Bistro Vivant, McLean

(See the October 2, 2012, Review here.)

I haven’t seen any reviews of Bistro Vivant since Katie Busch replaced Ed Hardy as Chef de Cuisine, and luck happened to put us in McLean right around dinnertime.

On a chilly Thursday, around 6:30, there was a healthy crowd, mainly of older diners (average age perhaps 50-60) – the service was what you’d want at a French Bistro in McLean: polite and efficient.

As my hungry young dining companion got a glass of water, the first thing I noticed was how expensive the wines are here – have they always been this much? I don’t think so – the rosés, for example, now start in the upper 40s and extend into the 60s. Huh? Unless my memory has failed me entirely, this list they have on their website is obsolete:

Attached File  BistroVivantWineList.pdf   174.84KB   0 downloads

Fortunately, their “house white,” the 2011 Patient Cotat Sauvignon Blanc “Le Grand Caillou” ($35) has only gone up a dollar, and is one of the few things off this list that I would order. Incidentally, this wine retails for about $10.99 which means that Bistro Vivant is probably paying $7 or $8. A rip-off? Yes, but your options are limited if you want a bottle of wine here. As always, Bistro Vivant will package the unconsumed portion for the diner to take home (isn’t this a wonderful law?)

Matt was waffling between the hanger steak and a daily special of NY Strip Steak ($27) with grilled squash, pomme purée, and rosemary jus (I’m listing these just as the menu does, so forgive my Franglais). The steak was a huge slab of boneless meat, tough on the outside, tender and cooked to medium-rare on the inside. The pommes purées were the weak point of the meal, not because they weren’t good, but because they weren’t hot. The grilled squash needed a bit of salt, but were cut lengthwise and perfectly grilled. This was a lot of food, even for $27, and I’m glad Matt got this steak.

I also went with a daily special: Tangerine Poached Pink Snapper ($26), a wonderful tasting fish, delicate and light, perhaps poached sous-vide because the inside was warm, but seemed barely cooked – that’s a tough thing to pull off otherwise. The light, pale undertones of tangerine juice ran throughout the dish, but not in excess. Served with broccolini and red sunchokes, the one major problem with this dish was the portion size of the fish – it was presented to maximize visual appeal, but was small enough to be problematic.

At this level, Bistro Vivant is a package that’s right about where it needs to be in order to survive in McLean. It won’t win any awards, but it will attract a wealthy, older clientele who want proper service, attractive, well-balanced entrees, and a pleasant atmosphere in which to take their meals. I had previously downgraded Bistro Vivant from Italic, and despite it having been much improved on this visit, it’s now sitting right on the border. I’m sure I’ll be here again, and will make a decision at that time – either way, it is what it is, and the decision to italicize it or not isn’t worth fretting over (although I probably will).

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