Thursday night was opening night for Bar + Bistro, an Italian restaurant that took the the place of Paymon's in the Arts Factory building. I heard about the opening from my yoga teacher (whose studio is also located there) but I didn't know anything except that it opened the next night and I wanted to try it right away. Since I didn't have the name of the restaurant and therefore couldn't call, we didn't realize that the entire first weekend was by invitation only since all food was being comped. I was blown away by their hospitality as they found us a table anyway and invited us to come in and eat for free! Maybe it's because I speak Italian, or because Ian told them about my food blog, but either way we were stoked and grateful. We didn't want to be too greedy since they had been so generous, so we ordered a couple of salads and shared an entree (ok, so we did order the most expensive salad and the most expensive entree).
Although there is definitely still room for improvement, I thought they did a fantastic job for their very first night. The service was friendly and attentive, which was especially amazing considering the place was packed, and the food came out in a reasonable amount of time. The Venetian Salad ($10) and Lobster Salad ($16) were good, but extremely similar to one another. They were heavy on the bitter leaves for my taste (loads of radicchio and Belgian endive) but they were well dressed and everything was fresh. Unfortunately I thought the price tags normally attached to the these salads were a little hefty considering they aren't on the strip, and because parts of the crustacean were tough. Our entree was the seafood risotto paella (redundant wording or interesting approach?), which had lots of fresh fish, calamari, shrimp and not so fresh mussels (unfortunately the mussels were New Zealand green lip mussels which are previously frozen). The risotto itself was cooked to the appropriate consistency and creamy in texture, and the flavor of saffron came through adequately. The portion ($26) was certainly enough for sharing, but of course that depends on your appetite.
We did pay for alcohol, which was no big deal considering you can get a great glass of wine for $7, just $1 more than the beer (I had the house pinot grigio and it was wonderful). It is unusual that imported and domestic beers are the same price and that cocktails are just a few dollars more, and even though I don't think this would bother the majority of people, the pricing structure is off.
It's really difficult to rate a place on it's first night, but I give them a lot of credit for how they performed. Hospitality, which comes naturally to the Italians, was definitely something they excelled at, and the food was very good, needing only minor tweaking. The one hindrance I forsee affecting their future is food pricing. I just don't think new restaurants can charge this much anymore, because people aren't willing to risk the money on something they aren't sure will be good. I'm also concerned about their having dinner hours, since no restaurant in this location has had great luck outside of serving lunch (lunch service starts May 1st and they are currently open for regular dinner service). I think there is potential, however, and I look forward to coming back and trying out some other items on the menu. I will keep you posted on my future outings.
I have decided not to rate the dishes this time since I don't think it's fair to attach a number to each dish on their first night, but I will give them a 10 for hospitality, no holds barred.