September 29, 2007

Bistro Un Deux Trois!

Bravo to Bistro 123 (un, deux, trois) in Tyson's Corner! I had dinner there a couple weeks ago and really enjoyed it. A cozy restaurant located in Tyson's I near the parking lot for Lord & Taylor, Bistro 123 can only be accessed from the outside. You almost forget you're in a mall because there are no shoppers walking by the window staring at you and your food.

The decor was nice, simple and intimate. Except for the large flowery curtain (that looked more like a bedsheet) hanging from the ceiling that separated our dining room from another room. The waiter/maitre d' (one and the same) was French, and was very friendly and knowledgeable. He was always attentive and would stop by our table if it looked like we needed something.

This restaurant has some great deals! I had the Pre-Theater menu, which actually does not have a time restriction, for $29.95. You get a choice of appetizer, entree, dessert, and coffee or tea. Considering the prices a la carte (not terrible but not cheap either), this is a steal! They also have a Prix Fixe menu for $39.95, where you still get a choice of appetizer, entree, dessert, and coffee or tea, but the choices are "better" than the Pre-Theater menu.

For my meal I had the Mesclun Green Salad with the house vinaigrette, delicious and very fresh, although there was almost a little too much dijon mustard for my taste. For my entree I had the Chicken Breast with dried plums, walnuts, apples and celery - DELICIOUS! And I don't even like chicken! The chicken was so moist and tender, and the combination of tastes with the plums, apples and walnuts was to die for. My only suggestion is that this dish is better for colder weather, and it was still hot that day. But I still loved it. And for dessert I had the Cherry Clafoutis with whipped cream, again, delicious. I think the drizzle of caramel sauce on top of the clafoutis and cream was almost too much. It would have been just as delicious, or perhaps even more so, without the caramel.

My co-diner ordered the Vermont Goat Cheese with beets, greens and chive vinaigrette for a salad, and it was wonderful. The goat cheese was very creamy but not too strong, and the salad was quite fresh. For her entree she ordered the Arborio Rizotto (for some reason they spell risotto there with a "z") with wild mushrooms, parmesan and white truffle oil. This was a tasty dish, however the mushrooms were very garlicky and almost burned. When I first put a bite into my mouth I got a hint of truffle, but it was not strong at all and did not leave an aftertaste. We shared the dessert.

The coffee was fresh and served with cold cream. Now, I usually prefer cold cream, because I like to cool down the coffee a little so I can drink it. My co-diner prefers the cream warmed up, and thinks that is a special touch that many restaurants miss. You decide...

I would return here without a doubt. It's a great place to dine with friends, or for that romantic dinner for 2. Bon appetit!

Trattoria Bebo: OK food, bad service

I'm back from my travels in Italy, and ready to start a new season of gourmandiaries!

Last night I ate at Bebo in Crystal City (Arlington), Roberto Donna's relatively new venture that he opened while Galileo is being renovated. It was probably the 4th time I've been there, and sorry to say, but I was disappointed. On every visit the service has been slow, to say the least, and not very attentive. And last night was no exception. They were quick to seat me in my party of 2 without a reservation, and they were quick to bring the bill. But everything in between took ages.

We started with insalata mista, or mixed salad, a very fresh green salad with a delicious and not overpowering vinaigrette. Highly recommended. We also shared mozzarella in carrozza, a large piece of mozzarella dipped in egg batter and fried, served with a tomato sauce and an anchovy sauce. It was ok. I actually preferred the anchovy sauce to the tomato sauce, but I felt like the mozzarella itself could have had more flavor. It is hard to find good mozzarella in the US.

Then, about 40 minutes later...

My linguine with clams arrived. It was al dente, but it was so spicy! There were so many hot pepper flakes that my mouth was on fire, and it was hard to taste anything else. It also seemed to be about 250 grams of pasta (a normal serving could be between 70-100 grams), and for that much pasta there were not enough clams. I would have preferred half the pasta with the same amount of clams. The clams were delicious and served in the shells, and the waiter brought a plate for the shells - a nice and necessary touch.

My co-diner ordered a trio of side dishes, and they arrived with my linguine. Polenta (with some cheese mixed in), broccoli di rape (rapini) and grilled vegetables. The polenta was very tasty, although a little buttery for my taste. The rapini were undercooked, but had potential, and were a nice accompaniment to the polenta. The grilled veggie plate had asparagus, onion, eggplant, and tomato. The asparagus and tomato were tasty, but the eggplant was left on the plate, soaked like a sponge in olive oil.

I was looking forward to dessert (the little fried doughnuts with the bicerin - a delicious chocolate coffee mixture) but got too chilly by the open window and decided to leave instead.

Bebo has great decor and a lively atmosphere. I didn't visit the bathrooms last night but don't remember them at all from previous visits, which must mean that they are fine. Chef Donna was nowhere to be seen last night, and I can't help but wonder if that made a difference in the food.

Pretty good food in general (stick to heartier dishes like meats and baked pasta), and fairly bad service.