Euphoric Eat: Sophie’s Bistro

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Sophie’s Bistro seems modest from its exterior, but once inside, it may feel like you’ve been transported to a Parisian cafe. The lively atmosphere, rife with various artifacts of French culture, captures a certain mystique unmatched by any ethnic restaurant in the area.

This restaurant is one of the higher-end establishments I’ve had the pleasure of dining in, and as such, is much too rich for my wallet. My family and I only come here for the most special of occasions. When I was asked last where I wanted to celebrate my college graduation, the answer was instantaneous: Sophie’s Bistro.

My insatiable hunger is well documented; it lasts for 25 hours a day and eight days a week. So, after a long day of graduation ceremonies, I was understandably anxious to get the festivities underway. After enjoying some pre-meal libations (gin & tonic for the win!), the meal was at long last, underway.

With six people at our table for this dinner of distinction, appetizers were going to be a top priority. At my behest, I wanted to try new dishes. While I do love my classic American apps like wings, nachos, etc., French cuisine has opened my eyes to a new world of culinary sophie-stication (sorry, not sorry).

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some spread, huh?

The tarte aux tomatoes, or tomato pie, was absolutely delightful; few things taste better than tomatoes in the summer. We also ordered the tarte a l’oignon, a creamy onion tart with anchovies, black olives and goat cheese. I’ve never been a huge fan of anchovies, but I was curious enough to try them again. Fish notwithstanding, the tart was another great small plate.

We weren’t even close to finished with our first course; in fact, we were just getting started. Recommended by my sister, I ordered the salade frisée aux lardons, a salad with lardons (thick cut bacon) and topped with a poached egg. While I usually eat salad for its nutritional value, the fatty bacon along with the egg yolk were incredibly savory, and meshed perfectly with one another.

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Courtesy: Yelp user E. L.

However, it was the escargots which took the crown for best appetizer. If you can handle the chewy texture, you are in for a real treat. These marvelous mollusks were cooked in a garlic and shallot butter sauce, further adding to their rich flavor. After our scavenge for snails was over, I made sure that the remaining sauce did not go unutilized – you’d be hard pressed to find a better dip for crusty bread!

As if we weren’t satisfied enough, we still had the main course on the horizon. Apparently, seafood was a popular choice at our table, as both my parents and grandparents enjoyed plates of salmon fillet and rainbow trout. My sister defected and ordered a sliced duck breast, which I of course traded a few bites of my dish for – tender and delicious!

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sitting duck

If you’ve ever dined with me, you would know by now that I love to pick at other people’s plates. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

As for my main course, it was only one of the finest dishes I’ve ever consumed, the Coquilles Saint-Jacques à La Parisienne. The scallops were sautéed with a creamy wine and shallot sauce, the vegetables were cooked just right, and the mashed potatoes were perfect as well. Words seldom do justice to it – so I’ll let the picture tell the story.

This meal was simply one of the best I’ve ever had the privilege of enjoying. With that in mind, ask yourself this: is it possible for any great meal finish without a great dessert as well?

The answer to that, in my mind, is an unequivocal yes. While I was perfectly content to throw in the towel after the scallops from heaven, I just couldn’t turn down what was being offered – profiteroles!

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These confectionary perfections were the proverbial cherry on top of the meal. Cream puff drenched in chocolate and stuffed with ice cream? Say no more. I’ll take them all.

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This first-rate feast of French cuisine provided me with a much-needed respite from the lackluster confines of my fridge. Alas, living on a tight budget has forced me to make certain sacrifices; a diet of mostly microwave dinners, salads, and soups is simply no way for a foodie to live. While New York City is a culinary epicenter in its own right, the eateries of suburban New Jersey have always struck a chord with me.

It’s doubtful that Sophie’s Bistro, located in the outskirts of Somerset, is low-key enough to qualify as a hidden gem – it has been reviewed by the New York Times, after all. Owner Peter Mack and Chef David Fordjour are a winning team, working in concert to ensure that each guest is fully taken care of.

Mack’s hospitality and generosity certainly made my party feel welcome; he mingled and provided us with some complimentary shots of a liqueur. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but the gesture was much appreciated!

Though it may be easy to bypass, don’t be fooled by its inauspicious location; Sophie’s Bistro will undoubtedly provide you with a phenomenal dining experience. Are you ready for one of the best meals of your life?

As the French say, qui vivra verra – time will tell.

 

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