By Anne Chovey
Special to The Herald-Mail
SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — In my culinary world travels in the area I have eaten Thai, Japanese, Indian, Chinese and lots of Italian, but alas, not French. So I was very excited to go to Bistro 112 in Shepherds-town, W.Va., to sample “creative French food at affordable prices.” I asked my friend, Pap Ricka to come along.
Bistro is located on German Street in an old brick house built in the 1830s. The bistro adapted the restaurant to the house rather than the other way around so that it maintains its cozy welcoming feel as if you were entering someone’s home.
The front door opens into a long hallway where a sign instructed us to wait to be seated. We were met by our host who was also our waiter. He invited us into the dining room on the left, which felt like a parlor including a mantle and bookshelves. He seated us near the window at one of the many small tables.
The windows were covered in white lace curtains and were divided by an old-fashioned glass door. The entire restaurant was painted in a warm salmon shade with many paintings and posters with French inscriptions. Just beyond the dining room was another eating area with a large bar in it. Music, sung in French, played in the background.
Our waiter, who had a charming French accent, offered us water: bottled, sparkling or tap. We chose tap, but it was served to us in a wine bottle, which was left at the table so that we could help ourselves. I chose a glass of wine from the list, which had some nice offerings. The wine was served in a small chunky stemlessglass. bistro-style our waiter informed us when I commented upon it. So far I was really enjoying the experience, which felt slightly different that the usual.
The menu was not extensive but had thoughtful choices, which would appeal to a variety of tastes. There was soup, including french onion soup, but of course; salads; and appetizers such as plates of cheeses or pate and sausages, coquille St. Jacques (scallops) and mussels. Entrées included duck breast, which was the most expensive at $26, grilled steak, pasta bolognaise, and roast chicken all of which were between $15 and $16. Another option was the fixe prix (fixed price) menu, which offered three courses for $26.
While we contemplated our decision, our waiter brought us a basket. It held the tiniest of baguettes, sliced into bite-sized pieces, along with some butter.
After much deliberation, Pap chose an appetizer of rustic pizza and the vegan plate du jour. Pap has been visiting our friends Penny Pasta and Sam Osawho who are dedicated vegetarians, and he has become very interested in that diet. I love many vegetarian dishes, but then, I love many chicken, fish, pork and beef dishes, too. So I selected the fixe prix menu with salmon for the entrée.
Our waiter brought Pap’s pizza along with my “salade maison” or house salad. The pizza was made on warm flatbread and topped with fresh tomatoes, olives and goat cheese. It was a yummy combination of salty olives with a clean tomato taste and slightly melted cheese. Pap was kind enough to give me a bite, but I only got one.
My salad was wonderful. It was large and was full of a variety of greens. It also had large strips of shaved Parmesan, walnuts and sliced red grapes sprinkled over it. At first glance it did not appear to have any dressing on it, but the dressing had been placed in the bottom of the bowl so that the greens did not get soggy.
As I dug down through it, the lovely mustardy vinaigrette surfaced. We had finished our bottle of water and a second one appeared, this one in the shape of a cat.
Our entrées were presented just as we finished the first course. Pap’s was a large bowl of rice and plentiful vegetables. There were chunks of tofu, zucchini, mushrooms, tomato and slender haricots verts (green beans), all marinated in a delicious sauce. Everything was cooked perfectly and it made a colorful presentation.
My dish of salmon was also a delight. The salmon had been grilled and had a crispy, smoky crust with a tender, moist inside. It was topped with a dollop of tarragon-flavored crème fraiche, like a very light sour cream. The pommes frites looked like ordinary french fries but were sprinkled with salt and pepper to elevate them to distinction.
My final course was a pretty, dense chocolate cake in the shape of a heart. It sat upon a ring of piped raspberry mousse and was sprinkled with tiny pink and white hearts. A grand ending to a memorable meal.
Who needs to go to France with such good food nearby? Très bien, Bistro 112.
Anne Chovey is a pseudonym for a Herald-Mail freelance writer who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.
4 (out of 5)
Address: 112 W. German St., Shepherdstown, W.Va.
Hours: Closed Sunday; noon to 9 p.m. Monday; closed Tuesday; noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday
Food: French with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. Vegetarian options are available.
Bathrooms: Large and clean
Parking and handicapped accessibility: Parking is always difficult in Shepherdstown, even for the able-bodied. The only available parking is on the street at a meter so be prepared to walk. The restaurant is in an old home with steps in front making it quite a challenge for the mobility impaired
Reservations: Recommended by calling 304-876-8477 or email email@example.com
Online: www.bistro112.com; also on Facebook.