Port Washington (516) 472-7780
Bistro Etcetera in Port Washington is cozy, convenient and competently run, rather than flamboyant or impressive. This new, thirty-seat spot that opened late last year replaced Bistro Toulouse, a mostly French eating place. Its kitchen commander is Melanie LaRocco, a Garden City native who has returned to the Island from Melanie’s Bistro in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
The modest, welcoming Bistro Etcetera is a neat, neighborhood storefront of mirrors, white tablecloths, ceiling fans, darkish wainscoting, track lighting and photos of actors and political leaders. It’s also an American-international restaurant that lives up to its name with a bit of this and a bit of that. Though Ms. LaRocco’s menu is anything but a vast, bed sheet-sized document, it boasts Italian, French, Greek, Japanese, English and American influences. It also features housemade desserts. They are probably the strongest course. Yet the desserts are typical of the entire menu, some dishes are better than others, but there are no strikeouts or grand slam homers.
As with every restaurant, Bistro Etcetera has some limitations, beginning with the diverse, warm, wonderful rolls. We received four of them for four diners. There were no replacements given or even offered. At a recent dinner, they were followed by a smooth, silken chicken liver pâté ($10) that should be spread on its accompanying warm, charred bread with smidgens of its plate mates (fig jam and housemade pickles).
An Asian touched quesadilla ($10) featuring roasted duck with a hoisin dipping sauce in addition to goat cheese and plenty of caramelized onions made the dish into an international American-Latino-Chinese pick, much like Beijing duck on a flour tortilla. A fresh, generously-portioned Caesar salad ($8) was a bit too fishy from its anchovy dressing, while a hearty, hefty onion soup ($8) that’s ideal winter fare benefited from a few shakes of salt.
The least expensive entrée, roasted vegetable Shepherd’s Pie ($16), was also the best main course sampled. Its first-class vegetables, vibrant, herbed sauce and velvety whipped potatoes fused perfectly into an unexpected meatless success. A small, straightforward, fresh salmon fillet ($24) was all it should be, as was a farmhouse chicken ($22). It was garlic herb roasted, almost boneless, enlivened by its natural jus and large enough for a doggie bag second at-home dinner. A large, lightly breaded Milanese style pork chop that was tender, flattened and covered with a lively mix of arugula, red onion and tomato salad offered both commendable and contrasting tastes and textures.
Among the desserts ($8), give a tumble to the flaky apple strudel with a scoop of cinnamon gelato that would do a German restaurant proud, the dense chocolate raspberry truffle tart with just a touch of fruit flavor, the sticky toffee pudding with its warm, moist cake soaked by sweet, addictive toffee sauce topped by a spiced pear compote bonus and lemon ricotta cheesecake with a silken, creamy, glorious texture, but little hint of any lemon taste.
photos by stephen lang