Monday, June 20, 2011

Bistro Niko

I am usually a little wary of Buckhead Life restaurants. They are all good, but they often come across as pretentious, unauthentic, and trying too hard. Sort of like Vegas. Sort of like Buckhead generally. I have eaten at, and enjoyed, Bluepointe, Atlanta Fish Market, and Buckhead Diner, but I was never blown away. Bistro Niko raised the bar.

Bistro Niko, as the name should give away, is Buckhead Life Group's upscale French restaurant in Buckhead. The restaurant did have a cheesy mural of Paris with all of the typical landmarks one could possibly fit in. Otherwise the space was warm and welcoming, although a little loud. But to get to the heart of the matter, the food had its ups and downs but was all above par, and our service was excellent.

We started off with an order of gruyere cheese puffs. They were good, but not amazing. Imagine a small ball of lighter than air pastry with a warm, sharp gruyere center.

I then ordered the grand charcuterie platter as my appetizer.

I thought the platter was an appetizer for one, but it was intended for the whole table. Fortunately, there were three of us and I received some help. I think my arteries would have shut down had I consumed all of this delicious, fatty goodness by myself. At $14 for the massive platter, this is an excellent deal. The platter consisted of two types of salami, prosciutto, a "faux gras terrine", a rillette, and an almond country pate. All were excellent. Salami and prosciutto are Italian, not French, but I guess I will let that slide. The meats were served with toast points, a tasty whole grain mustard, and cornichons. The terrine was excellent. It was like rich, meaty, air and was deeply satisfying. Rillete is meat, usually and in this case pork, cooked in fat until it can be shredded. It is then cooled surrounded by fat to form a meaty paste. The rillette tasted like the richest, fattiest, most melt in your mouth barbecue you could ever imagine. The country pate with almonds, the salumi, and the prosciutto were also delicious.

I also ordered a salad course of frisee, bacon lardons, and a fried egg. I forgot to take a picture of this course. The egg yolk broke over the greens and bacon to make a delicious rich, salty, crunchy salad.

As an entree, my wife ordered beef tenderloin tips.
The beef was perfectly cooked and had an excellent flavor both from the meat and the peppercorn crust. The mushrooms and jus served with the meat were a great accompaniment.

My mother-in-law ordered a shrimp special. It essentially consisted of tempura shrimp with a funky coleslaw in the middle.

The shrimp had an Asian inspired taste. The coleslaw was unusual. It had a very earthy taste I couldn't quite figure out. After asking the waiter, we discovered that the main component of the coleslaw was celery root. Overall, this dish didn't wow me. However, my mother-in-law seemed to like it so it might just be me.

I ordered the skate wing which is served sauteed in brown butter with capers, spinach, and steamed potatoes.

I had skate wing once in a bistro in Paris. I remembered it as one of the lightest, most delicate, and most delicious fishes I have ever had. The skate here was cooked well but was saturated in brown butter. The richness from the butter was overwhelming. The dish was served with two tiny lemon wedges. I squeezed the lemon over the fish, and the bites with the lemon juice were much better. The acid from the lemon nicely cut through the richness of the butter. Overall, I was a little less than impressed with this dish. French cuisine is intimately tied to butter and richness, but the chef should know that this much butter kills all other flavors and renders the fish nearly unpalatable. The fish should be the star and the butter should only serve to accent its delicate flavors.

The highlight of the meal was the excellent service. I wish every waiter could be as good as our waiter that night. He was there when needed, answered every question, was a wealth of information, and yet managed to be there only when we needed him. Some waiters are never around and neglect the diner. Some waiters are overly zealous hovering over the table and making themselves an uninvited dinner guest. Our waiter struck a perfect balance.

Bistro Niko is expensive, although the prices are relatively appropriate for the ingredients and quality of the food. Bistro Niko also suffers from a bit of the make-believe gourmet. But overall it was a pleasant experience with decent to above par food. I would recommend it to anyone looking for French food in Atlanta served in a fine dining setting. But I wouldn't put it on a top places to eat in Atlanta list.

Bistro Niko
3344 Peachtree Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30326

Bistro Niko on Urbanspoon

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