Had the good fortune to attend a special luncheon at Rockland’s Lily Bistro today. Now before I start dishing, understand that this was a special meal with only five guests–it was a controlled set up and designed to impress. And that they did. I can’t guarantee that the general public will have the same attentive service, the same attention to detail, the same innovative pairings of familiar ingredients, but my gut tells me this one’s going to be a winner.
The new baby of chefs Bob Kajewski and Lynette Mosher (both most recently of Natalie’s, in Camden, but with distinguished culinary pedigrees) is promising enough to have earned mention in the current edition of Food Arts magazine. While it is a bistro, and they do have the background and are getting the notice, this isn’t a stuffy, food snob type of place. It’s open, welcoming and their goal is to keep it “simple, classic and focused. Food of the people is what we do,” Bob says.
Well, maybe if your people are foodies. But the fare is grounded in reality, using less-expensive cuts of meat and using “culinary alchemy” to turn them into gold. Consider the salad: chicory with a signature warm cassoulet dressing. It’s a salad turned into a comfort food, with a dressing of house-cured pork belly, duck confit and foie gras petals. It’s fabulous. Or the moules a la provencale, classic mussels in garlic, olive oil and white wine with an added and palate-pleasing kick, green olives. It’s in keeping with the tradition, Bob says. But, oh my. Mmmmmm.
And I didn’t even mention the tuna cooked and raw, pairing a tartare, topped with a homemade potato chip, with a barely cooked tuna wrapped in phyllo and complemented with a pea puree and carrots, or the starter plate of Hahn’s End Cheeses, the fresh French bread and the little, standard accompaniments: a mustard (violet mustard, made with a red wine reduction), cornichons, butter and a housemade terrine or pate. This is one place where you simply must save room for dessert, Lynette’s specialty. Presentation, while thoughtful, isn’t orchestrated or the work of a closet architect. Again, as Bob says, accessibility is their goal
At this point, he works the front of the house, while Lynette runs the kitchen. Both are passionate about food and their styles while different are complementary. The restaurant, they both say, has been in planning for years and years, and that shows in the attention to detail. I expect, with the division of labor and one out front and the other out back, that attention will continue.
Speaking of out front, prior to opening, they totally revamped the old Amalfi decor. Vibrant lime green and mirrors and an eye-catching light fixture from Prism glassworks set the tone upstairs; the downstairs wine cellar has a more intimate feel, with granite and brick walls and wall of wine. Another plus is a wine list where the most expensive bottle is $36, with most also available by the glass.
So, what’s the bottom line? Again, I need to revisit down the road, when been up and running for a few months and to do so incognito in order to honestly evaluate it, but I’m eager to return. And the pricing makes it easy. Lunch runs approximately $8 to $12 for entrees such as lobster risotto with fresh peas, goat cheese and pickled beet salad, french brie grilled cheese and simple roast chicken. Dinner entrees, $18 to $24, might include roasted pork rib chop, bacon-wrapped monkfish, pan-seared onglet with classic hollandaise, sole with sage brown butter or grilled veal sirloin. But the menu changes about every other day, reflecting what’s fresh and locally available.
If this is food of the people, I’m glad I’m human.
**NOTE: See my updated review here.