News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Bistro Bethem: Fredericksburg restaurant review
BY SHANNON HOWELL
Bistro Bethem has so many things going for it that it would be hard to name them all. Let’s see—delicious and creative food, a dining room that sets a lovely mood, attentive wait staff, and great people watching, both inside and outside the restaurant. Restaurants like this are few and far between in the Fredericksburg area.
My friend Phillip visited Bistro Bethem with me. He loves the open space and contemporary feeling of the dining room. In the summer, the doors across the front are opened and tables are placed on the sidewalk. Phillip is also a fan of how the restaurant features the works of artists. On this night, there was a gorgeous selection of Brandon Newton paintings.
If you are a wine expert, Bistro Bethem has a full bar and many wine selections.
You will find something you love. If you are like me and don’t know much about wine, ask your waiter. Our waiter suggested a glass of Ca’ Fischelle ($7.50), an Italian wine. Bistro Bethem serves its white wine very, very cold, which I love. This wine was crisp, fruity and refreshing.
We started with fried native oysters, with coleslaw and rémoulade ($10) The oysters were breaded with panko breadcrumbs, which made the crust brown and crispy. Inside, the oysters were plump and juicy. The rémoulade sauce was mild and didn’t overwhelm the oysters. The coleslaw was simply one of my all-time favorite versions. There was a hint of horseradish in the dressing, and the veggies were long and wispy. As Phillip said, the coleslaw was “kickin’.”
Next, we shared a grilled heart of romaine salad with pickled onions, feta and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette ($8.50), and I’m glad we did because it was huge. It was literally half a head of romaine lettuce. The lettuce was pleasantly charred and had a slightly smoky taste. The combination of the sweet of the pickles, the saltiness of the feta and the deep tomato flavor of the vinaigrette with the crisp romaine was sensational.
Phillip chose the center-cut pork tenderloin with parsnip purée and crispy Brussels sprouts ($24) for his entrée. The pork was beautiful and light pink in the middle. Phillip described it as tender and juicy and smoky like it had been cooked over wood. The parsnip purée tasted like a cross between white and sweet potatoes, with just a hint of sweet.
Like the romaine lettuce, the Brussels sprouts were lightly charred and had a crackle of brown sugar on the outside. These are Brussels sprouts you won’t complain about eating.
I had the cheeseburger, otherwise known as Painted Hills American Kobe burger, with white cheddar, caramelized onions, bacon aioli, greens, tomato and shoestring potatoes ($16). I am not making this up—it was about 5 inches tall and took up most of the center of the plate.
As far as I’m concerned burgers are about proportion, and this one gets it right. In each bite, you get the right amount of bread with the right amount of tender seasoned beef with just the perfect touch of crispy potatoes and melted cheese. The bacon aioli definitely had a hickory gist twist to it and went beautifully with the burger.
By dessert, I was beyond stuffed but couldn’t resist the wonderful choices. I picked the pot de crème–chocolate ($7.50), and Phillip opted for the crème brûlée ($7.50).
The pot de crème is basically a ramekin full of something that tastes like a cross between pudding and mousse, and it’s wonderful! It came with homemade toasted marshmallow on top, which was equally fantastic, and nothing like the store-bought variety. Phillip’s crème brûlée was thick and creamy, with a subtle hint of vanilla and perfect crackly brown sugar on top.
Now for a moment of truthfulness revelation: In the past, I never felt that Bistro Bethem lived up to the hype surrounding it, and I hadn’t visited in a couple of years.
Now, I see that it has grown into something special. You can tell the owners not only love food but have a wide knowledge and creativity with food. I can’t wait to see what they do next and plan to visit again very soon.
Shannon Howell is a Fredericksburg-area writer.
What: Bistro Bethem
Address: 309 William St., Fredericksburg
Info: 540/371-9999; bistrobethem.com
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday: lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner, 5–10 p.m.; Sunday: brunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner, 5–10 p.m.
Brunch: $6–$16 depending on the daily changing menu.
Dinner: $8.50– $28
The Scoop: Sublime food in a very special setting.