I feel like there’s a stereotype out there of city-dwellers, that anything outside of the city limits or anything not reachable via public transit is in an utter no-man’s-land. (That said, I also feel as though there’s an equal-but-opposite stereotype of suburbanites, that they’ll do anything they can possibly do to avoid entering the city.) Though I do like city-life, and do prefer it over suburban living by far, I don’t think things like fine cuisine are restricted by where a restaurant is located. For that reason, when Keith suggested giving West Medford’s Bistro 5 a try, I was all for it.
In spite of its name, Bistro 5 without a doubt leans towards the Italian; the chef hails from Italy, and the menu is interspersed with carpaccio, Milanese and gnocchi.
For our appetizers, Keith and I decided to split two plates: calamari and baked figs. I was a little wary of the calamari; don’t get me wrong — I have a great love for fried foods, but it’s my opinion that there’s only so much that once ca n do with a calamari to distinguish it from the rest. I was really disappointed; the calamari at Bistro 5 was very mundane indeed, even though its descriptions lead us to believe that it could be otherwise. Dredged in semolina with honey, sweet and spicy chutney, and champagne vinegar ($11.00) it did not taste any different from any other fried squid dish available elsewhere. Honestly, I did not taste any of the additional ingredients or components.
The baked figs, on the other hand, were quite spectacular ($11.00). The young figs tasted exactly how they looked — fresh, green and bright — with bold pink prosciutto di parma slipped underneath their stems. Inside, the figs had been stuffed with a mixture of Gorgonzola and vincotto, and placed atop a grilled flatbread. In all, the combination was nice and summery, with the tang of Gogonzola and salt of prosciutto finishing it off.
As it the norm for me, I was uncertain as to what I wanted for my entrée — lobster ravioli, or scallops and risotto — so I did what I always do in cases such as this: I asked the server for her opinion.
“Oh, I love the risotto,” she said, so that’s what I went with. After she had left, Keith and I overheard the diners at a nearby table speaking at length about the dish’s deliciousness, so I was very eager to get my plate.
Once the entrées arrived, I eyed my plate speculatively. Three fat, seared scallops sat atop a bed of the biggest pile of risotto I had seen in a while. Honestly, aside from the few halved grape tomatoes and a risotto-stuffed “zucchini globe,” the plate was almost entirely composed of the corn-leek risotto ($27.00). Flavor-wise, the dish was fine. (How I hate to use that word. It’s like asking a loved one for an opinion on your outfit, and being told you look “nice.” It is the kiss of death.) The scallops were appropriately scallop-y, the tomatoes tomato-y, the zucchini zucchini-y, and the risotto a pleasant enough combination of corn and something else that I never would have guessed was leek. It also straddled the line of salty and too salty, and the texture was, well — let’s just say that a few more minutes of cooking time over a fire would have been a good idea, as the rice was on the undercooked side.
Unfinished or no, the dish was comprised of simply Too Much Risotto, especially with the overflowing zucchini. Perhaps if it had been stuffed with polenta or quinoa or some other filling, the dish wouldn’t have seemed so overladen.
Afterward, I decided I was too full for dessert and instead went to order a coffee. I didn’t, however, when I caught sight of the prices: five dollars for a cappuccino, four-fifty for a caffe latte, five-twenty-five for a caffe mocha, three dollars for an espresso or a macchiato, and four dollars for a Vienna roast. All teas were four dollars as well. I couldn’t determine if I was being stingy, or if Bistro 5 was just pricing their coffee drinks and teas competitively. Either way, I skipped it altogether.
As we wrapped up our meal, I told Keith it appeared to me as though Bistro 5 was going through some growing pains. Even when Keith said that he thought the restaurant was a few years old, I couldn’t help but think that some of the dishes we had selected had suffered from some elementary issues that could have easily been fixed.
5A Playstead Road
West Medford, Masschusetts 02155