A general disclaimer.
I’m pretty sure restaurant reviewers give themselves away when they dine. Who else would order four appetizers, three entrees and four deserts for a party of two?
Restaurant reviews in this space will be more limited. After over 40 years of dining together, Nancy and I tend to share an appetizer, occasionally order the same thing and often skip desert altogether. Nevertheless, we are able to form good and reliable impressions of a restaurant, it’s food and what we perceive to be value, and we’ll report on them here from time to time.
Urban Spoon has a category called “Neighborhood Gems.” Bistro 185 belongs near the top of that list. It’s a folksy, wood-paneled spot in a not-too-fashionable neighborhood – East 185th just north of I-90, to be specific.Not a typical destination for foodies – it’s not Tremont or West 25th or East 4th. But, boy is it worth the trip!
As you enter, the bar is on the left, the tables and booths are to the right. Sound level is pretty happy without being noisy. You hear a lot of regulars greeting each other. It reminded Nancy of the vibe back when Kiefer’s was on West 25th.
But this is not a shot-and-beer joint when it comes to food. (Nor is it a German bier haus.) The dishes are inventive treatments of standards, providing a fusion of new tastes while at the same time letting you re-discover an old favorite.
Take potato pancakes, for instance. Bistro 185’s are crisp, well seasoned and amazingly light. Then they’re topped with house smoked duck breast and dotted with a raspberry chipotle sauce. The duck is perfectly rare with a wonderful smoky quality that is enhanced by the chipotle. A dollop of sour cream is served on the side for those who can’t conceive of potato pancakes without it.
Or how about their version of Boeuf Bourgignon? This is not Julia’s recipe, but a braised boneless short rib with rich sauce, veggies and mashers. Hearty fare with a slightly different twist.
I missed the last order of steak pomme frites by one customer, which goes to show they don’t stockpile food in the freezer and microwave it when an order comes in. So I settled (aw, gee) for sesame crusted ahi tuna, served very rare with wasabi aioli, peanut sesame noodles and tempura veggies. The tuna was mostly perfect – pan seared to barely rare, although there was a bit of connective tissue or fascia on one end that was tough, and I thought the sesame crust was a bit thick. The saucings and sides however were delicious.
We finished off with a slice of carrot cake that was pretty spectacular, too. At the end of the meal Ruth Levine, the co-owner of Bistro 185, stopped by for a chat, which is always a nice touch.
We hope to get back next spring to check out their rooftop garden and whatever new takes on old favorites they come up with.