Thursday, June 11, 1998
If you're one of those people who likes to read menus like other people read novels, you'll find that the menu at Lighthouse Bistro is tantamount to the New York Times list of best sellers. If it's your first visit to this newly re-opened eating emporium, it might be wise to give yourself some time to spend with this list of edible enticements; time to plot a strategy for working your way through its multitudinous charms, kind of like planning your itinerary of stopovers on a world cruise for your taste buds.
"We like to do things different. And we get bored fast," asserts Chef and Owner Vic Gimenez. "We like lots of intense flavors--we're not wimpy about it! Our food has something of a Basque flavor, but we're not an ethnic restaurant. We like to always do something different, both myself and my sous chef, Jorge Rios, who runs the kitchen for me. Otherwise it becomes old for us, and I didn't do this business to go that route."
Exposure to a variety of cooking styles began at an early age for both Vic and his wife/partner, Corinne. He grew up in his family's restaurant and hotel operation in Paraguay and she opened Hoagie's Heroes just out of high school, a tenure that lasted almost 20 years. It was this popular sandwich spot that became the first Lighthouse Bistro until losing the lease more than a year ago. Just a few blocks away, the former site of an old residence was transformed into the new Bistro, opened on May 1.
"We wanted to keep the charm of the house, so it's like coming into a home to have dinner," Vic explains, adding the dinner menu just last week. "There's the private chef's room and at night the place is very cozy with the fireplace going. But, this is really two restaurants in one--during the day customers come in and see the deli case filled with all the different salads: sesame noodles, the fresh beets, marinated vegetables, poached salmon Nicoise. It's the same idea I used when I opened the Ryan Ranch Rotisserie, offering lots of things to choose from, like tapas: empanandas that my mom makes, filled with chicken, olives and raisins or smoked salmon with Havarti, little bites that change every day.
"Then there's lemon rotisserie chicken or the flank steak with chimichurri," he continues, "the bistro plate specials. I tried taking the Cuban pork loin off the menu, but had to put it back on--the customers complained," he laughs. When the dinner hour approaches, the transformation from deli to dinner house begins. "We really had to be innovative here," Vic admits. "Who wants to come to a deli for dinner? So at night, the deli case goes away and becomes a bar, and you don't see the menu board.
"A lot of times people will come in and say, 'Vic, just take care of me.' Then I'll send out four or five courses, served family style. One of the most popular courses is inevitably the rotisserie duck. If there's one dish we're known for, it has to be this one," says Vic. Dipped in a marinade of miso, soy sauce, ginger and garlic, the skin becomes crisp like bacon, arriving at the table completely boned. It may also be enjoyed as a spider roll appetizer, wrapped in sticky rice.
The menu in no way stops here, though space to describe it does. Suffice it to say that for those of us who brazenly admit that we live to eat--enjoying life's sensual pleasures being the obvious reward for enduring all the rest--here is a new pleasure palace of gustatorial gratification, at our service.