Bistro Bethem, Fredericksburg, VA

Bistro Bethem on Urbanspoon January 25, 2013.  We heard about restaurant week here in Fredericksburg.  The most difficult decision was: where to eat?  Mrs. ag did the research, and gave me some choices,  I selected Bistro Bethem because it relied on variety a little more than some of the other possibilities.  As soon as we entered, and noticed the packed but efficient restaurant, we had a good feeling about our dinner choice.

A couple of random pieces of data before we get into the meal reviews. During restaurant week, every meal costs $20.13.  Bistro Bethem offered a tasting menu that allowed ordering a three course meal. There are many participating restaurants in Fredericksburg, and it is an opportunity to try somewhere new to eat. Make sure you call for reservations because everywhere is really full of people out to do the same thing: try new restaurants. I was not able to take any pictures because the restaurant is very dark at night. Great atmosphere may not make the best picture taking.

I started out with a Bistro Manhattan.  I say "buy it".  It is the most enjoyable Manhattan I have had in some time.

For the first course, I selected Beet Gin Cured Salmon Lox with housemade mustard, hard boiled egg, pickled carrots & daikon, and toast.  Mrs ag had the Dragon Creek Fried Oysters with white cabbage & carrot slaw, and mojo sauce.

The salmon had a slightly sweet flavor from the beets, and made great little combinations to try with the other items on the plate.  The alphageek loves mustard, and this mustard was some of the best I have sampled in a while.  I tried one of Mrs ag's oysters, and they were great.  I was drawn to the fact they were served very hot, and the temperature added to the great crisp finish to the oysters.  If the rest of the meal was like this, we were already going to come back sometime.

For the second course, I went with Grilled Heart of Romaine with feta, pickled onions, and a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.  Mrs ag went with the Roasted Beet Salad with goat cheese, greens, walnuts, roasted red beets & vinaigrette.  She enjoyed her salad.  I found my salad to be an excellent play on food.  The grilled taste of the romaine tricked my mind into thinking I was eating a hamburger.  I guess the alphageek brain associates warm lettuce with a hamburger.  The grilled romaine had just the right amount of dressing to allow all of the flavors to show through, without overpowering the ingredients.

For the final course, I tried Pork 2 Ways: Pork cheeks & crispy pork belly, potato puree, and rapini. Mrs. ag went with Backyard smoked Lamb shoulder ragout, ricotta gnudi, Local North Cove Shiitake mushrooms, San Marzano tomato sauce, ricotta, and bread crumbs.  I tried a little of Mrs. ag's lamb, and found the balance of smoke and flavor to be almost perfect.  I tried the pork because I have had pork belly before and said: what is the big deal.  I was supposed to be a good place when I tried the pork belly before, but I just got some strange chewy mess.  Bistro Bethem can proudly say they showed me what pork belly is all about, and it was a great learning experience.  It was a great crispy flavor that exploded with delight each time I sampled it.  The pork cheek was a great contrast, due to the great tenderness the port cheek exhibited.  I simply loved the dish.  By the way rapini is not my thing.  I promise I tried.

Online, I read some criticism of portion sizes at Bistro Bethem.  The alphageek will never be mistaken for a light eater, and I certainly left full.

I decided to go for some desert.  I could not help myself because they were offering homemade doughnuts.  They were perfectly fried, and served very hot.  I think there might have been a crumb or two left on the plate, but I thought it would be rude to lick the plate.

While restaurant week pushed us into trying something new, we now will add Bistro Bethem to our list of must try places.  Heck, I would go back again for the great Manhattan alone.

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