Timing is everything

Experimenting pays off at Solo Bistro
By BRIAN DUFF  |  November 5, 2008
food_solo_110708_cRebeccaGo.jpg
AFFORDABLE CUISINE: A prix-fixe meal at Solo Bistro.

It reflects something about the experience at Solo Bistro in Bath that a fifty-something woman dining with her McCain-era parents felt inspired to interrupt a young pair nearby to impress upon them the importance of voting. What it reflects is that the service was slow. The two generations that have run the country into a ditch seemed to get a little restless, and then were relieved to turn away from each other to impart a little wisdom to the generation poised to attempt (and likely fail) to turn things around.

Luckily, Solo Bistro is a good place to sit out the suspense of this passing of the torch. In choosing to name itself after alienation, despite cultivating all the trappings of community, the bistro gets the current moment exactly right. Indeed, while an intergenerational chat across tables seems like a victory for solidarity, in practice the parties seemed to misunderstand each other, and were happy to be rescued by the arrival of their meals.

Solo does convey a community spirit very well. The open space puts on display the tight group (owner, chef, waitress) that run the place. The dining room has a clean, pale Scandinavian look lightened by some colorful touches, and warmed by the open kitchen, the dark wood floor, and a wall of brick. When the food arrives it is mostly worth waiting for. It certainly feels well worth what you pay. Thanks to a three-course prix-fixe menu of $23 ($16 on Wednesdays) Solo Bistro is affordable in a moment when that has become a profound necessity.

Chef Esau Crosby’s cuisine reflects the sort of skill one expects from a former sous-chef at Fore Street, but at his own place he can indulge a wider range of culinary interests. The result is a menu with a few options so tempting you might wander off that prix-fixe after all. We did to chase after a buttercup-squash gnocchi. Squash-sweet and soft with a bit of chew, the dumplings were terrific in a rich, creamy, sherry sauce with thick pieces of bacon. It outshined the fixed menu’s cabbage soup — whose salty-sour flavor and thick pieces of corned beef were right for the season. A bitter and crunchy salad with pickled pear, beets, radicchio, arugula, and a very sour dressing was both interesting and tasty, though it would have been even better if it had not arrived with our soup and appetizer.

The pre-set entrée of grilled salmon had a slightly burnt flavor despite the moistness of the fish. It was hard to figure out just why — but most likely it was a smoky fire-roasted chili sauce that was like a very finely chopped salsa. The thin strips of grilled green pepper alongside were not too exciting. The regular menu’s slow-roasted pork and parsnip stew was a better choice. Sharply sour bits of parsnip spotted the tender pieces of pork soaked in a bitter broth and climbing over a bready and interesting, if odd, “potato-donut.” The fixed menu finished with a very nice tart with chewy quince and a creamy custard.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Barack Obama, Culture and Lifestyle, Food and Cooking,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY BRIAN DUFF
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   COPING WITH ADULTHOOD  |  August 07, 2014
    The neighborhood’s newish Central Provisions is grown up. But it also embodies our ambivalence about adulthood, and our persistent hope that a few more drinks will help us cope with it.
  •   PATHS TO GREATNESS  |  July 31, 2014
    India, like the American university, is mostly in the news these days for its bloated and ineffective administration and an epidemic of underprosecuted sexual assault. But let’s not give up on either—India or college—as a source of wisdom and repository of culture.
  •   THE QUAY TO GOOD LIVING  |  July 11, 2014
    Though they offer an appealing moral clarity, in practice zero tolerance policies have ruined any number of urban schools, fragile marriages, and card-marred soccer games. Zero tolerance almost ruined Portland a few years back, too.
  •   BITING INTO THE FANTASY  |  July 10, 2014
    Is it a sign of the shallowness of our national culture that we have spent half a decade excited by the idea of food served from trucks? Sure. But is it a symptom of some deeper condition? I suspect so. This summer offers a chance to investigate thanks to the arrival of a critical mass of food trucks around Portland, along with the film Chef, about a restaurant chef who starts a food truck.  
  •   A RAIL-CAR PALACE IN BIDDEFORD  |  June 11, 2014
    The barrel roofed train-car looks incredibly good given it’s nearly a century old.

 See all articles by: BRIAN DUFF