Bistro Time: A cozy setting for new takes on the classics

Chef Sander Edmondson, once immersed in the crucible of contemporary Southwestern cuisine at Polo’s in the Fairmount, has now settled into a comfortable middle-age at Bistro Time.

The cafe’s cozy environment, with its flanking banquettes and wood-framed ceiling, is leagues away from any what’s-new-now decor. This may not necessarily be bad news for trend-followers; it’s clearly right-on for seekers after a certain sense of security.

Security, however, is a sliding scale chez Bistro Time; Chef Sander does keep certain items as lodestones, but his globe-trotting menu sneaks in different ports of call each week as well, and it’s there that the thrill-seeker can find equal footing with the bearers of Linus blankets.

We began with a paean to each camp: escargots bourguignonne and Sander’s classy crab cake. The snails are prototypical — from a can, but not eraser-tough, and certainly buttery. I’m always for more garlic, and wouldn’t serve the critters with toasted baguette rounds — only because they don’t sop the sybaritic sauce well. Otherwise, these were classic. As for the crab cake, this is one of the best in town for its straightforward crabbiness. It’s iodine-fresh and buttery-rich — so much so that the roast-pepper/lime-butter sauce gets lost in the cake’s wake.

A split salad is frequently the way to go with couples dining, and at BT there is the classic Caesar, as well as the walnut Gorgonzola, to choose from. But as this week presented a spicy-Asian theme, the salad of choice was clearly the Asian slaw — a crunchy mix of two cabbages plus bamboo sprouts, crispy won tons, cashews (if I remember correctly) and more in a ginger vinaigrette. There were lots of wild tastes, but dubious Dining Companion and I both liked this one — and especially liked it with the half-bottle of wine we had selected: the King Estate Pinot Gris from Oregon with its floral and ripe pear notes. BT’s wine list offers several in this format, and it’s a good way to play with pairings.

Renwood’s 2002 Barbera, also in half-bottle format, is a big, brambly wine that seems poised to take on spicy as well as classic dishes — and take them on it did. Even the steak Diane, which Chef Sander does with quite a few twists on the traditional. Julia Child and Gourmet disagree on the use of peppercorns: they’re green in one and black in another. But both agree on Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, shallots and Cognac. Plus butter and lots of lemon. The steak is also pounded to about a quarter-inch thickness and, frequently, sautéed tableside.

OK, we’ll forgive the tableside part—and we’ll even admit that multiple variations are possible. But in Edmondson’s kitchen, Diane has become Dan through a transformation that apparently leaves out some ingredients (the more feminine parsley, sherry, shallots and lemon) and adds others (cream and the more masculine onions and mushrooms). Pummeled sirloin has become full-thickness tenderloin, too. The hearty, new Dan is just fine, but don’t order it expecting the classic. Crisp asparagus, broiled tomatoes and mashed potatoes — all right on target — accompanied the steak.

In line with the weekly theme, dutiful Dining Companion and I also ordered a spicy Asian entree, and the Shrimp and Scallop Sambal was punchy indeed. The seafood was exquisite in its own right, and the sambal, a fiery, ginger-spiked Indonesian chili sauce, was perfectly appropriate — but it needed something bland to offset it, a r99le the rice-filled spring rolls were apparently meant to fill. They didn’t quite do the trick, and I was willing to forgive them; DC wasn’t, claiming flavors far too lingering.

Dessert was another cross-cultural experience, made even more complex by the chef’s trifling with the tapioca pudding; it came with the addition of ginger, which conjured up both homey associations and intimations of exotic climes. And never have I had one quite so seductively creamy. A frankly American peanut butter ice cream pie was our other selection, and to be more honest than strictly necessary, it was the hit of the (late) evening. Yes, we closed the place down — and this at around 9:45. Bistro Time may be a good time — but it’s not a late one.

Bistro Time
5137 Fredericksburg Road,
(210) 344-6626
Lunch, Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner, Mon.-Thurs., 5-9 p.m.;
Fri.-Sat., 5-10 p.m.
Major cards/accessible/casual

Author: Ron Bechtol

Photographer: Janet Rogers

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