A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Friday, April 15, 2005

Apr. 15.

Dinner -

Bistro St. Mark's - 76 St. Mark's Ave., Park Slope
Carrot-ginger soup; Roasted Atlantic Salmon with Soba Noodle, Soy Beans, Shiitake Mushrooms, Soy-Wasabi Vinaigrette; Coconut Panna Cotta; a glass of Syrah, Castle Rock Central Coast 2003

Restaurants are more than just places that serve food. They’re meeting places, settings for central events, forums for memory and commemoration. I’ve seen people proposed to, heated arguments, four generations of families eating out, couples on their first date. Good food helps to ease, not to mention mark, the transitions in life, so it was fitting that my roommate Perry and I had one last dinner before he moved down to DC.

Continuing my Dine In Brooklyn adventures, Perry and I met at Bistro St. Mark’s, a Park Slope restaurant headed by chef Johannes Sanzin. I’d chosen St. Mark’s because of Sanzin’s experience at Bouley, reasoning that if he could carry just some of the magic over from Tribeca, we’d be in for a very good dinner.

Unlike the Blue Ribbon fiasco (see Apr. 11), all the initial signs at this bustling but relaxing bistro seemed promising. For one, the choices on the regular menu were consistently appealing, offering classical dishes with innovative touches. Also, the restaurant week menu, which had two options for the three categories, was comprised of selections from the regular menu rather than cheap substitutes. Finally, I really liked the space, which had high ceilings and simple but attractive décor.

I started with the carrot-ginger soup, which packed a stronger punch than I expected. Most versions of this soup are at least a little sweet, but here, the emphasis was strictly on the ginger. It was so strong that I couldn’t detect the carrot, an imbalance that was interesting but ultimately tiring. This appetizer just wasn’t for me.

Next though, I was wowed. The salmon entrée, which came with a nice albeit oily soba salad, was phenomenal. The salmon was expertly seasoned in a soy-miso vinaigrette, making every bite a pleasure. But even without the sauce, the fish tasted incredible. Slightly raw inside at the center, it was soft, tender and fresh. Generally, I don’t even like salmon, but after grudgingly finishing my portion, I was already craving more.

To finish, I had a coconut panna cotta, an Italian egg custard that’s a reliably light finale to a big meal. And even though I wasn’t stuffed, I still enjoyed the silky texture and subtle flavor of this dessert. I wasn’t as taken with the pairing of pineapple sauce that surrounded the custard, but altogether, it was indeed a comforting and delicate conclusion to our dinner.

And just like that, with three courses, our dinner was done. Perry and I went back to our apartment, which was strewn with half-packed grocery bags. He continued to stack his books and CDs into boxes, his clothes into suitcases. Then two days later, he was gone on an afternoon train headed to the capital, but at least we had one more memory and one more enjoyable restaurant to share. 7/10


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