What happened in that restaurant is something I will never forget. The keyword here is “raviolo”- not ravioli, just a single raviolo. Before I get into details about the pillow of god-like food laid on a plate before me during that divine minute, it’s important to know what Bistro 5 is all about.
Walking into the restaurant, booths proudly show off their French pinstripes, romantic Spanish colors glow warmly throughout the area, and colorful, energetic paintings speak to you through Italian text. Somehow, you understand all three cultures by simply opening your eyes, but you are almost fluent when you taste the cuisine.
Chef and owner Vittorio Ettore has managed to transform a simple corner of West Medford into something truly amazing. I personally believe the first impression of a restaurant should be made through its tasting menu. To my delight, Bistro 5 offers just that, with options for a $65 five course meal ($25 wine pairing) and $45 for three courses ($20 wine pairing). I opted for five courses and Chef du Cuisine, Joe Carlie, made two specific dishes stand out illustriously.
The dinner started with homemade focaccia bread served with smooth chickpea puree with basil, lemon, Parmesan and olive oil. It was definitely a great way to begin the evening.
I also had the Foie Gras Mousse and Vincotto, which is something I will order again and again. The mousse was as light as a cloud, while the richness of cream did not take away from the highlight of the dish. This was certainly a great way to start my five courses.
The first course consisted of oysters on the half shell prepared in two ways: passion fruit gelée and cornmeal crusted with Meyer lemon. After such a great appetizer, I felt somewhat underwhelmed with this one. There was no harmony from the combination of ingredients. The fruit flavor overpowered the potentially beautiful brininess of the oyster and the cornmeal crust nearly diminished it. I hoped that the next course was much better.
Reader, this is what I’m talking about. THE raviolo. It is fresh pasta with homemade truffled ricotta cheese and a quail egg yolk that oozes upon breaking, creating the most blissfully satisfying sauce. Immediately after my first bite, it was as if all senses were muted except taste. The experience was absolutely sublime and I can only hope they put this on their permanent menu. I might even write a request. This dish would be a hit!
The third course was duck confit & apple streusel with kumquat chutney, foie gras “oreo”, and duck prosciutto with a green apple sorbet. The duck confit left a lot to be desired, mainly because the kumquat chutney was delicious but overpowering. The foie gras oreo was very whimsical and fun to eat. Chocolate cookies and fattened liver go well together- who knew? The duck prosciutto and green apple sorbet was my absolute favorite of the three though. Forget the classic prosciutto and cantaloupe combination, this is where it’s at. It was like biting into fresh fruit where the sweetness pleasantly lingered around in my mouth waiting for savory sensations to kick in. And yes, it was well worth the wait.
This little bird is jam packed with flavor! I have never had meat so succulent and juicy before. It was perfectly cooked, no superfluous seasonings- just a cooking technique that was executed flawlessly. The quail rested on a bed of Swiss chard, roasted cauliflower and roasted cauliflower purée. The purée was as smooth as silk and tasted incredibly creamy. This must be the “foie gras” for vegetarians. Too bad a bird sits on top of it.
And ending the night were homemade doughnuts with strawberries, crème de cassis and vanilla ice cream. The strawberries with cassis were tasty together, but the doughnuts were a bit heavy and doughy. I could have done without this dish, but if the doughnuts were more light and airy, it would certainly be a winner.
So maybe I felt indifferent towards three of the five courses… but the Egg Yolk Raviolo and Roasted Quail not only left me in awe, but also left the inspiring first impression that food lovers like me are always in search of. Finally.