Brulee, bellies, and beets at Fresh Bistro

Basil creme brulee with tomato compote and balsamic vinegarI should have seen it coming.

The folks at Fresh Bistro, the new West Seattle restaurant from Herban Feast, throw fresh into all that they prepare. We took our fresh lemon and vanilla bean-infused Gin & Yang (get it?) drink to our dining room table, where Chef Dalis Chea sent a bunch of plates enhanced by fruits and vegetables—with varying degrees of success.

First up were shiso-crusted honey pecan prawns with green mango slaw and sriracha foam. I laugh whenever I see honey walnut prawns on menus of restaurants that claim to serve authentic Chinese food, and shudder when I think of the mayonnaise, condensed milk, and other creamy sauces I’ve seen served with the shrimp. And yet they can be a guilty pleasure. The slaw was a good counterpoint in this dish, though I wish there was more heat from the sriracha.

I should say that I’m not sold on the “foam phenomenon” in restaurants, as I’m not quite sure of the point. And sometimes I feel the same about the “flanification” of vegetables. A green olive and pecorino-crusted halibut was okay (as long as I’m lamenting certain foods, it’s as good a time as any to say that I find halibut a bit boring, which is sad since it’s served so much this time of the year), but while I liked the roasted tomatoes and other vegetables, the spinach flan was a fail for me. Beautiful color, for sure, but as with many foamed ingredients, flavor was lost.

Still, points for trying, and same for a couple of crisped dishes. The “Bellies Up” asparagus came with nice flavor from pickled red onions, shaved fennel, dill, and preserved lemons, but while I like the idea of deep frying the salmon bellies, salmon is a fish I prefer not battered. Likewise for the crispy veal marrow in the oxtail bourguignon plate. The joy of the marrow was lost once battered and fried—and it was simply too oily. But I liked trying it, and otherwise appreciated the meaty dish freshened up with baby carrots, parsnip puree, frizzled chervil, and appropriately and amazingly crispy chips.

As vegetables were the strength of the meal, it’s no surprise that my favorite dish was the “Beets Me” salad. Just as I’m an advocate of using the whole animal, here we got the greens on one side, the fleshy roots on the other, and a glass of golden beet gazpacho to boot.

But the big surprise came at dessert. All those vegetables should have been the telltale sign that there’d be a twist at the end of the meal. And there was. Pastry Chef Maya Barber Kurose’s dessert was unmistakably creme brulee, but I did a double-take when I saw that it was topped with tomato, basil, and some balsamic vinegar. A salad dessert? A dessert salad? Either way, it worked me—as I don’t always want my dessert too sweet. Others might. Fresh Bistro is touting itself as serving internationally inspired, locally sourced bistro cuisine. Expect a tossed salad of ingredients in any of their menu selections. And maybe a few surprises.

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