Five-Maudies – Highly Recommended
As far as I am concerned, Bistro 491 is tied as the best restaurant in Augusta. Only one other shares this standing, La Maison. The two are different, so a direct comparison cannot and should not be made. Bistro 491 rocks.
The restaurant has been around for 10-years and I had never been. This year, I decided to take my wife there for our 25th anniversary (a biggie). I was looking forward to trying Bistro 491 and I had very high expectations. I was not disappointed.
My notes written the evening after we returned home:
Just got home from anniversary dinner at Bistro 491. Absolutely everything was outstanding, from talking to the reservation taker to make sure flowers I had delivered there were placed on the table when I wanted them to, to the wonderful waitress who got our dessert comped and had “Happy Anniversary” written on the dessert plate in chocolate and properly guided us through the menu and wine choice and conversed with us perfectly, to the incredibly excellent food, to the atmosphere. I will go back, it was incredible. I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to try it. Note, on the waitress talking with us, my wife says we are approachable diners, never thought about that before, but we like to talk with the wait folks and perceptive ones will engage. They seem to enjoy being able to do that. I think people at a fine dining restaurant should encourage talking to wait staff, it ensures that everyone is happy, gets you good recommendations and extra care from your server, which translates to good service from the kitchen
You get the idea. Upon arrival, we were promptly seated at a nice and private (for their table layout) location. This was a Tuesday evening at 7 pm. I was surprised it was so busy, but that is always a good sign. Like all restaurants I’ve been to in France, the first thing one is asked is what kind of bottled water you want, sparkling or plain. It was the same here, we always get non carbonated water.
Our server was Laura and she was excellent. She knew the specials, answered every question we had on menu items, and, as you will see later in this review, recommended the perfect dessert. She delivered the flowers I had ordered precisely when I had asked them to be delivered to the table. It is clear that the front and back of the houses work together very well in Bistro 491.
Laura was also helpful in helping us select an appropriate wine, considering our preference for red versus white no matter what we are eating. I was surprised that there were no French wines on their list and an overabundance of California wines. For a red, I will almost always select a Rhone wine, however, we collectively decided that the Chilean Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserva Privada 2007 would be a good choice and it certainly was. The wine markup was quite fair.
Except for dessert, nothing we had is on the menu on their web site, although many menu items are. I like this kind of flexibility, when a chef adjusts his menu based on seasonality and availability of good ingredients.
I had an appetizer to start and my wife, Lynn, a salad. I had mussels and these were among the best I’ve ever had. They were in a garlic butter sauce reminiscent of the sauce for a really good escargots a la bourguignonne. The mussels, and they were very generous with the quantity, were served with a couple of crostini slices.
Lynn had the beet salad. I am not sure what all was in it. I am not a beet fan and I would eat this salad anytime. Excellent.
For our main course, Lynn had butternut squash gnocchi and I had the Waygu beef special. Both entrees were very good. The pureed leeks I had as a side were excellent, with a pleasing texture that allowed for some small pieces of leek to be visible. I also had frites (french fries) and these were also outstanding, obviously double fried, the only way to get crispy on the outside with cooked perfection on the inside. The waygu beef was cooked precisely to my specifications, just a hair over rare. It was served with an unpretentious red wine veal jus. No other seasoning required.
Normally we don’t get desserts, but it was our anniversary and I wanted a dessert. I was going to go with creme brulee, always a safe bet. Laura talked us into the Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding with chocolate ganache and crème anglais. We were glad she did. As an added touch, Laura had made sure the plate said “Happy Anniversary” in chocolate on the plate rim and did not charge for it, a very nice gesture. We spent a lot that night and I gave Laura one of the best tips percentage wise I ever have (30%), she would have received the same even if dessert was not comped because she was so good. Anyway, that bread pudding was unbelievably good and, in some ways, had creme brulee overtones.
This was a great experience and we will be back.