Review: Registry Bistro is welcome addition to DowntownWritten by Glass City Gourmet | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Registry Bistro, on the first floor of the renovated Secor Hotel, is another great addition to Downtown Toledo’s renaissance of attractions, special events and nightlife.
Erica Rapp, Chef de Cuisine, burst onto the Toledo dining scene with a handsome and minimalist space featuring a changing menu of New American Cuisine. For the uninitiated, New American Cuisine started in California as French-trained American chefs began incorporating fresh, local, seasonal ingredients along with more global influences to update American cooking.
Chef Rapp trained at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and has a devoted audience in Toledo from her previous roles as the Executive Chef at the Toledo Museum of Art and at Diva Restaurant. Unlike Diva, Registry is a bistro, an inviting place with a moderately priced menu that demonstrates the chef’s creativity with a focus on seasonal ingredients.
My dining companions and I started the meal with the Nibbles and Nosh. We enjoyed the Scotch Olives with Saffron Aioli ($8), Sprout and Fennel Roll with Smoked Brook Trout and a Verjus-Yuzu Dipping Sauce ($7). We also had Bistro Frites with cracked pepper and sea salt ($4) served with a Moody Blue Fondue. The Moody Blue Fondue is a smooth, creamy and delicate blend of four cheeses that creates a single harmonious flavor, making a generous portion of crispy French fries quickly disappear.
The Scotch Olives are a take on Scotch eggs with hearty green olives stuffed with herbed goat cheese, surrounded by chorizo and coated with bread crumbs before being deep fried. Sounds absurd. Tastes delicious. Especially when consumed with a Dirty Dill ($8), one of Registry Bistro’s signature cocktails. The Dirty Dill includes Hendricks gin, dry vermouth and a cornichon stuffed olive. All three of the appetizers were artfully plated and brought both original and subtle flavor combinations.
Moving on, we selected the Mixed Field Green Salad with Smoked Blue Cheese featuring Lacquered Walnuts and a citrus dill vinaigrette ($4). This is a plate of mesclun leaves with blue cheese and spiced walnuts, candied in maple syrup. While the citrus and dill flavors of the dressing are imperceptible, the candied walnuts are a sweet contrast to the sharpness of blue cheese. The Spice Lacquered Walnuts may be ordered as an appetizer for $5.
The night we dined at Registry Bistro, the day’s market soup ($5) was an elegant vichyssoise. Normally pureed and chilled potato soup, was prepared instead with sunchokes and a sprinkle of roasted duck confit that leaves a hint of orange rind. It takes hours of prep work to be able to make a soup with this complexity. Chef Rapp’s talent lies in seamlessly balancing all of the tastes into one extraordinary flavor.
Part of the thrill of New American Cuisine is trying something unpredictable. While sitting at the bar another evening having a cocktail, one diner could be heard commenting on the Butcher’s Board with Charcuterie & Savory Cheesecake ($15), “I’ve never even heard of any of these meats before, but they are all delicious,” the guest said. This is the right attitude. Put yourself in Chef Rapp’s capable hands and try something that defies your imagination.
The entrees are divided between “Light Fare” and “Main” and offer a range of game, fish, fowl and vegetarian dishes. They are priced between a $10 Midwest Meatloaf Burger with bacon jam served with brioche and frites and a $25 Hanger Steak with black garlic and butter presented with smoked roasted potatoes with bacon. I ordered the Pan Roasted Corvina, a white fish similar to sea bass (aka corvina drum), with cannellini beans served with braised fennel and dandelion greens.
One of my tablemates ordered the Rabbit Potpie with carrots and English peas and the third ordered Pot Roast Ravioli that was also served with braised vegetables. The entrees we ordered were all delicious. For my taste, salt overpowered the broth served over both the fish and the ravioli entrees.
I would like to see the summer menu place a greater emphasis on crisp and colorful summer vegetables, fresh garden herbs and main courses that are grilled or seared rather than braised or roasted. As the heat index surges above 90, I’d love to try Chef Rapp’s take on ceviche or maybe her preparation of a fresh catch from the Great Lakes. She can go back to potpie, fondue and pot roast as well as assorted wild game with earthy, roasted vegetables in the fall. For those with dietary restrictions, the menu is well marked for vegetarian and gluten-free diets. There is, of course, a great selection of homemade desserts. For $9, you may have a sampling of the sweets. My favorite is the rich and creamy chocolate stout and pretzel tart.
Chef Rapp does an outstanding job creating a comprehensive and food-friendly wine list. Wines range from “Old World” European red, white, rose, champagne and sparkling to “New World” varietals. Wine may be ordered by the glass, by the bottle or in a half-bottle served in a whimsical vessel that reminds me of a glass beaker in a science lab. Our waiter, Brian, was engaging and knowledgeable about the wines and food pairings. The service at Registry Bistro is still a little clumsy but bears the hallmarks of proper training. I suspect it will continue to get even better as everyone becomes more comfortable with the shape of the dining room and the new menu.
Impress a date or client with Toledo’s sophistication, rekindle a romance, or just come on your own to discover the sensuality of New American Cuisine with a dinner at Registry Bistro. It’s a great place for a light bite before or after an evening at Huntington Center, Fifth Third Field, the Peristyle, the museum or the Valentine Theatre. If you come with an open mind and an appetite for adventure, you will not be disappointed.
The Glass City Gourmet blogs at www.glasscitygourmet.blogspot.com.