2009-07-22 / Restaurant of the Week

Bizaare Ave. Cafe

Though Bizaare Ave. Café opened just two weeks ago, it is the first cousin of a very successful restaurant in Palm Beach, Florida, bearing the same name. The concept is thoroughly unique and includes eclectic American bistro fare, along with prime sushi, tapas and more. The décor is also eclectic, combining antique and vintage furniture, new and distressed tables, chairs and end

tables, as well as handsome chandeliers, mirrors and artwork….ALL of which is for sale! So, if you fancy that overstuffed chair with the fluffy pillows or the sumptuous velvet sofa, it can be yours. The concept allows for the interior to change continuously, yet it is always decidedly comfortable and welcoming.

Start with a cocktail, glass of wine or imported beer from the large, handsome wooden bar that rests in the center of the large dining room. The Bizaare-tini hit the spot with its fruit and citrus notes, served well chilled. The wine list features a wide variety of vintages by the glass or bottle, starting at $8/$19 respectively. An extensive sake list pairs with the impressive sushi menu.

While we perused the menu, our friendly waiter brought some house made hummus, scented with sesame oil, and a delicious dip of cream cheese and scallions to spread on triangles of warm pita bread. We chose our appetizers from the tapas menu and Bizaare Ave. Café gladly invites you to nibble on tapas and drinks anytime of night, as the kitchen remains open until 2:00am. This is especially convenient for late night dining after the movies let out, just next door. Some of the most tempting appetizers include plump, juicy sea scallops, prepared in crispy parcels made from phyllo dough, served with truffle dipping sauce ($8). Roasted chicken empañadas are light, delicate

pastry filled with tender chicken and spices with sweet, caramelized onions ($7). These same empañadas are also prepared with Spanish sausage called chorizo, and a refreshing tomato salsa. Short ribs braised in red wine with Portobello mushroom make an excellent starter as well. Next time, I will try the goat cheese croquettes and fresh crab salad, served in a lettuce cup. A number of Greek-style appetizers also grace the menu, including octopus poached in red wine, shrimp saganaki, spanakopita and stuffed grape leaves. The salads are bright and fresh, such as grilled peach and mesclun salad tossed with goat cheese, mint and prosciutto for a unique combination of flavors and textures.

Chef John Bito is not only friendly and affable, he has managed to do a great job of marrying different styles of cuisine by re-inventing some bistro classics and introducing some new ones. Seared tuna Wellington is but one example. High quality tuna is gently seared within a delicate pastry shell along with tomato confit. I don't know how he does it, but it is delicious. Seared salmon is prepared with wild rice pilaf and spinach sautéed with orange honey ($21). Bistro classics such as lamb chops are enhanced by a Chianti reduction and whipped potatoes, while the hefty lamb shank is served with braised vegetables, fennel and fresh herbs ($24). Grilled NY strip steak is cooked to your liking and served with crispy frites and mushroom Marsala sauce. Even the epitome of comfort

food, macaroni and cheese, is given a sophisticated touch by using rigatoni, goat cheese, roasted chicken and fresh rosemary ($15). The classic cheeseburger is served on a brioche bun, or one can order a selection of "sliders", which are mini buns filled with different meats.

An equally skilled sushi chef named Park, creates a stunning array of sushi, sashimi and rolls that delight your eyes as well as your palate. Come see him prepare yellowtail jalapeño spicy sashimi with citrus soy sauce or tuna tataki with grape seed oil dressing ($10). Around two dozen rolls are available, each artfully prepared and guaranteed to please. There are also complete sushi dinners for two that include shrimp tempura and 12 or 16 pieces to share.

Desserts are special too, with beignets, panna- cotta, moist carrot cake, house made cheesecake and a sugar-free banana cake sweetened with natural maple syrup.

Bizaare Ave. Café lunch and brunch are special affairs as well. At lunch, try some of their delicious soups, salads and savory sandwiches, such as Carolina BBQ pulled pork, served on a brioche bun with secret recipe sauce and slaw ($9). A stellar brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 3pm and features omelettes au choix of your choice), Bizaare Benedict, pancakes, quiche, Belgian waffles or traditional Nicoise salad with the works. The Gazette welcomes Bizaare Ave. Café to the neighborhood, offering eclectic American bistro fare, tapas and sushi to please everyone. Bizaare is open seven days a week from 11am to 2am for late night dining and a fabulous weekend brunch. Feel free to just browse the dining room's array of furnishings as well, and stop for a cocktail or just a cup of coffee.

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