weeks left before I head off to London (one of which will be spent in NYC), having dinner there was near the top of my “things left to do” list. Luckily (and coincidentally), my friend Rick gave me a gift card to Bistro Europa for my graduation gift – something he knew I’d use with him! So, we decided last night to head over there and have a “goodbye” dinner.

We initially wanted to eat outside as it was a beautiful evening; however, the alley next the patio had a stench of garbage emanating from it that was incredibly unappetizing. So, we sat inside. The interior of Bistro Europa is small and appears pieced together from different parts: white, rectangular, ornate tables sit adjacent to plain, wood, square ones. The walls are decorated with various Eastern European pieces – the most notable must be the large wooden sign above the bathroom that translates the world “toilet” into different languages; it’s almost kitschy but works. But overall, it’s a mature, respectably decorated bistro that appeals to a more refined crowd.

We started off the meal with the Steak Tartare ($14), which was plated with lemon-dressed arugula, shoestring potatoes, bone marrow, a raw quail egg, and, separately, celery root puree. After assuring Rick that yes, this raw beef would be safe to eat, we tremendously enjoyed our appetizer. The sharp lemon vinaigrette, peppery arugula, and thin, crispy potatoes offset the succulence of the steak and puree perfectly. It whet our appetites without being over-indulgent; we couldn’t have picked a more perfect appetizer.

For our entrees, I chose one of the night’s specials: potato-crusted Diver scallops ($25), served with herb-roasted potatoes, a corn-saffron “emulsion” sauce, and – not listed on the menu – tart blueberries. Simply put: it was outstanding – most importantly, the Diver scallops, themselves a treat to have, were cooked perfectly. The potatoes were flavorful, and the robust emulsion tied the dish together; it was even plated to look as if it were pouring out of a scallop shell! And the blueberries? Unexpected, but they were tart enough that it added a wonderfully whimsical aspect to the dish.

Meanwhile, Rick ordered the Steak Frites ($21) – medium-rare, of course. Europa’s version was a bit different than a typical steak frites: grass-fed Meyer Angus flank steak (pre-sliced across the grain) was used, and the frites were more like steak fries than shoestrings. Either way, this take on the French classic was exquisite: juicy, satisfying, and herbaceous. As an aside, almost, this dish was served with the same lemon-dressed arugula that was featured in the appetizer.

Ending our meal on a sweet note, we ordered another special for dessert: the Peach Corn Cake with Spiced Crème Anglaise ($7). What arrived was (what appeared to be) a skillet cake with a prominent corn flavor, studded with Dan Tower Farms peaches, and set atop a nutmeg crème anglaise. The combination of flavors was classic; this was a rustic, Southern dessert. The juiciness of the peaches and the custard combined well with the just-a-bit-dry cake. Each bite was thoroughly enjoyed.

After wanting to dine at Bistro Europa for so long and holding such high expectations of it, I was impressed and absolutely want to go back. From start to finish, there was not a single flaw throughout our dinner and we really enjoyed the rustic-yet-innovative nature of the restaurant. While I may not be able to go again before I leave, I know it will be high on my list when I return!

Bistro Europa on Urbanspoon

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