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Two alluring newcomers have recently been added to the catalog of fine dining options Uptown: Bistro Daisy and Restaurant Patois. As both opened a bit too close to press time for Best New Restaurant consideration, we nevertheless still consider these Honorable Mention candidates as they both offer a lot of promise going forward into the new year.

Chef Anton Schulte, formerly of La Petite Grocery, opened Bistro Daisy with his wife Diane on Magazine Street at the site of the former Italian restaurant Civello’s. Named for their daughter, this elegant yet understated place serves creative and contemporary bistro fare in the intimate environs of a converted shotgun house. The restaurant, larger than it appears from the street, unfolds toward the rear and the tables are well-spaced. However, it can get noisy when operating at capacity. The front of the house staff, marshaled by the gracious Diane, is very personable and the prevailing mood is relaxing and romantic.

An appetizer of Jumbo Lump Blue Crab in a Garlic, Chive and Sour Cream Aioli was accompanied by roasted beets and petite croutons; the plum-sized sphere of dressed crabmeat set atop of parquet of ruby-red beet slices. The subtle seasoning of the sweet crabmeat complimented the natural sugariness of the beets, though a little more contrast might have been appreciated. Another appetizer of Grilled Sweetbreads was tossed with apple-smoked bacon, roasted peppers and eggplant in a Dijon mustard and browned-butter vinaigrette was a much more substantial dish. The grilling lent a delicious char, crispness and smokiness to the glands which, to me, was far more interesting than the typical method of frying. Come hungry if you order this one however, as the supplementary butter and bacon makes for a more filling appetizer than one might initially expect. A lighter choice would be the signature Daisy Salad, a composition of fresh mozzarella, roasted pepper, pumpkin seeds and greens dressed with white balsamic vinaigrette and arrayed to resemble the namesake flower on the plate.

Main courses included a Sauté of Gulf Shrimp with roasted mirliton and polenta in a white wine, sun dried tomato and pancetta sauce. Several plump, deveined shrimp were fanned around a hill of polenta dressed with coppery-sweet sundried tomatoes and softened with a drizzle of butter sauce. The mirliton was notable for being roasted rather than boiled, adding an appreciable bit of textural contrast between the exterior and interior and allowing the subtle and buttery taste of the pale green squash to come through.

Another entrée of Wild Mushroom, Pancetta and Mascarpone Ravioli with wilted leeks and a roasted tomato and sage browned butter offered up large ravioli filled with a woodsy-tasting mixture of chopped wild mushroom and smoky pancetta, bound with creamy mascarpone and a rich browned butter sauce, garnished with fried sage leaves. From the fairly meatless description, a diner might think this is a lighter dish but it holds its own against other robust entrées.
A strong dessert menu includes a miniature individual-sized Baked Alaska, with the encasing meringue attractively bruléed. The pistachio ice cream and compact size contemporizes this old-fashioned dessert and the bright raspberry coulis drizzled about the perimeter lent it a bright edge and a punch of intense berry flavor to offset all the double-creaminess of the ice cream and meringue.

Chef Aaron Burgau’s Restaurant Patois claims the spot formerly occupied by Nardo’s at the corner of Webster and Laurel streets. Renovated following the transition, a space that formerly felt a bit cramped has been transformed with a much more spacious feel. Though narrow, a flanking dining room up a half-flight of stairs does a lot to open up the space as well. Just up the street from Clancy’s, this coveted locale in a quiet residential neighborhood makes the spot a double winner: area residents have a convenient dining option while it also remains a draw for those coming in from elsewhere.

The scene is already clubby with lots of table hopping, even during Sunday brunch. The focus is French and the menu is creative, featuring ambitious pairings with lots of intriguing ingredients providing variation on the themes. For instance, an appetizer of Gulf Shrimp with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes and Herbed Breadcrumbs is enlivened with preserved lemon, rounding out the dish with citrus notes and a bit of acidity. The Duck Confit Salad is worth more than its weight from a food cost perspective, featuring a leg of duck with expertly seared skin and tender meat that fell from the bone with one rake of the fork. The Fuji apples lend a tartness that was softened by a phyllo-wrapped morsel of oven-roasted brie and the mulled wine vinaigrette tied everything together. Also indulgent is an appetizer of Braised Pork Belly paired with a sweet onion and maple marmalade. A triangle of toast is served alongside with a quail egg nested in a punched-out pocket – an upscale variation on the breakfast staple “toad in a hole.”

Some unusual fish selections appear on the menu. A recent special included Grilled Wahoo with oyster mushrooms, roasted potatoes and a golden beet vinaigrette. The firm-fleshed wahoo was a bit plain, though the earthiness of the mushrooms and the sharpness of the vinaigrette went a long way towards punching it up. Pompano, another fish that outside of New Orleans is too often dismissed due to its assertive high oil content, finds a place on the menu here as well, pan-seared with the skin on and served with roasted potato galettes and a citrus meuniere sauce. Another entrée of Roast Duck Breast suggested a Provençal influence with its accompanying chickpea crêpe stuffed with duck confit and drizzled with an ephemeral honey and fig reduction.

One notable dessert is the Fried Apple Pie. A pair of tiny, crescent-moon shaped morsels dusted with cinnamon sugar and paired with a small scoop of salted caramel ice cream; this is comfort food with a twist and it didn’t last long on the plate.
Both places fall on the lower end of the seating capacity curve, so reservations are highly recommended.

TAKE A BITE

Bistro Daisy
5831 Magazine St.
899-6987

Restaurant Patois
6078 Laurel St.
895-9441

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