213-41 39th Avenue, Bayside, Queens
Getting There: Long Island Rail Road to Bayside (20 min)
Restaurant Review: Aperitif Bistro Bayside
Although the restaurant meets bistro meets wine bar technically resides in Queens, it’s a quick twenty minute ride on the Long Island Rail Road that drops you right near the doorstep of Bayside’s Aperitif, a welcoming and charming spot in a rapidly growing part of the borough. A brightly lit golden awning dangles above 39th Avenue, just a few paces over from the strip of bars and restaurants that have popped up all over Bell Boulevard. From a distance, the restaurant’s façade resembles the bright lights of a theater or a boutique hotel, but a closer glimpse reveals a spacious open air eatery, with fare that’s both inspired and delicious.
Inside, Aperitif is remarkably cozy for such a sprawling space- one that manages to be both classy and down to earth. The exposed brick interior and fairly busy wine bar are immediately eye-catching, but the unique swirling staircase surrounded by a small but purposefully placed garden in the middle of the dining room is truly distinctive. Toward the back of the room, wine bottles are displayed like books in a library, enhanced by the shiny rustic wood floors beneath them. In atmosphere alone, Aperitif feels like a brasserie more than anything else, with cuisine that leans definitively French- with some additional international flavors thrown in for good measure.
The pair of “Grilled Baby Lamb Chops” ($16) for instance, were cooked to a deliciously tender medium rare, but topped with a drizzle of dill yogurt and a quinoa tabouli added some Mediterranean flare to the piping hot tray of “Escargot” ($10). Swamped in succulent garlic and oil, each chewy morsel was affixed to a small crunchy crostini, served inventively and prepared nicely. Even the American-style “Pistachio Nut Crusted Scallops” ($14) were special served atop a thick apple-parsnip puree spread and some oil-soaked wilted spinach. Wildly flavorful, the trio of scallops became an immediate standout dish from a dinner experience where there were several.
Sesame seeds and slightly sweet sauce coated each mid-rare strip of the evening’s “Seared Tuna Steak” ($26), a special that exemplified the kitchen’s true capabilities. Plated beside an unconventional meshing of seaweed salad and greens and more traditional Japanese pairings like fresh pickled ginger and wasabi, the collection of flavors paired together wonderfully. The “Walnut Crusted Halibut” ($29) on the other hand, was heavy on the walnut but little else as the relatively bland dish left us wishing for a bit more flavor from the otherwise nicely cooked fish. The dish’s side pairing of leeks and a garlic-heavy serving of tasty butternut squash gnocchi managed to salvage the “Halibut” to some degree, which with some slight modification would be vastly improved.
Though it’s been open less than one year, Aperitif Bistro has worked out many of the kinks that plague new restaurants. The quaint eatery has breathed some much needed new life into Bayside’s fast casual restaurant and bar scene with a combination of outstanding service, reasonably priced wines and a comfortable, inviting place to dine. Add some of the inspired dinner dishes that we dug our forks into alongside the neighborhood’s busiest weekend brunch and it becomes quickly evident that the eatery is hardly indicative of its moniker. Aperitif is not a place that acts as a precursor to something else special- everything that you’ll need is all right there.
Rundown of the Meal
Fruits de Mer
Little Neck Clams ($1.50)
Pistachio Nut Crusted Scallops ($14)*
Grilled Baby Lamb Chops ($16)*
Seared Tuna Steak ($26)*
Walnut Crusted Halibut ($29)
Apple Walnut Raising Pie ($7)
* Meal Highlight
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