even though craig skiptunis loved the cuisine at his restaurant, bistro ten 18, he decided to make it better.
"we have been around for a long time and what we are working on now is local fare," skiptunis said. "over the last year we really made a push for locally grown and locally raised products."
the restaurant, which skiptunis started with his mother and brother, opened in 2000 and remains popular with neighborhood residents. to classics like humboldt fog goat cheese from california and marieke aged gouda from wisconsin, skiptunis added dishes that use about 50 percent local and seasonal ingredients, which he goes procures himself during weekly visits to the farmer's market. now that just the right mix of farmers, fishermen and meat purveyors has been added to his roster, skiptunis unveiled the new carte du jour this fall.
to start with, try the country ham with a crispy poached egg ($11). this appetizer comes with thinly sliced, salty ham that melts in your mouth and blends well with the fresh green salad tossed with green beans and shaved gouda. balancing on top of the salad rests a tender poached egg, breaded in grains and then flash-fried. the highlight of my meal was the perfectly cooked, seared sea scallops ($14). the large, buttery scallops hail from barnegat bay in new jersey and were served over a potato pancake and sautéed fall greens, all topped with chanterelle mushrooms. together, this makes a delicious combination, with the pancakes acting as a buffer between the sweet scallop and the salty, slightly bitter greens. the restaurant also offers classic dishes, like the roasted beet salad with aged goat cheese ($10), salmon tartar ($10) and the famous lobster bisque ($12.50), which as of yet, isn't local or seasonal, but proved too much of a favorite not to serve.
on the entrée side of the menu, skiptunis has added a pan seared wild-striped bass ($22.50). bistro ten 18 serves up this catch not long after the long island fishermen haul it in, and the light, flaky fish exudes this freshness. the dish is complemented with a mild, seasonal squash ravioli (butternut when we went), braised fall greens and a sage butter sauce. the strongest flavors came out in the fish and the rich sauce, but the ravioli acts a good starch to soak them up.
we also had the grilled hampshire pork chop ($22.50), served sliced and with an apple cider glaze alongside a light and refreshing celeriac puree and the same greens we saw throughout the meal. bistro ten 18 also offers a tantalizing order of prince edward island mussels ($14 to $18) with a saffron cream sauce, and a new england cod dish ($19.50) poached in olive oil with an olive tapenade, braised fennel and roasted fingerling potatoes. we ordered a side of the brussels sprouts with onion and bacon ($5) just to prove that bacon makes everything better-though in this case, the roasted vegetable didn't need anything to bring out the flavor.
for dessert, we indulged in the hot and gooey chocolate molten cake. despite earlier protests of not eating another bite, the cake tasted so good my companion and i broke out in grins and polished it off. as for vintages and brews, the restaurant also offers an extensive wine list ($8 to $16 a glass) and a slew of international beers ($6 to $12 a glass). we delighted in the robust hunterdon pinot noir and dark and fruity heartland cabernet sauvignon, which added to the comfortable warmth of the restaurant. with low lights and plenty of dark wooden tables, the atmosphere of the bistro feels cozy and inviting-not surprising, given the nine-year run it's had so far. but even an old dog can learn new tricks. with a new, forward-thinking menu, bistro ten 18 has proven it can move into the future with grace, ease and good taste.
bistro ten 18
1018 amsterdam ave.
at west 110th street
entrees: $10 to $22.50