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The Gossiping Gourmet: Fine dining with cool jazz

April 17, 2013|By Terry Markowitz
  • The tender duck confit on a bed of greens at Bistango in Irvine.
The tender duck confit on a bed of greens at Bistango in… (DON LEACH )

Bistango has been around for 26 years and is still going strong, perhaps even better than ever. This could be attributed to its chameleon-like nature.

By day, it is a power lunchtime gathering place, located in the atrium of a tall office building. By night, it is a grown-up, fine-dining restaurant (but not stuffy) that also features a bar area with a happy hour and tapas, as well as live music and a dance floor.

It has always been a very attractive venue. The large space is divided into several areas by curved walls, so the noise level is manageable. Soft lighting creates atmosphere, while a tasteful black and red color scheme and rotating artwork complete the décor. There is a separate dining area in the atrium with suspended umbrellas and outdoor furniture and plants.

Our waiter brought us some particularly good, warm, crusty La Brea bread with excellent butter to munch on while we made our choices.

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We were delighted to see duck leg confit on the menu since this French classic doesn't appear very often any more. Chefs don't seem to want to take the time to do it properly, and short cuts just don't produce the same effect. A confit is a centuries-old way of preserving meat in which the meat (most often duck, goose or pork) is salted and slowly poached in its own fat. Then the meat is packed into a crock or pot and covered with the cooking fat to seal it. It can then be refrigerated up to 6 months (or several weeks in a plastic container).

Bistango does it the right way, and it is wonderful. The leg of Muscovy duck had some really crispy skin and moist, tender and slightly salty flesh. There was also a small piece of breast meat on the plate. The confit was served with a little salad of peppery arugula, sweet strawberries, salty feta and candied pecans, all in a light balsamic vinaigrette: a lovely balance of flavors and textures.

Very meaty crab and lobster cakes were replete with seafood and had very little filler. The cakes had a nice crusty brown exterior. They were resting on a wonderful roasted tomato-pepper relish with a bit of heat and a few ripe cherry tomatoes.

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