Occasionally, a restaurant leaves me in a muddle. And not that pleasant muddle that comes from just a bit too much food and the perfect amount of fuzziness from a few cocktails. There are times I find myself feeling disappointed in my experience and eager to return to try again. This was the head-scratching position I found myself in after dining at Bistro West (4960 Avenida Encinitas), a popular Carlsbad spot for date nights, business lunches and tourists looking for more than what comes out of a Legoland kitchen.
What I love about Bistro West is that they have their very own 3-acre farm a tomato's throw away from the restaurant itself. The farm supplies as-fresh-as-it-gets ingredients for all their dishes and it's a delight to see each season's offerings listed on the menu, as well as what's due to be harvested in the coming months. It's an idyllic model for any restaurant to have and one that Bistro West should be lauded for.
Unfortunately, it didn't translate to any "wow" moments for my visit.
I had a decidedly good experience. Actually, the service was better than good, so a gold star in that department. But if you asked me how my food was, I would say, "It was good!" in that high-pitched voice we all get when it sounds like we're trying to defend an opinion no one is arguing.
I started with the Reuben Style Egg Rolls, because I loved the idea of beer-braised corned beef and housemade sauerkraut, rolled, fried, and oozing with cheese. Texturally, this unique starter was firing on all cylinders: crispy, gooey and finger-burning hot. But the flavors didn't have the pickled punch I expected.
The duck confit ravioloni was another dish whose description jumped off the page. Mascarpone, roasted root veggies and a juniper demi-glace joined the tender, oily duck in a rich, cold-weather dish. It's hard not to enjoy tender noodles and shreds of duck, but overall there were too many flavors going on and the dish needed a little less clutter.
I was pleased with the chicken-and-roasted-potato pizza. Thinly sliced potatoes melded well with the fresh mozzarella and savory pieces of juicy chicken. Punchy pesto brightened the pie and a generous dusting of red chili flakes was an unexpected exclamation point to what could have been a fairly humble plate.
I'm highlighting what disappointed me, but it's only because I was intrigued by so many of the menu offerings and felt like maybe I just had bad ordering skills during my visit. I can't wait to go back to try the fried calamari with shaved lime and coconut milk. I'm sure any of Bistro West's salads are better than any you can get at your average bistro, what with their abundant farm offerings.
Bistro West is a lovely dining room with a fantastic farm-to-table ethos that is as streamlined as you can get. So maybe I wasn't thrilled this time around, but I'm already planning a return visit.