Put off the New Year's resolutions a little longer and indulge in a meal at the Dale Street Bistro Café. It won't drain the wallet, but you may feel as if you're still celebrating something.
The bistro is as unassuming as it is impressive. These aren't conflicting attributes. Rather, they contribute to the charm and enjoyment of a fine dining experience.
Admittedly, it's been years since I last visited. Yet when I walked to the front door of the Victorian house-turned-restaurant, a feeling of familiarity greeted me as I entered. So did the owner, Hui Yon Park, though we'd never met. Her warmth left us with the sense that we'd run into an old friend. Of course, we weren't the only recipients of her cordial demeanor.
Nor were we the only ones to rave about our meal. A small group at a nearby table was loud in their praise, along with sharing much of their conversation with the rest of the dining room where we were seated. There is no single large dining area. Instead, several small rooms in this former house are furnished with tables and chairs.
In addition to the humble décor and friendly reception, we were astounded by the prices, which are affordable and, in some instances, downright cheap. It made us wonder about the quality, thinking of the caveat of getting what you pay for. The concern was unwarranted. It was like finding deals on Black Friday without the hassles. The food was exceptional in flavor, variety, presentation and price.
Although we didn't order the 16-ounce Colorado Angus T-Bone special for $17.95, the possibility was alluring. We stuck with the regular menu and started with lemon pepper grilled shrimp ($12.95). Plump shrimp, complete with uniform grill marks, are dusted with lemon pepper, which imparts fresh and zesty flavors. Raw veggies, hummus and naan are also on the plate.
Four soups were available the night of our visit, all house made. We selected cups of French onion and tomato bisque ($4) each. The former was thick with caramelized onions in a rich beef broth. It wasn't overloaded with cheese and croutons. The bisque tasted as if the tomatoes came straight from the garden. It was augmented with a trace of herbs, but there was no doubt about the star ingredient.
Several pasta dishes were tempting: shrimp Luisa ($17.95), Wild at Heart ($14.95) and Harvest Ravioli ($14.95). But shrimp was the focus of our appetizer. And though intrigued by the red pepper and mango chutney served with medley of vegetables over spinach fettuccine in the Wild at Heart; I opted for house-made ravioli filled with butternut squash and coated with a basil cream sauce.
The pillowy ravioli encased the sweet squash. The sauce provided balance to the dish. I wanted to ooh and ahh with each bite. This was a filling dish, and I knew I wanted dessert. I was sure the leftovers would reheat nicely the next day, and they did.
Several desserts are offered, but only two are made in-house: bread pudding and creme brulee. We chose the latter to share. There was no crack to the caramelized coating when we dipped our spoons for the first bite. Still, there was texture, and the vanilla custard base was smooth and luxurious.
The Dale Street Bistro Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its proximity to The Fine Arts Center makes it a great spot for a pre-theater dinner. I recommend it, no matter the occasion.