The Bistro is a semi-fine dining with a touch of a casual and relaxing environment situated at the ground floor of Impiana Hotel, Ipoh. Do not be mistaken with their own hotel coffee house which serves buffet lunch and dinner as The Bistro is totally by itself. This is maybe due to the incorporation of alcohol and also they serve liquor here. It is pork free but does not have a halal cert, obviously.
We were provided with a starch stiff linen napkin to be placed on our laps. So much for fine dining etiquette. :p Luckily we were spared from complicated cutlery on the table, though I noticed the size of the fork for pasta and for my lamb shank seems to be different in size. Not long after the photographer nature in us kicked in, we were served with a bowl full of Ciabatta, Panini, Focaccia, Olive Bread, Tuscan, assorted Grissini sticks to name a few. It certainly surpassed my expectation as in Italianese, I was only served with Tuscan bread with olive oil-balsamic vinegar dip.
In The Bistro, you are provided with 3 different accompaniments for your bread and buns! The soft and creamy, lightly salted butter, the almond oil (I suppose) and olive oil lightly drizzled with some balsamic vinegar. All of us loved the butter a lot and wished we can find similar one in the market.
The assorted bread - not warm from the oven but was certainly fresh! Different bread gave a different texture although. The stick ones were very addictive indeed, especially the one generously sprinkled with paprika. We didn't know they were so meticulous with the complimentary bread (its was priced at RM12 in the menu, at first we were unsure whether will we be charged for this portion), else we would've ordered a soup to go along with it - I wanted to try their Crayfish Bisque (RM14, with alcohol, crayfish is a large shelled prawn, NOT a fish. It's a substitution for lobster for this soup)
Ok, I'm done with the bread. Let's move into the menu in depth and our choice of food. There is a 3 course Set Lunch (RM32) and Set Dinner (RM48) currently running. One can choose from an Appetiser, Starter or Soup for the first course but Salmon Carpacio was our pick. Ideally sufficient for one person, the Carpacio had done its part well to the light seasoning of oil, balsamic vinegar, etc. The slight flaw would be the salmon slices was not too fresh, somehow it "fell apart" after trying to lift it with our fork. Notice tat flat piece of "craker". That was actually a whole piece of Parmesan Cheese. :)
We decided to skip the ala carte Alfredo Smoke Salmon Linguine and went for the Seafood Aglio Olio from the choice in the set meal. The version here rewarded with a small twist, at least to the taste buds. Birds eye chili are finely chopped and tossed together with some olive oil and minced garlic and herbs. According to the description in the menu, white wine was used in this pasta but I think the chilli masked the alcoholic presence here. The seafood portion was quite generous, which includes scallops, mussels, prawns and squid. Pasta was near al dente but upon serving, the dish was just merely below lukewarm.
For one of the 1 ala carte dishes, we went for The Roasted Lamb Rack (RM52). From the name, it may give you the impression that you need to have a ferocious appetite to finish the portion up. We overlooked the fact of which type of restaurant we are in… and each of us only manage to have one small piece of it. The piece I took had a little too much fat and the meat was slightly tough and chewy. The 3 pieces of lamb are sitting on a bed of mashed potato and garlic without any gravy. Well, there is a small cup containing brown sauce to accompany the lamb, but the mashed potato was indeed very good to be eaten on its own. The meal is balanced with a few numbers of baby tomato, pickled onions, baby sprouts, zucchini, carrots, etc...
The Risotto Con Porcini (RM22) is a vegetarian dish which a lot of button mushroom and black mushroom in the centre. The texture is like thick congee cooked together with Parmesan cheese. Well, actually we expected something else when ordering the dish and it turned out different from what we expected. After some post dinner research, what we were looking for was Paella, NOT Risotto. Anyway this portion of gruel was a bit hard to be eaten on its own, I cannot further comment much, neither do I liked it nor I dislike it. Perhaps it just couldn’t relate to our taste buds, MINE at least..
The Crème Brulee (usually made from cream, egg yolks and sugar) which was the dessert for the set dinner turned out to be very overpowering in egg taste. However, the texture is a bit rough and coarse, far from being smooth and velvety melt-in-your-mouth type. The version here is flavoured with Rosemary. The sugar was not too well caramelized - still can feel some fine crystalline in a few mouthful. All 3 of us agreed that this dessert not very impressive. So we cast a unanimous vote to order another dessert!
We decided to gauge how far this place can go by claiming to be an "Italian" restaurant. So lets see how their forte fare this time. Tiramisu is an Italian dessert made of lady finger dipped in Espresso, layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks, sugar and mascarpone cheese, dusted with cocoa powder and most importantly flavoured with alcohol – either Rum or Marsala Wine. Thank goodness for the price of RM19, the taste here somehow matched my preference, though I expected a better feast for the eyes. I mean, the food presentation for the dessert is a bit lackluster.
Tastewise, I'm sold! I’m a firm believer that Tiramisu without alcohol should not be called Tiramisu at all. Besides that, Tiramisu should NEVER be classified as a cake, NEVER to incorporate sponge cake in place of the lady finger, neither should normal whipping cream be in place of the mascarpone cheese (even if Mascarpone cheese is expensive, try using cream cheese to the least). Very rich and ended the meal with a smile on my face.... :)
Food aside, I shall now present you with some shots of the ambiance here. There is a live 3 piece band from Indonesia taking place on this stage from 9pm onwards. Oh yeah, we were seated in the dining area, similar to the table in this photo...
This is snap shot near the bar. Wine glasses and cocktail glasses at your disposal - ready to be utilize to their part in unwinding your tough week. The drinks maybe a bit steep here, draft beer at RM15, bottled imported beer at RM19 onwards, cocktails at RM23 onwards, Irish coffee at around RM20, soft drinks, fruit juice and not alcoholic hot beverages at RM10 onwards. Perhaps there is live band, and they do charge a premium for those who choose to order a drink only without eating.
House wine is at RM18 per glass if you wish to unwind like a boss in style at the sofa area. Initially we wanted to call for some drinks and shift to this area but some other customers were already occupying this area and some were smoking there..
A cabinet of cigar on display for sale near the sofa/lounge area. There are also magazines for reading as well, but I would recommend you go Starbucks if you wanna do reading. Hehehe... Last but not least, having all said, let me unveil the total bill for that night....
RM143! For 3 person. It was cheaper than expected! I overlooked one very important point. The price you see in the menu is already the nett price (the 6%+10% tax are already inclusive in the numbers you see in the menu). Well, if that's the case, its not a very pricey affair considering the ambiance and polite service (unlike Indulgence and Secret Garden). Do give this place a try if you if you are cracking your head where to go with your someone special or during anniversary or just want to unwind on a Friday night. Like how I did... on my first Friday of 2013. And lets hope this year will be a great gastronomical journey for me.... and for you all as well. Cheers! :)