Bistro Montage becomes a teenager6/1/2016
Each time I visit Bistro Montage, I see several of the same people. One of them explained that recently by saying, “Hey, it’s the neighborhood café.” Indeed, it fits South of Grand like a velvet glove. Enosh Kelley’s French bistro has shaken things up during his 13 years on Ingersoll. He tried lunch, but that’s now gone. He tried Kobe beef filets — the real thing, not the falsely-named “American Kobe” — but they proved a little pricey at $80 and are now gone, too. Much of the fare has become more casual and less expensive. Entrée options now include burgers (grass-fed beef with hand-cut fries and homemade ketchup) and poutines, the hot beef sandwich of Quebec (fries and short ribs in a heavy gravy with curds).
Bistro Montage does several things as well as anyone in town. I consider its French onion soup the very best. Its skate (a ray family seafood) wing is so good, I order it on half of my visits. It is crisped, flakey and served with brown butter flavored with basil and capers plus fingerling potatoes, green beans, asparagus and baby carrots. Its escargot is exceptional with country ham, potatoes and mushrooms in a garlic Pernod sauce with bread crumbs. Foie gras is a large serving of 4 ounces with onions braised in Port. Crab cakes were recently made with lump meat served over arugula, orange slices, cherry tomatoes and radish in a coconut curry dressing called “Swarnadwipa.” Duck a l’orange delivers divine skin with toasted almonds, green beans and parsnip purée with orange gastrique.
Sweetbreads, which can be made with either thymus or pancreas of either calf or lamb, can range crazy in texture and flavor. Bistro Montage’s current version is breaded, fried and served with fava beans, morel mushrooms and brandy veloute. It, more than any version I have tried, tasted like chicken. Also on the new spring menu is a marvelous tomato bisque that stood out.
Chicken is almost as diverse as sweetbreads. It used to be restaurant royalty, costing more than the most expensive beef steaks in Des Moines before World War II. Since then, it has been made inexpensive by modern industrial techniques in breeding, farming and processing. It’s so good when fried at places like Park Avenue Pub, Christopher’s and Gateway Market, or smoked at Kue’d, that I rarely think of ordering it at the fine dining applications. Also, salmonella paranoia often encourages chefs to overcook it, particularly breast meat. Recently though, Joe Tripp and Dom Iannarelli, two of the area’s best chefs, encouraged me to try their chicken breasts at Alba and Jetheroni Pepperoni. Both were heavenly moist.
Bistro Montage now offers a $35, three-course prix-fixed menu. On my most recent visit, the chef’s choice entrée was a chicken breast with grits, mushrooms and lardons. Served with plenty of pan jus, it still tasted overcooked. My prix fixe also included an arugula salad and a choice of dessert with a flourless chocolate torte standing out. I also tried the chicken option from the regular menu. Plated with morel mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, onions and the same good jus, it also crossed over the moist/dry line. It was Frenched (with half a wing attached) and had a superbly crisp skin.
Bistro Montage offers inventive cocktails. The happiest such surprise was called “Glow Sour.” It consisted of Gordon’s gin infused with slices of fresh turmeric. The bar also offers golf ball-sized ice cubes, which slowly chill a drink.
Side Dishes: Trostel’s Greenbriar will be grilling burgers, sausages and grinders at Camp Dodge’s Thursday night concert series this summer. The Blue Band plays June 2 in conjunction with the classic auto and motorcycle show. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.
2724 Ingersoll Ave., 515-557-1924
Tuesday – Thursday, 5-9 p.m.;
Friday and Saturday, 5-10 p.m.