AD Bistro a charming eatery in Westport
Published 11:53 am, Monday, December 24, 2012
Shhhh. Don't tell anyone. Hidden away in a gourmet takeout shop, albeit a very well-known gourmet take-out shop, is a charming and quite "aux delices" little restaurant.
This is the kind of place we want to keep to ourselves, so the owners don't get famous and overreach or raise the prices.
Indeed, this duo has been cooking and serving notably fine food under their Aux Delices name as full service caterers with retail locations in Darien, Greenwich, Riverside and now in Westport.
But this is the first place that also has room for a full-service restaurant. Without a lot of fanfare or froufrous, the dining room is warm and inviting in the same way as being invited to dinner at a good friend's home.
Pleasing lighting and simple table arrangements are the backdrop for a menu that is exciting and diverse. Service is welcoming and knowledgeable about every dish on the small, but absolutely intriguing menu.
An equally short, but carefully chosen wine list has a vintage to complement each dish. With their usual care for customers, AD Bistro even has a children's menu with the usual options of sliders, chicken tenders and mac 'n cheese, with the difference here that all are made from scratch and could be happily devoured by kids of any age.
Serving dinner only, the menu at AD Bistro clearly begins and ends with the best available ingredients in simple preparations.
What is equally pleasing is that the menu does not read like a history and geography of each ingredient or a reminder that each is local and seasonal. We are frankly a tad weary of preachy menu tones and are already in a good mood here even before we taste the food.
But on to the food. We could have made a meal on the appetizers alone. There are only six options, but each is a best in class.
Try the homey, perfectly poached egg surrounded with silken celery root puree, spicy Merguez sausage and crunchy edamame. Amazing. Or the balance of sweet poached pears, rich Roquefort cheese and bitter kale salad in a Cabernet reduction.
Homespun chicken liver mousse with cornichons and a grilled baguette is notable for its simplicity and the outstanding home-baked bread for which Ponzak is already locally famous.
A brilliant Moroccan touch to tuna tartare comes with the accompaniments of saffron couscous, harissa, pine nuts and pappadum chips. But my favorite starter is the simplest -- silken butternut squash soup enlivened with rich chickpeas and the crackle of pepitas.
There are about a dozen main course listings, and each is notable for its remarkable simplicity of preparation and complexity of flavor.
Mussels steamed in white wine with lemon and garlic, accompanied by perfect fries, is worthy of a fine French bistro, and the "bistro" burger with caramelized onions, roasted wild mushrooms, gruyere and sweet potato fries is an American bistro dish at its best.
Cider-braised pork shank with spaghetti squash, sage, and roasted apples is an all-American classic, as is simple roasted cod with garlic and wine-braised leeks and olive oil mashed potatoes.
Golden-crusted roasted chicken with garlic mashed potatoes, brilliant green peas and a heady red wine and marjoram sauce still lingers in memory.
Chefs judge each other by their roasted chicken. This one is a winner. Steak frites with truffled Parmesan cheese and a heap of dressed bitter greens is another chef-judging dish.
And another winner -- red snapper atop a medley of white beans, leeks, zucchini and basil pesto -- is a lovely medley of flavors.
Other seasonally changing main course options include homemade gnocchi with wild mushroom and herb ragout, or roasted salmon with braised endive and lentils.
Desserts are contemporary takes on homespun classics, such as the Black Forest ice cream sundae with chocolate cake and Amarena cherries and tarte tatin with caramel crème Anglaise and spicy fresh gingerbread cake.
Ice cream-filled profiteroles would be a tad better if filled at serving time so that the pastry is not frozen solid, but the bittersweet chocolate saucing thawed the puffs in no time.
AD Bistro is "aux delices" at its best. Don't tell anyone. Or they will all come and we will never get a table again.
1035 Post Road E., Westport, 203-557-9600, www.auxdelicesbistro.com
HOURS: Dinner Tuesday-Saturday 6-9 p.m.
CREDIT CARDS: AE, V, MC
PRICES: Appetizers $13-$9; main courses $29-$16; desserts $9-$7