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At the table

Bistro meal so good it seems fitting for a celebration

Sunday, September 29, 2013
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Coconut curry, left, and braised short rib are on the menu at 204 Main Bar & Bistro in Sharon Springs.
Coconut curry, left, and braised short rib are on the menu at 204 Main Bar & Bistro in Sharon Springs.

— As the weather turns cooler and fall arrives, we’re reminded that the days are growing shorter and we’re running out of time for fun road trips before the snow flies. With that in mind, my husband and I set out recently on a long-delayed road trip to explore Sharon Springs.

There’s not a whole lot to explore, really, with most of the major businesses clustered on one little stretch of Main Street. But we had to head out there, if for no other reason than to finally see the store operated by the Fabulous Beekman Boys of “Amazing Race” fame.

Neither Josh Kilmer-Purcell nor Brent Ridge were there, but we did enjoy perusing the goods in their shop (and buying plenty). Contemplating the purchase of creamed honeys and pasta sauce and ice cream, we realized that we were hungry for something more substantial.

Luckily, the 204 Main Bar & Bistro was just up the street, and so we headed out for dinner.

The menu was short, just the front and back of one sheet of paper. But if your focus is on locally sourced, in-season ingredients, as it is here, you just can’t have a laundry-list menu. And there was enough here for us both to find some tempting options.

204 Main Bar & Bistro

WHERE: 204 Main St., Sharon Springs, 284-2540; 204mainbarandbistro.com

HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Mondays and Thursday through Saturday; 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $82.84

MORE INFO: Major credit cards accepted; reservations recommended for parties of five or more

My husband and I put in our orders, and were brought a plate of bread and butter. The butter was slightly softened, making it easier to spread, and I could smell the bread before I picked up a piece, even though it wasn’t served warm: It smelled homemade, and it tasted as good as it smelled. We polished it off pretty quickly, though we noted with a bit of confusion that we hadn’t been given bread plates, a minor quibble but one that made for lots of crumbs on the table.

Appetizing appetizers

Our appetizers didn’t take too long to arrive. I ordered the stuffed dates, which were phenomenal; the soft, sweet fruit contrasted wonderfully with the thick, chewy, flavorful bacon in which it was wrapped, and the almond stuffed inside provided a nice textural crunch. The dates were served on mixed greens dressed with a light lemon vinaigrette, a perfect foil for the salty-sweet dates.

My husband had ordered the “El Chino” Taco, a soft tortilla filled with seasoned pork, pickled red cabbage and avocado slices. The pork packed a bit of heat, with a seasoning reminiscent of Korean food, but the sweetness of the cabbage and the creaminess of the avocado balanced it out nicely. We pushed away our empty plates with satisfied smiles, eagerly awaiting the main courses.

I ordered the braised short rib, served with mashed potatoes and a seasonable vegetable that turned out to be broccoli rabe. The short rib, a large slab of beef that looked more like a slice of pot roast, was meltingly tender — it fell apart at the merest nudge of my fork. It was intensely beefy and delicious.

The mashed potatoes were good, certainly tasting homemade, though their texture was perhaps the slightest bit too loose. I was perfectly happy with them until my husband noted that they’d been listed on the menu as garlic mashed potatoes, and there was no garlic flavor in them. This was true. But they stood on their own just fine. Between the potatoes and the beef, I was a happy camper: This was great comfort food, sure to put a smile on your face.

The only challenge to the palate here was the broccoli rabe, but the bitter edge helped cut the richness of everything else on the plate, so it was a good choice.

Jasmine Rice

My husband ordered the coconut curry, an expert blend of flavors and textures. The pieces of chicken, spinach and red bell pepper were smothered in a creamy sauce that tasted of coconut first, then a pleasant, mild heat.

Pieces of peanut were a welcome addition, and the whole thing was served over jasmine rice. He gave me a bite, and I agreed: It was excellent.

Such a good meal deserves dessert, and we decided to split the panna cotta, which was plated with Beekman 1802 cajeta (a goat-milk caramel sauce), shaved dark chocolate, peanuts and a few banana chips.

The combination of flavors and textures was good and well-balanced, although my husband wished the panna cotta itself had a stronger flavor. I conceded the point, though I was very much impressed by its texture — very wiggly but still set, and so soft it was almost ethereal.

I found myself wishing we’d been celebrating a special occasion, because a meal this good seemed fitting for a celebration. As it was, the only thing we were celebrating was that we’d found such a gem of a dinner spot. It was definitely worth the drive.

 
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