published Friday, October 21st, 2011

Easy Bistro will tickle the taste buds

  • photo
    Poached chicken with chanterelle mushrooms and grilled asparagus was among entree choices at Easy Bistro on Broad Street during Harvested Here Restaurant Week. This celebration of local ingredients continues through Sunday at 18 restaurants around town. Find out more at www.slowchattanooga.org.
    Staff Photo by Judy Walton/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Looking both to take part in the Harvested Here Restaurant Week and to break new ground on my regular dining trail, I settled on Easy Bistro & Bar.

The French bistro-style dining room in the historic former Coca-Cola bottling plant on Broad Street was among 18 Chattanooga restaurants to take part in Harvested Here week, a celebration of local bounty from veggies and meats to breads and cheeses.

Though as it turns out, my particular menu choice wasn't fully local, it was a tasty celebration of fall foods.

THE MENU

Easy Bistro's regular menu has a full variety of starters ($8 to $13), including Link 41 Andouille sausage and leaning strongly toward shellfish but including artisan breads and local vegetables. Plates of imported meats and cheeses ($5 to $16) and a raw oyster bar go well as snacks or with the bistro's custom cocktails. Other light choices include local charred corn soup ($5/cup), house and Caesar salads ($7 and $8) and a bruschetta-like concoction of heirloom tomatoes with pickled shallots and Parmigiano/Reggiano on a toasted baguette ($13).

Main courses include roasted meats, from chicken through duck, lamb, veal and beef, all seasoned for fall, to potato ravioli with peaches and blue crab meat ($24), Prince Edward Island mussels with fries ($16) and grilled swordfish ($16).

There was a separate menu for Harvested Here Week. The special prix-fixe menu included three courses for $35. Wine pairings were available for $15.

The first course offered a choice of blue cheese tartine, warm potato and mussel salad and smashed baby beets.

Next came poached chicken, sea scallops with scallop ceviche or pork cheek daube.

Finally, the sweet offered peach paté with fruits, poached pear or carrot cake flavored with star anise and topped with a dollop of milk-chocolate topping.

After a starter of tiny, tender, chive and cheese puffs, I had blue cheese tartine, poached chicken and a poached pear.

Savory foods really tickle my tastebuds, and the tartine was outstanding. House-made toasted sourdough was topped with Bayley Hazen blue cheese and Link 41 bacon, heated until the cheese softened and drizzled with local honey. Salt, sweet, smoke and that special blue-cheese tang came through in each bite.

The poached chicken was a breast, perfectly moist and tender, with chanterelle mushrooms in a creamy, thyme-tinted sauce and nicely crunchy grilled asparagus.

As it turns out, my server told me that was one of the few nonlocal items on the menu, since the bistro didn't have a local source for all the ingredients.

I finished with the pear, poached in red Cotes du Rhone, sweetened and flavored with fennel and cloves. The chilled pear was somewhat spicy and not too sweet, making a light end to the meal.

THE SPACE

A single room two stories high, Easy Bistro is dressed in basic black -- walls, tables and chairs. Mostly white accents -- chair seats, lamp shades -- and a white-and-black tile floor provide contrast, along with brilliant fuchsia-colored orchids. Tables for two and four fill the room, with a larger table for parties near the full bar and a banquette under a faux triple window on the opposite wall. There is table seating outside on a terrace.

THE SERVICE

I was there early and had the server to myself for most of my meal. He and other servers had tasted the special menu and been briefed on local ingredients so they could discuss them with the customers. My server was well-trained and friendly, clearing the courses promptly.

THE VERDICT

Though I visited Easy Bistro because I wanted to check out the Harvested Here offerings, its regular menu looks just too tempting to pass up. Good food, expert, friendly service and a casual but sophisticated space are a recipe for success.

IF YOU GO

Where: Easy Bistro & Bar, 203 Broad St.

Phone: 266-1121.

Online: easybistro.com, also Facebook and Twitter.

Hours: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Sunday; brunch served 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Dinner price range: $4 (mashed potatoes, grits) to $30 (roast beef tenderloin).

about Judy Walton...

Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...

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