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Oddly enough, the desserts here don't quite live up to the expectations raised by the rest of the food. An agreeable, almond-scented version of creme caramel stops just shy of being too sweet, and an open-faced apple tart, while good enough, fails to ring any bells. A biscuity cobbler of blueberries and peaches would have fared better had it not been so halfheartedly reheated. I'd rather spend my pennies on the homey cookies: peanut butter with cashews, chocolate-chocolate chip and spicy oatmeal. There is excellent French-roast coffee, praise be, which winds things up with a flourish.

So far Bistro Cuisine -- open for weekdays-only lunch since July -- remains largely undiscovered. That should change: this is one of the Galleria area's nicest amenities, and once people who work in the neighborhood sample its charms, they tend to get hooked. Male friends of mine who can't get enough of those homemade potato chips may grow a trifle antsy at the tearoom ambiance that takes hold when the girls outnumber the boys; it's something about the lace, the pristine beige-on-beige color scheme, the treillage trio of rustic twigs that provide the sole adornment in this clean, open space. The men lay claim to their Viennese-style bentwoods nonetheless, soothed by Piaf and those ubiquitous Benedictine monks, spellbound by feisty, finely detailed food that shows all those run-of-the-mill bakery cafes how it could (and should) be done.

With any luck, Bistro Cuisine will grow more professional about the hours it keeps as it catches on. Takeout is only available until 5 p.m. -- scant help to the hordes of officeworkers in the vicinity -- and even that hour is, shall we say, flexible. One evening I arrived at 4:45 to pick up a takeout order that I had left behind at lunch, only to find the restaurant locked and dark. I look forward to the day when late diners are not treated to the anxiety-producing spectacle of chairs being hoisted atop tables shortly after the 3 p.m. lunch service concludes. And I'm taking bets on how long the schizoid idea of serving more casual items on plastic and the rest on china -- the logic of which escapes me -- will last. Not too long, I hope, because I'm going to be eating here often.

Bistro Cuisine, 4925 West Alabama, 871-9722.

Bistro Cuisine:
croque monsieur, $4.75;
French onion soup, $3.45;
Caesar salad, $4.50;
Cro Magnon salad, $5.95.

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