Saturday, January 1, 2011

Light Bistro: For Old Time's Sake (Auld Lang Syne)

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

Wikipedia tells me that Auld Lang Syne is a poem written in 1788 by Robert Burns, and that the title's literal translation is "old long since". Millions of people clumsily mumbled through the lyrics of the first verse or so last night at their respective strokes of midnight. The above is actually the fourth verse, one of many I didn't know existed until today.

Now, it hasn't really been all that long since I went to Light Bistro, but like just about anything we revisit and reminisce upon, it's because we have fond memories of it. Chef Matthew Mathlage created two prix fixe menus for New Year's Eve, one consisting of four courses and the other, seven. Wanting to be able to leave the restaurant under my own power, I opted for the four course menu, as did my date.

Course One

Foie Gras Mousse
Red wine Reduction, Diced Apple

Served as an amusé, this came with a tiny little pillow of puff pastry next to a bit of creamy foie gras mousse topped with what I thought of as "nonchalant" diced apples. The apple was mentioned in the menue, but was a complete and welcome surprise on the tongue. The texture of the apples was impossibly soft but not gummy at all. The reduction complimented the mousse and apple perfectly.

Course Two
Black Truffle Risotto
Braised Greens, Crispy Mushrooms

After having truffles for the very first time at Michaelangelos last month, I was very excited to see this as an option and resolved to get it before we'd even made our reservation. The risotto came with collard greens and oyster mushrooms. I enjoyed the truffle flavor and the greens were spot-on; but the stems of the oyster mushrooms were a little daunting. I passed my last mushroom onto my fiance for this reason. The rice itself was unfortunately not cooked all the way through. I finished the course because while the rice was undercooked, it was still put together well.

My dining cohort got the Gnocchi with Lamb Sausage and a Fennel Beurre Blanc. I was so jealous over his selection and so impressed, I tweeted about it the minute Dick Clark went off the air. The nice thing about dining out with someone you like or love is that it really ended up being seven courses after all - since we shared everything after the amusé. The gnocchi is probably on my list of all time favorite things I've ever eaten. I have said I will attempt to recreate the sauce with some of Cleveland's own Ohio City Pasta but I know it will pale in comparison to what I had last night!

Course Three
Braised Short Ribs
Thai flavors, Cilantro, Whipped Root Vegetables

This course was nostalgic to me, in a way. It was like Sunday dinner at home, but in high definition. The two pieces of short rib were tender and subtly Thai inspired. I mostly caught a cinnamon flavor. The jus and the whipped root vegetables were fantastic. The whipped veggies are not your mother's mashed potatoes; they've got a more distinctive flavor - one I don't know that I would have liked when I was eating Grandma's pot roast but I would like to think so!

Jeff had the Cider-Glazed Pork with Candied Yams. I liked his course, but liked mine better. Both entrees had a holiday feel to them, like something you'd have for old time's sake. I don't know if that was Chef Matt's intention, but we were quite impressed.

Course Four

Mini Chocolate Cake (Gâteaux)
Berry Compote, Whipped Cream

I am beginning to embrace my love of chocolate. Good chocolate, anyway - and this molten chocolate cake definitely falls into that category. The cake itself was placed on a cloud of whipped cream, and was topped with a strawberry compote. The compote itself tasted more like orange than strawberry and was a bit cloying. I put it to the side and enjoyed the rest of the dessert, however.

Jeff had the Apple Crisp and opted for vanilla ice cream. I love to bake apple crisps but don't really enjoy eating them. The puff pastry enveloped pillowy apples and a perfectly sweetened sauce. The scoop of ice cream perfectly complimented the rest of the flavors. This again was something that took me back to my childhood, I remembered the house filling with the smell of cooked apples and cinnamon crumb topping.

The restaurant was packed, and I think the kitchen was a little backed up as a result. Light Bistro has gone through some cosmetic changes and expansions, and I was very glad to see that business was good last night. It will always be one of my favorite restaurants, without question. Chef Matt had me at the Sweet Potato Ravioli back in 2008. While I secretly wished that would have stayed on the menu forever, their seasonally changing menu with locally-sourced (when possible) ingredients keeps me guessing, and will undoubtedly keep me coming back again and again.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.