Fruits de Mar.
After our first visit to the Bistro at Maumee Wines we spent a good 15 minutes talking about it on the way home, analyzing the food and marveling at the tremendous desserts and service, but also wondering just how to rate a couple of the dishes.
This is not an indictment of the fine restaurant located in a desolate strip mall off the Anthony Wayne Trail, but more an explanation for how the Bistro affected us. It is important to note that this restaurant earns all four of its stars and is certainly worth visiting to taste for yourself.
But there is a complexity to some of its dishes that might cause consternation for diners expecting one taste experience and receiving another.
For example, consider the house salad dressing. Our excellent and informative waiter said it is created by roasting red and yellow peppers and then mixing the resulting juices with balsamic vinaigrette and other seasonings. It is heavy on the garlic and three out of the four people who dined with me found it virtually inedible.
However, I substituted a Caesar salad ($8) and it was tremendous. The garlic dressing was much more mellow and far better served the purpose of setting your taste buds up for a meal rather than shocking them into submission.
Another subject of debate was the Fruits de Mer ($24). The dish consists of scallops, chunks of tuna, and shrimp with a tomato wine sauce and fresh basil and garlic over saffron rice, and one of my guests was put off by strong use of fennel in the recipe. I agreed that it was disconcerting and a bit like hearing a sour note in an otherwise pleasant musical performance.
Another guest, however, thought the dish was excellent, marveling over the melange of flavors and remarking that the light tomato sauce must have simmered for hours.
Significant highlights included the Tuna Piccata ($22). A fat, fresh slab of tuna that had been marinated in extra virgin olive oil and then seared was served over fettucini with a butter sauce. Asparagus was served on the side. The buttery pasta formed a nice counterpoint to the tuna, which was appropriately cooked rare.
The Duck and Mushrooms Madeira ($22) also was excellent. The rich sauce gave the gamey bird a sweet background, offsetting the oft-oily nature of duck. The mushrooms were earthy without being crass.
A complaint though: the Bistro at Maumee Wines inexplicably scrimps on bread, offering only a few small slices (oddly after you receive salad). Not to be gauche, but the madeira wine sauce begged to be sopped in a good, firm bread.
Finally, we also spent a fair amount of time debating the New York strip steak ($28). One of my guests is a connoisseur of New York strip and she raved about the way it was cooked — medium, juicy, and seasoned with steak spice. However, it was slathered in a roasted red pepper sauce that seemed to barge in and demand attention on its own rather than work in the background with the meat.
Appetizers are offered as Hors d' Oeuvres and we tried the Escargot Wellington ($12). The escargot were just a tad chewy, but the truffle-duxelle and Gruyere cheese along with the sherry reduction finish were subtle and elegant.
The house-made hummus ($8) was served with olives, cucumbers, and fairly pedestrian pita bread. On the side were Meyer lemons, which are more sweet than tart. Our waiter was kind enough to remind us that the peels can be eaten.
The desserts were sublime. One night the homemade cheese cake ($10) was blood orange and on the other visit it was Meyer lemon. The flavorings were not overbearing or cloying, and the texture of the cheese cake was situated ideally between creamy and a more New York-style crumbly and dry. The crust was slightly overcooked on the Meyer lemon night, but that was only barely discernible.
The chocolate terrine ($8) was suitably decadent. Imagine a dark chocolate cookie with dried plums and blackberry wine for flavoring, served with homemade whipped cream. Then imagine that this is really nothing like a common cookie because it is so much more classy and complex. Pair it with a cup of fresh coffee and it is an upscale slice of heaven.
The Bistro at Maumee Wines is owned by Jeff and Dawn Rozek, who added the restaurant to the wine shop about a year ago. Bill Kolhoff, who formerly was executive chef for Walt Churchill's Market, heads the kitchen.
As the name suggests, wine is sold in a retail business in the front of the establishment. Customers can buy a bottle in the shop and pay an $8 corkage fee to drink it with their meal.
Our waiter was tremendous. He was knowledgeable of the preparation of the dishes and wine choices, friendly and informative without being obsequious.
The Bistro's location is abysmal. A place like this is lost in the half-empty Parkway Plaza with a sports bar and a few other lonely looking businesses for neighbors, and it deserves to be in a more energetic, thriving location.
Which is another way of saying you should seek out the Bistro at Maumee Wines and find an excuse to enjoy a glass of wine and a fine meal that likely will give you something to talk about.
Reservations are encouraged.
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bistro at Maumee Wines
Address: 2556 Parkway Plaza
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Rervations are encouraged.
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Average price: $$$$
Credit cards: AE, Dis., MC, V
Web site: maumeewines.com