LENOX -- Last Friday night I made plans to have a ladies night with two dear friends whom I haven't seen in a while.
I didn't want pizza. Aurélie went out earlier in the week for Asian cuisine. Autumn wanted a comfortable environment and had suggested burgers. Wanting to relax and feast on something I wouldn't normally cook for myself, our subsequent inbox conversation went like this:
Me: Well, we all have been to and enjoyed Bistro Zinc.
Aurélie: Sure! I do like that place. Autumn?
Autumn: Ooooh I do! Once, Jenn and I spent literally hours there, with a couple absinthes, fries in a cup and a plate of mussels. Yum! Oh how memories can be delicious!
So it was settled.
It turns out it was about five years ago when Autumn and I did have that food-venture at the French-style Bistro Zinc (I know because I wrote about it then for this column). That time, we hung out at the bar.
This time around, the three of us decided on the dining room. Though reservations are recommended, it was early in the evening, around 6 p.m., and we were among the first dinner guests. No waiting.
We sat at a table set for four in the front corner by the window, which was nice. We had views of the whole dining room as well as the passersbys outside traversing the gently lit Church Street. Both were aesthetically pleasing.
We had a round black and white marble tabletop, and other tables were covered in white linen.
The waitstaff, dressed in black with long aprons, is friendly, prompt and attentive, though our particular server was, at times, a touch too brisk. (I'll explain in a few moments.)
Our server immediately brought us a glass bottle of tap water, which Autumn and Aurélie stuck with. I treated myself to a localized Manhattan made with Berkshire Bourbon from Berkshire Mountain Distillers ($13). I asked for it neat, but up in a cocktail glass versus a rocks glass. I think the server just heard the "up" part, because it came back chilled. No biggie.
It took us no time to decide on a starter, the moules frites, an ample serving (plenty for three people) of Barnstable mussels in a marinade of cream, fine herbs, white wine and shallots, served with a side of French fries ($13). Autumn also ordered a French onion soup ($8).
At the same time, we ordered dinner. Aurélie ordered the coq au vin, a traditional French dish made with free-range chicken, mushrooms, carrots, smoked bacon and whipped potatoes ($27). Autumn and I both ordered the pan-seared trout topped with hazelnut brown butter, served with haricot vert, new potatoes, celeriac purée ($26). One of the specials included hedgehog mushrooms, which we were also curious to try, so the kitchen allowed us to order some sautéed as a side ($5).
The light in the dining room is soft, and reflects off the mirrored walls. Music is kept playing at a low level, a casual mix, which included Norah Jones and James Taylor.
We were able to ease back in our chairs and talk and laugh. No straining to hear, even as some larger parties were seated around the 7 o'clock hour.
The mussels didn't take too long, and were served with a hot, French baguette, crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Perfect for sopping up soup and the cream sauce the mussels were in. In fact we ordered another loaf to finish off the sauce, but when the server brought it to us, she, unconscious of our intentions, simultaneously began to stack our plates before we could get in a word. We were slightly heartbroken, because it tasted so good.
We all polished off our elegantly plated meals, as well. The mushrooms were sort of swimming in butter, but other than that, the rest was pretty perfect. Though slightly stuffed, we were going to finish the last of the bread, but again, the server swooped in and cleared it with out plates.
We're easy-going, so we shrugged it off again. I finished my drink. Autumn had a tea ($2.50). A lively and pleasant din continued to fill the dining room, ranging from the giggles of Miss Hall's School students, to the chit chat of a dozen other patrons who appeared to be our parents' ages (we're in our early-30s).
By the time we left, I realized nearly three hours had gone by.
For us, Bistro Zinc may be a bit of a splurge, but worth the exchange of being in a lovely space, with consistently delicious food, and the luxury to linger over it all with wonderful friends.