Tuesday, June 15, 2010

AKA Bistro: Top-Notch Lunch

I have been eagerly following the progress of AKA Bistro, a new restaurant in Lincoln. It is a joint venture between Christian Touche, the GM who assisted in opening Ken Oringer’s Clio restaurant in Boston, as well as managed it for 12 years, and Chef Chris Chung from Uni. They serve both Japanese sashimi and traditional Provençal fare.

I was very pleased to see both Christian and Chris working at the restaurant when I stopped by for lunch. They are taking a very hands-on approach to the restaurant, and that only bodes well for the potential success of the restaurant.

When I arrived for lunch, my dining companion and I were the first to be seated but by the end of the meal, the restaurant was nearly filled to capacity. It seemed to be a very local crowd, including some regulars. The sashimi bar area was only lightly occupied, though that is where I want to dine the next time I visit.

The Provençal menu is like a traditional French bistro, with a good assortment of Appetizers ($10-$18), Soups & Salads ($5-$12), Entrees ($14-$28) and Sides ($6). You can also order the Menu du Jour ($22), a three-course meal. There are a few items on the Provençal menu from the Sashimi menu, such as Hawaiian Poke. I should note that a number of the ingredients on the menu come from local farms.

Prior to your food starting to arrive, you receive a fresh French roll with soft butter. The bread has a nice, crusty exterior and a soft interior, and you are offered more rolls during your meal. An excellent choice of bread, which also is good for sopping up sauces and broths during your meal.

Our lunch began with a cup of Miso Soup ($5), which has scallions and hijiki seaweed. At first I thought our server was bringing a cup of hot tea, but it turned out to be the soup. You don't receive a soup soon, and are expected to drink the soup. The soup is made from scratch each day at the restaurant, and I have to say it was one of the best miso soups I have ever tasted. It was bursting with flavor, lots of that savory umami taste. It made many other miso soups seem watery and bland in comparison. Each sip of the soup was a delight to my palate, and I could easily have drank a much larger cup.

Next, we had a couple appetizers, including the Rock Shrimp Tempura ($14) with XO sauce aioli, fried shallots and prosciutto dust. I really did not consider this to be tempura, which I believe should be a very light and crispy batter, but it was still a delicious coating, with a nice crunchiness to it. The batter was a bit thicker than usual tempura. Taste-wise though, this dish was very good, with an interesting sauce that complemented the shrimp.

Our second appetizer was the Croque Monsieur et Salade du Jardin ($11), which is supposed to be an open faced sandwich. It is not, being an actual sandwich, but that minor quibble can be easily ignored because this sandwich is exceptional, as well as being larger than you would expect an appetizer to be. You could easily order this sandwich for lunch and be quite satisfied. From the first bite I was enamored with its taste, fresh, savory and full of tender meat and lots of cheese. It was grilled perfectly, not over-done in the least. I love Croque Monsieur sandwiches, and this rates with the best.

As for entrees, the Coq au Vin ($14) was a very good choice, with plenty of tender, moist chicken mixed in with fresh veggies, with a side of buttery pasta. The chicken easily came off the bone, and the skin was crispy and flavorful. The dish was certainly good-sized and would easily sate your appetite.

We also had the Moules Frites ($15), mussels steamed in white wine served with French fries. There was a large portion of mussels in a light white wine broth, perfect for dipping some of my bread. The mussels were tender and clean, lacking any grittiness. The fries were crisp and tasty as well.

For dessert, we shared the Strawberry Tart, which was excellent, with plenty of fresh, sweet strawberry slices and a crunchy pastry shell with nuts. The filling was creamy and delicious. A fine way to end the meal, even though we were both quite full after our meal.

Service was excellent, with our server being very attentive without being obtrusive. The food was excellent, with a couple items being superb, and quantity size was very good. You are not going to leave here hungry. I had high hopes for this restaurant prior to my visit, and my initial visit lived up to those hopes. The fact the restaurant was nearly packed for lunch also indicates this is a very popular spot. I will definitely be returning and urge my readers to check it out as well.

They are open for lunch and dinner, and even have an outside patio during good weather. They also serve Brunch on Saturday and Sunday, and that menu looks very interesting too, especially as they make all of their own croissants. And you can get a Croque Madame, which is a Croque Monsieur with a fried egg atop it!

AKA Bistro
145 Lincoln Rd.
Lincoln, MA
Phone: 781-259-9920

Aka Bistro on Urbanspoon

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