By MAGGIE M, Editor, http://thewedge.LIVE
The kitchen at Bistro 54 is perhaps the most quiet I have ever witnessed. A team of three, Restauranteur, Dave Andoff, Mike Wall and Yannick Lang, have worked together so long, they create dishes together exchanging few words between them. Every dish on the menu is complex, comprising numerous ingredients; so, their mime-like choreography is captivating. They can be viewed through a wide glass pane from all vantage points in the dining room.
“Order up!,” Andoff bellows from the kitchen service window. Miche, a great beauty hailing from Tasmania, Australia, sprints quietly to collect beautifully plated dishes.
Miche completes the long-arm of the kitchen, an established member of this culinary team. To hear her recite complex ingredients on the menu was poetry to my ears. I took notice, other guests were also enamored by this consummate professional.
When the sun sets, the lights in the dining room cast a warm glow on everything. Add authentic Italian music piping from above, arias by Luciano Pavarotti to classics e.g. Funiculi Funicula, Bistro 54 becomes a romantic experience. Krista and Patrick Graham underscored my conviction–the photo above was natural. As Andoff said after he greeted them, “an adorable couple”. These parents of two young children, live and work in Perth.
Andoff has often said, “it’s about the food.” True, but the holistic experience is always at play. I have traveled throughout Italy and attest, this bistro could be lifted and dropped into any of its villages or metropoles.
This writer now shifts to the palate.
“What was your favorite dish?,” Andoff asked. Each were unique and exploding with endless flavour. The Bruschetta di acciuga struck me the most (below). Anything with lemon beguiles me; however, this is no token lemon. This is ‘preserved lemon’, a process that includes the peel of the fruit and peppercorns, occurring over ninety days; Bistro 54 makes this in house. Everything they serve is prepared in-house from fresh ingredients.
The first wine served was a perfect start and pairing with the bruschettas, a bubbly spumante : Prosecco, Conca d’Oro, Coneglio Veneto. It is truly refreshing as the menu states. (Note : Five bruschettas are served with each order, not two as shown.)
Gnocchi exists purely to absorb its immersing flavours. I remind the reader that all pasta is produced from scratch on premise including this classic potato sphere. Gorgonzola is the Italian version of blue cheese. Its powerful taste in this cream sauce is well-balanced with basil/pine nuts pesto. A good mouthful of Pinot Griggio, Poggio Bracco, swirled around its flavors. This is a dish I was sorry to finish. Andoff spotted me reveling in it. It makes me chuckle how we humans shut our eyes to experience flavour more fully.
This salad bursts with surprising new flavours that balance each other well. Such a fresh, out-of-the-garden, out-of-the-box salad. Pure delight. I felt my PH rise with each bite. It also cleared my palate well for the Black Cod dish on its way. This dish was paired with the Rosato (rose) of the day.
The black cod was crispy and flavorful, flaky and moist on the inside. This is rare sea fare from the North Pacific, not your usual fillet; but rather, a thick medallion. Andoff was vocal about the high value of procuring this special fish. It was truly worthy of a saffron base. Both the Pinot Griggio and the rosato took turns swirling around its flavors.
I watched Andoff and his team prepare the duck entree, a rarity in the region. “I’m preparing you some protein,” he states from his workstation. The man is a master of understatement. One would think beef or common fowl would follow. These rare cuts were spread on a ‘sweet and sour’ bed drawing a contrast to their flavour. A rich, long, tannin red was well-paired with this dish. Very little was offered, as Miche noticed, I was now singing, Funiculi Funicula, inhibitions arrested. Wisdom is alive and well! (In Italy, exuberance is expected.)
I have watched Hall build the crust of this dessert inch-by-inch. As a lemon-obsessed foodie, I can’t praise this light tart enough. Not too sweet, not too tart–it was a perfect finish paired with a delicious, rich cup of coffee.
The viewer must note that the portions shown above (dessert excepted) are much smaller than usually served. I am too gluttonous to spit out food as Anthony Bourdain! The stomach only stretches so far to house a rich, six-course meal and four paired wines.
The wedge.LIVE recommends Bistro 54 : 5 STARS
Price category for two : $75-100 (without wine)
BISTRO 54, 54 Foster Street, Perth, Ontario 613.267.5454
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