The term “fine dining” brings to mind more than just gourmet dining. It’s about the experience. Any chef can grill a steak, but what is the presentation? You can have the longest wine list in the Western Hemisphere, but how was it constructed? To me, fine dining is an event, not a meal.
For instance, Salvatore’s Restaurant in Buffalo is an event. We went for my sister’s graduation. Dinner took about four hours from cocktails to dessert. If you’ve never been to this eclectic enclave near the airport, you’re missing out. It’s not the best food in the world, but you’re a better person for going.
Event meals in Syracuse are few and far between. The now-departed Kettle Lakes in Tully hit the mark. I’ve never been but I’ve been told that French restaurant L’Adour is as well.
If I have my choice and money is no object, I sit the fence between two restaurants. Koto is the newest sushi entry in this market and I can eat toro all night long. But, more often than not I want bc. It’s the go-to restaurant when the funds are available or for special occasions, like the early celebration of our wedding anniversary.
bc restaurant is located on the Fayette Street side of Armory Square. Taking its name from the owner’s (Bill Collins) initials, bc is New York City bistro dining. Tight intimate table arrangements. Innovative American cooking with strong Asian and Latin American influence. Local produce and wines. Waiters and waitresses dressed like a stage crew. Best of all, it’s the most eclectic menu in the city. The kitchen takes chances with flavors, starting with the maple-black pepper spread for the bread to the lime-basil sorbet for dessert.
The restaurant is home to one of my favorite dishes in Syracuse — a lobster, crab and shrimp salad served with field greens and a lemon vinaigrette. I don’t care for lobster, but the sweet meat of both crustaceans is tough to ignore. The salad itself could serve as a meal, as there is more than one pound of seafood sitting over the bed of greens. The same considerations are made with the caesar salad. Romaine letter, shaved parmesan and homemade dressing is tossed with deep fried calamari. The squid was served hot and cooked perfectly, a seemingly impossible task for restaurants who trot out deep fried rings with the consistency of rubber bands.
The menu is broken into three sections: grazing, pizza and pasta, and entrees. The small-plate grazing menu offers the freedom to order a bunch of small dishes in the spirit of Spanish tapas, or pick before the entrees come out. The mainstays like the above salads are complemented by daily soups and seasonal choices. One of the most intriguing was the grilled veal burger with portabella mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and sun-dried tomato aioli. Pizzas and pastas offer a blend of gourmet fresh dough pies and sauces made from fresh vegetables and cheeses.
This menu starts and ends at the dinner plates. bc rarely has more than 10 entrees at one time, half of which are seafood offerings. Tuna, sea bass, salmon and cioppino mark the summer menu. A steak always caps the entrees — this time a grilled New York strip with garlic mashed potatoes, grilled vegetable salad and a bourbon-onion au jus. The Wife opted for veal marsala, while I chose the open filet of beef wellington.
Traditional beef wellington is beef tenderloin wrapped in dough and baked. The open beef wellington was all about presentation: a layer of phyllo dough seated on mushroom demiglace, topped with an 8-ounce filet mignon with a 1/4-inch thick layer of gorgonzola melted to its roof. I ordered the steak rare and though it came out medium, it was still very nice. It wasn’t all about the meat here. Every ingredient complemented one another in that way an artist will deliberately plan each brush stroke, down to the parsley green beans sprinkled throughout the plate. The Wife’s veal marsala featured two cutlets sitting over julienned mushrooms and garlic and surrounded by a wine reduction. On the outer edges, deep-fried polenta chunks provided the starch and the rays emanating from the core of the plate.
As is the case nearly every time I go out, I make an ordering mistake. Tonight it was the dessert. I should have had The Wife’s selection: three lime-basil sorbet scoops. These perfectly complementary flavors meshed and stood on their own at the same time. I have no idea how or who sat there and figured out the proportions, but it was head and shoulders the best of the dessert menu. I have ordered the creme brulee before and enjoyed it. I opted for the flourless chocolate torta. It was fine, but I should have gone green.
My only complaint about bc is the service. It’s as if the wait staff and servers do not communicate. Every time the server asked if I wanted another beer (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale) or glass of water, within seconds our waiter would come by and repeat the query. The attention is nice, but got a little annoying after a while.
It’s worth noting that bc serves lunch, including selections from an $8 express menu.