Bisztro: Jack’s First Slow Food Experience

One of the wonderful things (among many) about New Zealand is the relatively tame price of fine cuisine. I’m not sure why it’s so inexpensive; my guess would be a combination of the availability of quality ingredients and the intensely competitive business environment. Anyway, NZ$30 is still a hefty chunk of change, but that sum purchases meals here that would cost US$70 anywhere else.

Realizing this, I’ve worked some fancy dining into my budget for the year. My first stop: a secluded little place called Bisztro that came highly recommended by Adrienne (and she knows fine dining – she’s an acknowledged foodie who used to live in Paris). Today was Ulla’s birthday, so armed with cash and a suitable occasion, off we went!

Now I’d just like to reiterate – when I say “fine dining,” I refer to the sort of restarant I never thought I’d feel comfortable going to. Bisztro was intimate and lavishly decorated, and when we arrived nobody else was there. The menus were supposedly in English, but pretty much every other word was French. When the food arrived, every dish looked like an arteest had labored over it to the exclusion of all else for quite awhile – though in fact, our orders were filled only an hour after we placed them.

Such is the nature of slow food. It’s supposed to be slow. With that bit of rocket science explained, I’m pleased to report that the experience was well worth it. Those itty-bitty portions that look like a clever way to trick rich people into starving are much more filling than they appear, and if you consume the food as sluggishly as they make it, every savory bite goes through a profound metamorphosis of texture and flavor. I spent almost an hour consuming a piece of lemon sole (I think) wrapped into the shape (and size) of a small apple and stuffed with mussels, some kind of caviar (I think), and almost microscopic potatoes. Best hour spent ever. Well, maybe not quite the best, but getting there.

My one disappointment with Bisztro was the selection of drinks. As a pretentious cocktail hobbyist, I believe that beverages hold intrigue and magic of their own. Good food properly paired with a well-crafted drink can take a phenomenal meal to the level of sublime, and appreciating new sensory experiences is something I believe far too many of us lose as we grow up. I know I’m only twenty – but it’s still remarkable how quickly everything become mundane, isn’t it? One of the only things that keeps me chipper and sane sometimes is forcing myself to walk home a new way or consider some new aspect of a particular rock outside the flat.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Listen to this guy – he calls himself sane and extols the virtues of staring at rocks in the same sentence.” In response I present the following impassioned defense: shut up.

Anyway, I figured that since I love mixology and I’m legally of age in New Zealand and I’m about to have my first slow food experience, I should consider ordering an aperitif. I wanted something novel, something that would tantalize and intrigue my tastebuds. Unfortunately, Bisztro couldn’t deliver. Their bar simply wasn’t stocked by anyone who knew anything about cocktails. They had several products with famous names, but very few were compatible with any of the others, and though I racked my brains I couldn’t think of a drink I wanted that Bisztro could make. And they were using sour mix! It’s fascinating to me that restaurants determined to present patrons with food containing only the finest and freshest local ingredients don’t think twice about serving their beverages with citric acid and high-fructose corn syrup.

Needless to say, I didn’t end up getting an El Floridita or Americano. I chose the beverage of champions and stuck with water which, incidentally, complements any meal whatsoever with aplomb.


~ by Jack on August 3, 2007.

One Response to “Bisztro: Jack’s First Slow Food Experience”

  1. Jack,

    Even without the camera, I’m thrilled you are keeping the pix coming. I love them when you can manage. Please keep the geographic names with them when it makes sense, ’cause I can plug them in to google Earth and follow along by satellite. Don’t worry! I can’t see you. (At least not when you are indoors.)

    I couldn’t bear to add another email address/identity and password by registering with Yahoo to leave flickr comments, so I’ve written this here.

    Working hard at the Fox. Just about 4 weeks to go. The first program will actually probably move in the week beginning the 20th.

    Gotta go now. Take care!



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