Sunday, February 05, 2012

Mistral French Bistro - Dine Out

My last Dine Out this year was with Yummy in Our Tummies. I had already been to Miku ($38 menu) and Society ($18 menu), so I was looking forward to the $28 menu at Mistral to see how it would compare to the other 2 price tiers. We got there right on time for our reservation, but our table wasn't ready yet. I knew the place would be busy during Dine Out and I had expected a 10-15 minute wait. I just hadn't expected to stand for more than half an hour in the cramped entrance area that was about the size of a toilet stall. Every time the door opened, a rush of wind would roll in with the cold fog and make all of us shiver despite our thick winter jackets. It seemed like the place was severely overbooked, as it was completely packed with a consistent swarm of people waiting at the door. The staff did apologize for the wait, but that didn't make it any easier for us. We were cold and starving, and didn't get to eat until 45 minutes past our original reservation time. I thought they would give us bread to munch on as we decided on our menu, but the bread was served at the same time as our appetizers. The buns were cold and hard, and served with a tiny pat of butter that was probably only enough for one person.

I was really disappointed with the presentation of the food. I had expected much more from a French restaurant. The soya and black pepper marinated albacore tuna was crusted with sesame seeds and seasoned with soy sauce. I liked the taste, but the presentation really took away from it. The cucumber and celery "salad" looked particularly sad. The cucumber and celery were cut into long thin pieces that were stacked on top of each other like Jenga blocks about to topple over.

The daube de boeuf (beef cheek) was served on a bed of spaghetti along with carrots, beets, mushrooms, shallots and olives. The beef was quite tender with the shredded texture of braised meat. It was not bad despite my dislike of stringy meat. I really enjoyed the accompaniment of vegetables, as they had soaked in rich flavours from the sauce during the cooking process. But the one thing really wrong with this dish was the pasta. Honestly... this was an insult to pasta. The spaghetti was completely bland, and I only managed to add a tiny bit of flavour to it by mixing it in with the watery sauce. It tasted like the spaghetti had been cooked in hot water and just dumped into the dish along with the rest of the ingredients, so it didn't blend in at all. The tasteless noodles combined with watery sauce reminded me of typical camp cafeteria food. This dish would taste great at camp, but not at a high-end French restaurant.

The giant coffee macaron was the main reason I chose this Dine Out restaurant over the others. After the long wait for the table and 2 less-than-satisfactory courses, I was so happy that the dessert lived up to my expectations. The macaron was indeed giant, but the coffee flavour wasn't very prominent. It was served with a small scoop of coffee ice cream though. The plate was garnished with blueberry compote and a streak of cocoa powder. The macaron was executed nicely with a crispy shell and a chewy centre, as well as a subtle sweetness that was a lot less intense than the typical macaron. The ice cream was smooth and creamy, and the blueberries were sweet and tart. The flavours and textures of the different components of the dessert worked out really well together.

I realize it's not fair to judge a restaurant based on one experience alone, but I do believe that Dine Out should offer a somewhat accurate reflection of the quality and it shouldn't be too far off from the norm. One thing that really disturbed me was the dirty tablecloth with brown stains that were rather visible. I hadn't noticed earlier because of the dim lighting and because I was busy looking over the menu and chatting. But when I finally saw the blotches halfway through the meal, I remember thinking, "Did I do that?" even though I knew I didn't (because I hadn't even touched that part of the tablecloth and the stains were dried out already). Now I know where they came from after reading VanFoodie's comments on how Mistral servers used dirty napkins from previous diners to wipe off the tablecloths instead of changing them. Sorry, but that's just not acceptable at a fine dining restaurant regardless of how busy they are.

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KayCe on February 05, 2012 11:30 pm said...

woah, the first 2 dishes looked... pretty uh. plain. LOL. Glad the dessert turned out alright for you though. It looks great. :D

krispymilk on February 06, 2012 1:40 pm said...

@KayCe: I know! I was a bit shocked when I saw the appetizer. I was like... uhhh no presentation? But I went for the dessert anyway, so at least that wasn't a disappointment.

Ying Yao on February 06, 2012 6:56 pm said...

haha, how about my dessert Krispy? :P

krispymilk on February 06, 2012 7:18 pm said...

@YY: I didn't take a picture of it! Hurry up and put up your post. I'll add a link to it. Let's just say... I'm so glad I went for the macaron. But at least your dessert gave us a good laugh :)

sweetsamsations on February 09, 2012 11:07 pm said...

try the duck next time!! They're known for their duck confit. The steak wasn't too bad either!! :) It's good that you tried the Dineout menus with different prices too so you get to compare them all!

krispymilk on February 10, 2012 12:00 am said...

@sweetsamsations: I doubt there will be a next time for me :P I didn't like the restaurant at the discounted Dine Out price, so I have no motivation to go back at regular price. No one at our table ordered the duck, but I saw the steak and it looked worse than the spaghetti... The guys who had the steak said it wasn't very tender.

Yes I'm glad I tried all 3 price tiers. And my conclusion is that next year I'm only gonna go for the $38 menus lol. I realize that high prices don't necessarily guarantee quality, but I do believe that good quality is not gonna be cheap.

ca-moment on February 10, 2012 12:25 pm said...

I went here for dine out too, I hate the way Dine Out causes restaurants to rush the food just to accommodate the high amounts of people and adjust to the price. I see so much potential in Mistral, the service was great, food just lacked character.

krispymilk on February 10, 2012 3:03 pm said...

@ca-moment: I think it depends on the restaurant. Mistral definitely overbooked and tried to make the most out of it. As you said in your review, they crammed in extra tables/chairs so they could stuff more reservations in. When I went to Miku for Dine Out, they were booked full too according to OpenTable, but the place wasn't packed. They left a few empty tables for walk-ins and in case people arrived late for their reservations. That's what a fine dining restaurant should do. Dine Out doesn't cause restaurants to rush. Restaurants rush themselves to squeeze the most out of Dine Out.

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