Review: BIstro AIX

Tonight I am dining at Bistro AIX for the first time. While making the reservation through OpenTable, I inserted a note about needing an out-of-the-way table to accommodate my guide dog. I’m curious to see how the restaurant will interpret my specifications.

Javier and I arrive at Bistro AIX for our 6:30PM reservation, confirmed by an amiable hostess. She escorts us through the restaurant; we make a few turns, passing occupied tables. The most noise seems to be concentrated in the first seating area, but our guide leads us to the farthest possible table—the last in a series of half-booth, half-chair four-tops. Our table glows with evening sunlight, pouring through the glass door to our right. I slide into the booth side, and Javier takes the seat across from me. Behind him, the pastry case beckons. Despite the glare, the table suits us well—plenty of room for York to stretch out underneath.

After an initial conversation with our server, we decide to order the fried calamari appetizer. It arrives on a large oval plate with a cup of intriguing dipping sauce. Described on the menu as “red pepper and feta dip,” the sauce complements the calamari’s slightly salty batter. The dip is thick and spicy, and its flavors seem to linger on the tongue. The calamari are crispy and tender—no hint of rubbery rings.

With the appetizer, we’re enjoying Bistro AIX’s thick rustic bread and sweet butter. The bread has a heavy crust and a fluffy, porous crumb. Each slice is larger than the palm of my hand.

Each time our server returns to the table, he improves in my estimation. Not only is he friendly and helpful, but he readily narrates his actions: “Some more water for you?” or “Here’s some bread in front of you, butter in s small cup inside the breadbasket.” He must have experience with visually impaired patrons; his descriptions are brief, accurate, and willingly deployed.

We receive other visitors as we polish off the calamari and bread. Each employee is courteous and helpful, and all are concerned about the sun’s zealous attention to our table. Everyone wants to make sure that we’re still comfortable as we wait for the late sunset.

Dinner arrives: Ahi tuna for Javier and mushroom-fontina pizza for me. My pizza has a one-line description: “Sautéd wild mushrooms, truffle oil.” Its flavors are equally poetic. The pizza is large and round, cut into several squares and triangles. The crust is extremely thin—almost like a pita pizza. The toppings are strategically arranged: thin slices of mushroom and delicate mounds of melting fontina, all drizzled with the pungent truffle oil.  The pizza is light, and the portion is generous. I’m saving room for dessert, so I finish about half of it.

The dessert menu is an exercise in exquisite misery. I’m torn between three of its seven options: the Provençal meringue, chocolate gateaux, and vanilla bean crême brûlée. Perhaps because I’ve been reading so much Peter Mayle lately, I choose the Provençal meringue: it seems the most unusual option. The menu offers these inviting syllables: “Lavender-Thyme meringue, lemon curd, mint basil oil.”

After being flambéed (we catch the tempting smell of caramelizing sugar), the dessert arrives looking like a small campfire. The meringue is concealed beneath its blanket of lemon curd. Strawberries and blueberries mark the meringue’s perimeter, and a few mint leaves are nestled into the delicately browned peaks.

The dessert is a celebration of textures. Soft warm lemon curd, slightly crunchy meringue, and crisp berries—in some bites all three textures dissolve. The flavors are equally symphonic: I feel like I am chasing the lavender and thyme through the lemon curd, and the berries brighten everything. The mint sounds a clear, clean note, and works best with the lemon. I don’t really taste the basil, so I will have to return and try it again.

I consider this edible adventure a success, and I am already dreaming about another visit. Bistro AIX offers what I’m looking for in a restaurant: delicious food and empathetic servers.