Scallops and wild mushroom risotto appetizer
at Bistro Montage, 2724 Ingersoll Ave., 557-1924.
Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to
1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to close.
In the restaurant world, one hears more about
doomed locations than charmed ones. The southeast
corner of 28th Street and Ingersoll Avenue is
among the latter, having hosted one popular
café after another for decades. People loved
it when it was Jeff Pocock and Kim Samuelson’s
deli Sheffield’s, then as Marlene Todd’s Corner
Café, Gary Hines’ original Bistro Montage, and
Enosh Kelley’s more French version of the same.
Now Kelley thinks it’s time to for another makeover.
“We were the only French restaurant when we
started. Now there are three, and it’s a tough
economy. I was thinking of downscaling to more
affordable prices anyway, and then Ian came
back to town,” he mused.
Ian Robertson is a talented young chef who worked
for Kelley before moving on the culinary school
in France, then putting in brief stints at Michelin
starred kitchens in France, England and Chicago.
He came home this year, and Kelley wants to
keep him here. So he initiated lunch service
Tuesdays through Fridays with Robertson designing
an inexpensive ($3.50 - $13) lunch menu. Then
Kelley decided it was time to make the lunch
menu available at dinner and a somewhat shortened
dinner menu available at lunch. He’s even thinking
about scrapping his linen tablecloths (which
cost more than $150 a week to launder) as soon
as he finds new table tops he likes.
The place looked unchanged on my recent visits.
Fresh flowers and tablecloths softened a blood
red and black room. New creations on the menu
included arugula salads made with roasted strawberries,
papaya and chevre tossed with champagne vinaigrette.
Caesar and Cobb salads were traditional, and
a beet salad featured red and yellow roasted
beets with crisp, warm chevre and pear butter,
a balsamic reduction and sherry/walnut vinaigrette.
Sandwiches were all served on focaccia, as if
proclaiming a move out of France. One featured
pulled chicken, tomato jam, Havarti and tarragon
mayonnaise. A “BLT” included excellent thick
bacon, orange mustard and honey/herb chevre.
Crepes and soups were the stars of the lunch
menu, though. One light and gorgeous crepe was
stuffed with tender chunks of steak, asparagus,
grilled mushrooms, Brie and tarragon mayonnaise.
Another day I tried a chicken crepe stuffed
with bacon and havarti. Soups included a vegetarian
English pea soup that tasted too fresh to be
out at night, a tortilla soup in chicken stock
and the bistro’s famous French onion soup, a
sumptuous recipe that uses a stock of roasted
duck and veal bones with caramelized onions,
finished with sherry.
After the lunch and dinner menus merged, I made
a lunch out of appetizers and charcuterie. A
“seasonal” risotto delivered lovely pan seared
scallops on rice reduced with wild mushrooms
and plated with arugula. (Another risotto was
reduced in sea urchin sauce, with tobikko and
tomato concasse.) Rillettes were meatier (less
fatty) than most, and a country terrine of pork
was wrapped in bacon, reduced with raisins and
pistachios, and served with classic Cumberland
sauce. A short dessert list featured a chocolate
mousse covered in chopped pineapple and freshly
whipped cream. Cheese service included six varieties
— none French. Entrees on the new menu included
steak frites, beef tenderloin, skate wing, trout,
duck a l’orange and roast chicken. The eclectic
wine list ($25 - $2500) remained. A dozen wines
were sold by the glass ($5-$13) and half a dozen
Norman hard ciders were available.
Bottom line — Bistro Montage might not be as
French as it used to be, but it’s now open for
lunch, more affordable and infused with youthful
Alba and Splash have been offering Iowa Iceberg
lettuce. Until this year, Iowa State horticulturists
advised that variety could not be grown in Iowa.
That’s why Larry Cleverly (2nd & Court at
Downtown Farmers’ Market) says he had to grow
it. It has deeper flavors than out-of-state