If I had known just how good the food was going to be, I wouldn’t have complained so much on the way out to Barrington.
It’s a long drive from Evanston, but if I lived closer, I could see being a regular at the Barrington Country Bistro.
And I wouldn’t be alone. It was obvious that many of the guests seated around us in the pleasant, sunlit (at lunch!) dining room were frequent visitors, greeted by name by the waitstaff. Yet our newcomers’ welcome was every bit as friendly.
The agreeable menu, tweaked daily by Chef Luis Quiroz, is filled with bistro crowd pleasers like French Onion Soup Gratinee ($7), dark, rich onion broth topped with imported Raclette, a cheese that loves to melt; Salade Nicoise ($15) with seared Ahi tuna, cooked to order and composed with mounds of haricots verts, fingerling potatoes, olives, and egg, all drizzled with vinaigrette; and a rich Beef Bourguignon, the French beef stew filled with carrots, mushrooms and onions strewn over homemade pappardelle pasta.
But the daily soups might include Roasted Butternut Squash ($6), thick and comforting, or perhaps Tomato-Basil. And the Garlicky Caesar Salad ($7) – truth in advertising on that one! – topped with a crunchy Parmesan tuile is a step up from most of the Caesars around town.
We especially loved the “signature” Ravioli ($9/15), bi-colored, homemade pasta filled with celery root, just a smidge of earthy black truffles, and mascarpone, the plump pillows floating atop a pool of Pinot Noir buerre blanc.
Sandwiches at lunch change daily, but I hope for your sake that the Roasted Lamb Leg ($15) on housemade focaccia with arugula, tomatoes, preserved lemon and dill yogurt is available.
Likewise the Smoked Natural Turkey Breast ($15), piled on a BCB fruit sourdough roll (or so it says on the menu… I could swear that ours was on a dried fuit and whole-wheat roll, still delicious) layered with bacon, fresh mozzarella, and honey-mustard mayo. Sandwiches are served with the house frites, and they are of the super thin, skin on variety that you cannot refuse, especially when dusted with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan.
A vegetarian entrée of Pappardelle Pasta ($13) with kalamata olives, capers, roasted peppers, tomatoes and olive oil-basil sauce was beautifully balanced and lovely to look at.
Really the only negative I have to share is the bread served at the table. Everything else is so spot-on; I’m trying to figure out why they serve Turano French bread, which was merely serviceable, and not the classic crusty baguettes. But you certainly cannot minimize the importance of bread at a Bistro of this caliber.
Dessert is not to be missed. I was so thrilled to see that soufflés were available, but note that they must be ordered at the start of your meal. You will find room for it, I guarantee. And oh, my! How picture-perfect and calorie-worthy this soufflé turned out to be. We went with the Hazelnut-Frangelico Souffle ($11), and it was etherally light, it’s perfect crown golden brown. The waiter cracked it open and poured on a little more Frangelico; we did not deter him! The crème anglaise and chocolate sauces on the side tipped the scales literally and figuratively.
The dark Chocolate Mousse ($7) couldn’t compare, although it was enjoyable. It was easily upstaged by the tiny orange-fennel cookies and the caramelized banana discs that accompanied it.
This restaurant was worth the drive. I’m even thinking of taking up horseback riding just to have a viable excuse to visit more often. I wonder what other flavors they make that soufflé?
Barrington Country Bistro