January 23, 1998 in Seven

City Beach Bistro Has Cozy Charm In Sandpoint

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Despite the name, Sandpoint’s City Beach Bistro is blocks away from the water’s edge.

That’s about the only gripe I could come up with, though, after visiting this charming little spot. With its innovative menu and cozy atmosphere, this is indeed a welcome addition to the Sandpoint dining scene.

That “scene” has shrunk considerably the past couple of years when creative venues such as Gregory’s and Bradley’s fizzled. Swan’s Landing continues on, along with local favs that include Ivano’s, The Hydra and Eichart’s.

California transplants Stephen Evans and his wife, Taphne Lux, opened the Bistro in November after completely renovating a former Mexican restaurant. The space is fairly small, with less than a dozen tables, yet it doesn’t seem cramped.

There’s a warm feeling walking in, with the walls bathed in a sunny ocher color and tall plants punctuating corners. A couple of tables sit in the front with a view of the street, but the main dining room is through a couple of vintage archways. Inside, the Gypsy Kings played softly on the sound system.

The first thing I noticed after sitting down in our comfy booth was the absence of salt and pepper shakers. Pretty frosted bottles sat atop colorful tiles, making an arty statement. Still, a table looks naked to me without the S&P.; Taking away my right to season is a mighty brash move on any chef’s part. We shall see.

First up, the salads come in big enough portions to split between two. Our server suggested the tomato and mozzarella salad ($7), and it was a winning rendition of that Italian classic dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette. The cool, creamy slices of the mozzarella contrasted with the tart tomato are a great match-up. Despite being out of season, the beefsteaks actually had some flavor. The crunchy dusting of chopped pistachios and sprigs of fresh basil were nice touches.

Other starters included an intriguing red cabbage salad ($5) with an Asian dressing and toasted sesame seeds (I’m going to try that next time), the ubiquitous Caesar ($8) and a spinach salad ($6) with bacon and roasted red potatoes.

There was an entree-size salad - “fire-braised” prawns on a fresh fruit salad ($14). I would love to see a few true appetizer-type items added to the mix.

The rest of the menu is divided into pasta, seafood, meat and poultry offerings. The offerings change occasionally, depending on what’s fresh and in season.

I enjoyed the pan-seared salmon filet ($15). It was nicely seasoned and was still moist and flaky. The sauteed wild mushrooms atop the fish were a real bonus, working as a bold complement to the full-flavored fish.

Some sauteed greens and a fresh tomato salsa were also fine accompaniments, but I missed not having a starch on the plate. Especially after sampling someone else’s “bistro” potatoes.

Those slightly crispy spuds sat alongside a perfectly cooked filet mignon ($19). The meaty flavors in that juicy steak were accentuated by a red wine sauce made with cabernet and merlot.

Which brings us to the wine list. It’s pretty short, but there are some dandy choices including a $16 Old Vines Red from Marietta and Duckhorn sauvignon blanc ($27). It would be nice to see a few more Northwest options included.

There was no decision-making involved in choosing dessert, as there was just one selection. The profiterolles were tender little cream puff shells stuffed with ice cream - either chocolate, strawberry or vanilla or, in our case, one of each. The plate was then drizzled with white and dark chocolate. It was pure bliss.

The City Beach Bistro also serves lunch Tuesday through Friday, offering lighter portion of the evening’s entrees.

And, no, I didn’t really miss the salt and pepper shakers.

Club St. Bernard

Even the proprietor of Club St. Bernard up at Schweitzer admits the ‘70s rec-room-like space is a bit funky.

However, her food is the real draw, not the surroundings. (Too bad those windows have a view of the parking lot instead of the mountain.)

Chef Elissa Robbins is best known for running the popular “Floater”, the Floating Restaurant in Hope. It’s open from April until October.

During her off-seasons for the past three years, Robbins has been running the kitchen at the St. Bernard, drawing a mostly locals crowd on the weekends. (The dining room is open only Friday, Saturday and Sunday for dinner.)

This spot is down from the lifts and lodge just a bit, a place you have to be looking for to find. It’s smack in the middle of Schweitzer’s first condo development, next door to the now-shuttered Overnighter Lodge.

Upstairs is a lively bar, run this year by what’s being called The Schweitzer Employees Co-op. You can order food off an abbreviated menu up there Thursday through Sunday, or come on into the casual dining room to sample the full spread.

Our meal started with an excellent appetizer - the shrimp empanadas ($7.50). These tender puff pastry turnovers were filled with a mild creamy cheese and baby shrimp. Filling out the plate were a trio of plump prawns and a lively red pepper coulis seasoned with a hint of chipotle peppers. Great combo.

At ski resorts, you usually expect to see lots of red meat offered. The St. Bernard does serve a blackened sirloin and burgers for the kids, but, surprisingly, the emphasis is on seafood.

The fresh oysters ($13.95) were cooked just right, dredged in seasoned bread crumbs and lightly sauteed. They were succulent, not the least bit slimy and served with a robust garlic pasta.

I also relished the shrimp and calamari pasta ($15.95). That enormous plate of seafood linguine was tossed with a roasted sweet red pepper sauce that was balanced with a bit of cream. Sauteed peppers, onions and mushrooms were nice additions. By the time the waitress cleared my plate, it looked like I barely made a dent in my dish.

Other fish dishes include salmon broiled with a cranberry-orange-mint butter ($14.95) and fresh mussel linguine ($12.95). There was also a fresh fish special that sounded tempting, a petrale sole coated with bread crumbs and fresh herbs and then sauteed. It was finished in a garlic cream sauce and I heard a fellow diner going absolutely nuts over it: “You’ve got to try a bite of this. It melts in your mouth.”

Dinners come with either soup or an above-average salad - fresh greens tossed in housemade dressings. (The creamy peppercorn was deliciously different.)

I also liked the family feel of this place. There are a half-dozen kid’s items including a cheese pizza, grilled cheese and chicken strips, all for less than $5.

Finally, the brief wine list here really shines. Among the gems are Edna Valley chardonnay ($21.50), Ferrari-Carrano fume blanc ($17) and the ‘95 merlot from Leonetti Cellars (for a mere $68, which might sound expensive, but it’s close to the retail price - if you could even find it). They also feature Leonetti’s ‘94 cab. These are real finds, ladies and gentleman.

The next time you’re up skiing at Schweitzer, work up an appetite and then stop by the St. Bernard before heading back down the mountain.

For reservations, call (208) 264-5163, ext. 2218.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of City Beach Bistro location

MEMO: Leslie Kelly can be contacted via E-mail at lesliek@spokesman.com or regular mail to Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.

This sidebar appeared with the story: City Beach Bistro 204 N. First Ave., (208) 255-1018 Days/hours: Tuesday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday dinner, 5-8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Meals: seafood, pasta, steaks Prices: dinner entrees $9-$21 Smoking: non-smoking Credit cards: DSC, MC, V Personal checks: yes Reservations: yes, recommended

Leslie Kelly can be contacted via E-mail at lesliek@spokesman.com or regular mail to Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.

This sidebar appeared with the story: City Beach Bistro 204 N. First Ave., (208) 255-1018 Days/hours: Tuesday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday dinner, 5-8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Meals: seafood, pasta, steaks Prices: dinner entrees $9-$21 Smoking: non-smoking Credit cards: DSC, MC, V Personal checks: yes Reservations: yes, recommended


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