A Steadfast haven of french-american cuisine
Highway truck stop-turned-Bedford bistro offers a fine-dining experience—out of the fast lane
Fortunately, the civility OF classic European dining is alive and well and living in Bedford! So if the speeding SUVs and long latte lines of the suburban jungle have run you ragged, stow yourself away for an evening at Bistro 22, a steadfast haven of French- American contemporary cuisine.
Swathed in soothing taupe and mauve hues, this fine-dining oasis, which began life as a truck stop in the days before Interstate 684, immediately disarms those who step inside. I made two pilgrimages to this local culinary Mecca, and was twice impressed by the leisurely paced dining and generous but not excessive portions.
From the moment a tapenade of anchovies, capers and olives arrived at the table, I had a hunch I was in good hands. The carpaccio of beef was presented in an array of velvety flower petals, moistened with a trickle of extra virgin olive oil and garnished with capers and generous shavings of Parmiggiano reggiano. I found myself loading my fork with as many of these elements as possible for maximum flavor. My companion cut into his crab cakes to find them crusty on the outside and loosely packed with fresh Maine crabmeat inside.
The fricassee of escargots, hidden in a phylo pouch with tomato, garlic and Pernod cream, was also delicious: the snails tender sponges of savoriness, the pastry a flaky wrapping for the surprise within. My companion succumbed to his fancy for organ meats and unfortunately ordered the warm sweetbread salad. It was lackluster: The tasty oyster mushrooms and French beans left the sweetbreads wanting of flavor.
For my main course, I decided upon the Chilean sea bass. To my delight, I found nestled on a bed of julienned squash and sautÃ©ed spinach white satin layers of glistening firm fish, pan roasted, and unabashedly buttery with a toasted crust that sealed in the briny flavor. A mild tarragon tomato coulis moistened an otherwise dry lemon couscous. My companion’s seared Yellowfin tuna was cooked to medium by his request, and remained moist, firm and intensely flavored.
Another star was the grilled slates of salmon, slathered in an anchovy, caper and black olive butter—the same combination found in the winning tapenade. A grilled veal chop treated in a wine shallot reduction sauce was good-sized and tender, if a bit overwhelmed by the charcoal essence of the grill.
From a wine list that features some 200 bottles, we found the selection of half bottles particularly intriguing. A 1999 Calera Pinot Noir from Oregon ($25) proved a lusty partner to the salmon and veal, while the 1997 Mont Redon Chateauneuf du Pape ($30) was an elegant and earthy standout, well-suited to both meat and hearty fish dishes.
Owner Vasco Cabral insisted that we try his trademark souffle and, without delay, a pair of them was presented, ballooning like inflated mushrooms out of oversized ramekins. Our waiter carved a hole into the top of each and filled the cavern with apricot and cinnamon apple sauces respectively. So light and airy was the dessert that I could hear the patter of tiny air pockets popping as I nudged my spoon into the dish. The crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e is top-notch, too, its torched surface a candied lid on its creamy custard.
Appetizers through desserts, the menu aims to please. So, too, does the waitstaff. Personable but not overbearing, and knowledgeable without being condescending, the staff allows guests to linger without letting them feel they’ve been forgotten. There is art in that.
Route 22, Bedford, NY
Open seven days a week for dinner only, beginning at 6 p.m.
Private parties of 20 or more can be accommodated at lunchtime.