Mitch SuDock gives Bistro M its initial, which also stands for memorable.
Inside, the dark wood is polished and the creamy tones are warm. Some artwork evokes Gallic scenes, which is apropos. SuDock formerly was chef de cuisine at Mirabelle, the star of St. James.
Here, the menu has an occasional French accent, an Italian interlude, a Mediterranean aside. But the result is very much SuDock's, creative, inviting, never dull.
His wild mushroom broth with a touch of truffle oil brings in a gentle woodsiness, mellow and rich, that finds another dimension with slivers of smoked duck. The eggplant-and-chickpea soup floats Manila clams and pine nuts, reaching a subtle harmony.
Pan-seared Hudson Valley foie gras is paired with baby fennel, a blood orange-and-pomegranate marmalade and diverting sweet-sour sauce. The delicate house-smoked trout arrives amid a "carpaccio" of quince, watercress, endive and pickled beets, with creme fraiche and a pecan vinaigrette.
A duet of grilled quail, slightly smoky, tender and expertly hacked top a frise salad with goat cheese and haricots vert, finished with a bacon vinaigrette. Even the basic mixed green salad contains a tasty, well-dressed bittersweet mix.
There are a few openers that don't rival these. The grilled octopus is a bit overdone, and the advertised "spicy puttanesca" vinaigrette holds back the heat. And the ravioli of sweet potato, leek and mascarpone, with chestnuts, sage and balsamic brown butter is over-orchestrated.
Caramelized diver sea scallops in white wine sauce, with braised leeks and celery-root-and-truffle fritters are tender and buttery, but the carrot puree does suggest advanced Gerber.
Instead, savor the elegant roasted black sea bass, with Manila clams, braised fingerling potatoes, Picholine olives, confit of garlic, and tempura-style Meyer lemon. Or try the delightful roasted monkfish, with parsnips, salsify and roasted shallots Bordelaise, supported by a deliciously wintry short rib-and-bone marrow hash.
The union of braised beef short rib, in a little pot, and sirloin steak is remarkably good, with a roasted garlic-and-potato cake, a crouton covered with melted Gruyere cheese, and caramelized onions.
SuDock's generous, superlative hazelnut-crusted rack of lamb is a neatly trimmed affair, arranged bones aloft, flanked by a roasted garlic-and-goat cheese souffle, golden beets and chard.
The excellent entree of duck is served two ways, with rosy, seared breast meat and a lush, braised leg, in some ways reminiscent of the Mirabelle version. It's surrounded by braised red cabbage, black-pepper gnocchi and slices of pear. Roasted chicken benefits from creamy polenta with a touch of Meyer lemon, garlic-spiked escarole, and a smooth wild mushroom sauce.
Desserts are an eclectic group. The warm, spiced carrot cake finds a clever foil in cream cheese ice cream. Cinnamon-spiked creme brulee, however, is standard. And apple-chardonnay sorbet emphasizes the wine.
The Meyer lemon-and-raspberry parfait has a light, airy style. The chocolate-caramel tart hints at a deluxe, reconstructed candy bar, with a passion fruit coulis. The sweet is the right company for the petits fours.
Enjoy, linger, return. Bistro M deserves an A.
New additions to the menus at Bistro M: full-flavored "small plates" that are bigger than appetizers and could be dubbed mini-mains.
Mitch SuDock's latest selections include snappy sweet-and-sour brisket sliders and a lively short-rib packed tamale, as well as an inviting Cuban sandwich in miniature.
You'll also find shrimp pot stickers with peanut sauce, goat-cheese croquettes with fig jam, and a housemade pretzel with basil peso, queso fundito and the bistro's own mustard.
They're all appealing alternatives if you're not ready to invest in the a la carte steaks and pricier items. You could put together a savory meal with these plates, which are in the $9 to $14 range.