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Bistro West

May 26, 2014

As my husband and I were making the drive from Los Angeles down to San Diego for our quick weekend getaway, I got a text message from one of my husband’s co-workers.  Having lived in the San Diego area for number of years, and knowing that we were coming down to San Diego and looking for some recommendations, she sent to me a list of 3-4 different restaurants in the Carlsbad area that she thought we might like.  She knew that during the day Saturday, we’d be visiting the Flower Fields, so she recommended a couple of spots that were in the vicinity, but far away from the tourist trap of the Carlsbad Outlets.  As this is the same co-worker who had recommended the Purple Café & Wine Bar in Seattle to us, I knew that her recommendation is one I could trust.  So, Friday night as soon as we were settled in the hotel, I just couldn’t resist the urge to look up some information on the Internet about the different restaurants she had recommended to us.  After narrowing our choices down to two locations, I read the menu of both to my husband and he immediately gravitated towards one of the choices.  And there it was decided that on Saturday, for a late lunch meal, after trudging through the Flower Fields, we’d go to Bistro West.

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Set away from the touristy part of Carlsbad where the Flower Fields and the outlet mall is located, Bistro West is the type of restaurant that locals flock to for good eats.  This was one of the reasons that my husband’s co-worker recommended this little gem to us.  As we approached the main entrance to the restaurant, there was an outdoor display rack filled with various flower boxes where fresh herbs were being grown.  The sign indicated that these herbs were grown to be used for cooking inside the restaurant.  The philosophy of the restaurant is a farm-to-table one where they use seasonal, fresh ingredients and combine it with French and Italian cooking techniques.  According to their menu, the restaurant’s Chef’s maintain a 3-acre farm where they grow most of the food that they use in the restaurant.

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The menu offerings of the Bistro West consisted over very classic, hearty, home cooked dishes but with a bit of a modern twist or flair using fresh farmed and home-grown ingredients.  This is the type of menu where you can find classic beef stroganoff, chicken pot pie, homemade fresh pastas, handmade pizzas, sandwiches and burgers.  Everything on the menu is made from scratch and sustainability of those ingredients is always kept top of mind.

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As my husband and I were mulling over appetizer choices, we had decided that since this was a late lunch we should just get one appetizer to split.  My husband looked at the menu and asked me what I would be interested in.  I looked through the menu and named off a couple of choices, but I could tell that none of them were appealing to my husband.  Then he saw something on the menu and said he was interested in it and was wondering if I might be willing to give it a try.  After reading through the description in the menu, I thought, hey, I’ve never had this before, I’d be willing to give it a try.  My husband said later that he was completely stunned that I was willing to try it as he thought for sure I’d say now.  It was “it”?  Zucchini flower tempura.  The menu said that the zucchini flowers were stuffed with ricotta cheese and served with tomato-bacon jam and a whole grain mustard dipping sauce along with a side of pickled vegetables and micro greens.  The fact that these babies were tempura-battered and fried, I think is what caught my eye.  I know that zucchini flowers are now the popular thing to use in cooking, especially sustainable, farm-to-table cooking.  I’m not the type of person who likes to go out of her comfort zone when it comes to food, but I figured that these things were something unique enough, and supposedly good, that I could give it a try.  Besides, it was stuffed with ricotta cheese, and like my husband would say, how could anyone not enjoy something that is stuffed with cheese.  When these bad boys came to the table, I was so excited to give them a try.  They looked so delicious.  One bite into them and I knew they were, in fact, delicious.  The tempura battering was perfect, light and crispy and a great contrast to the soft zucchini flower.  The ricotta cheese tasted freshly homemade and light, not like the ricotta you buy at the store that can be heavy and thick.  The tomato-bacon jam was on the plate just under the zucchini flower, and provided a great tangy contrast to the sweet and light tempura zucchini batter.  The side of whole grain mustard was fantastic and really provided an incredible kick to the super light zucchini flower.  Unfortunately, my husband and I didn’t touch the jar of pickled vegetables, though the waiter had told us that the table before us had liked it so much they asked for an extra side of just the pickled vegetables.  I’m glad that my husband forced me a bit out of my comfort zone and asked me to try something I normally wouldn’t try.  I really enjoyed the zucchini flower tempura and would have no hesitation ordering a dish like this again.

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For our meal, as it was more of a late lunch rather than dinner, we decided to go with a little bit lighter fare.  My husband was looking through the menu and couldn’t decide what he wanted until he saw that Bistro West makes their own fresh pasta.  Freshly made pasta is something my husband absolutely loves because you can really taste the difference in quality in taste between fresh made pasta and pasta noodles out of a box.  So, fettuccine pesto it was.  The fettuccine noodles were cooked in pesto sauce with sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, chicken and pecorino cheese.  My husband really enjoyed this dish.  His comment was that the pasta was cooked perfectly, and he could definitely taste that it was fresh made pasta.  And while the sauce my look a little heavy, the pesto was actually quite light and not overpowering at all, which he appreciated.

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I decided to go with a sandwich for my meal, the South Jersey cheesesteak.  Made with rib-eye, caramelized onions and white American cheese on a French roll and served with au jus, this was a great lunch time option.  I loved that the cheesesteak didn’t contain bell peppers and/or mushrooms, two things which I don’t like.  The French roll made all the difference with this meal, it was perfectly crusty on the outside and light and soft on the inside.  The rib-eye was tender, and combined with the caramelized onions, it was almost melt-in-your mouth.  Served with steak fries, this was a great light lunch meal.

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As this was a late lunch, we decided that instead of ordering our own desserts we would get a dessert to share.  To shock my husband for the second time in this meal, I agreed to go with a dessert that he picked out, again, the type of dessert he wouldn’t really expect me to order.  The dessert was a buttermilk panna cotta with balsamic roasted strawberries.  I’m not opposed to panna cotta’s as a dessert option, but when there’s tiramisu on the menu, it’s hard for me to choose a panna cotta over a tiramisu.  I wasn’t quite sure what a buttermilk panna cotta would taste like, and it seemed a strange item to use to flavor the panna cotta.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  The panna cotta on its own wasn’t really anything special.  The buttermilk added a little hint of sweetness to the panna cotta, but really, it was almost flavorless.  It was the roasted balsamic strawberries poured over the buttermilk panna cotta that really elevated this dessert to a whole different level.  The pairing of the strawberries with the balsamic vinegar reduction was perfect as you get a little tart and a little sweet combined together into a terrific sauce.  Then you pour that over the buttermilk panna cotta which almost acts as a blank canvas for whatever flavor you add to it, it’s perfect.  The dessert was light, and sweet and tart and tangy all at once.  It was cool and refreshing, and a perfect way to finish our meal at Bistro West.

I’m so glad that my husband’s co-worker reached out to us with her suggestions of various places in Carlsbad we should check out.  Her recommendation of Bistro West was perfect for what we were looking for.  Delicious food, in a terrific environment, away from the hustle and bustle of touristy Carlsbad.  A true hidden gem among the rows and rows of chain restaurants you can find in the area.  The restaurant really does focus on farm-to-table, wholesome good comfort food classics.  Their zucchini flower tempura was out of this world, and our buttermilk panna cotta was the perfect ending to our day in Carlsbad.  This is just the type of restaurant I love going to when I’m on the road, good food, good company, just all around goodness.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 8, 2014 4:57 pm

    Hmm while I absolutely love tiramisù most places don’t make a very good one so I always end up disappointed. Panna cotta is usually less offensive

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