When I decorated my first apartment with a mix of donated goods and garage sale treasures, my mother kindly remarked that I had a very "eclectic" style. I think this was her way of saying that, although nothing matched (in her opinion), the colorful mix of patterns, colors and styles worked together to create a nice blend in the end.
I suspect my mother would describe Bistro Gigi the same way. From the atmosphere to the menu, the eatery combines unique dishes and bold decorating to create an enjoyable dining experience.
Bistro Gigi joined Mariemont Square a couple of years ago as the newest addition to the Comisar family's restaurant lineup, catering to a more casual group of diners than establishments like Maisonette or Chester's Roadhouse. And the house was full of them on a recent weekday evening when my husband and I and a good friend decided to drop in for dinner.
After just a short wait, we were seated in the back of the restaurant, passing tables full of couples along the way. The dining room is narrow, and even though it sports no windows other than patio doors in front, the bold, contemporary furnishings and bright, energetic artwork mixed with rich wood accents create a warm and inviting atmosphere.
This was our second visit to the Bistro. Because we had heard so many positive comments from others about the restaurant, we wanted to give it another try after an unpleasant first experience a few weeks earlier. One glance at the menu, and we noticed numerous changes in just those few short weeks. Several of the entrees we had chosen at our earlier visit were no longer offered and others had been added.
We later learned from the manager (during one of his friendly Reds' game updates) that the menu does change periodically to keep up with seasonal favorites.
To start off, our server recommended two appetizers: the Vegetable Fritters ($4.25) and the Ratatouille with Grilled Pita ($4.95). The fritters, a mix of peppers and zucchini wrapped and deep-fried egg roll style, served with horseradish mustard, didn't last long as we all found them delicious. I also enjoyed the cold, fresh-roasted vegetables of the Ratatouille atop the warm, grilled pita triangles -- a nice summer appetizer.
Each of our dinners came with a cup of soup or a small Caesar or house salad. Because I had been unimpressed with the house salad (a small plate of boring iceberg lettuce and carrot slivers) on our previous visit, I chose a cup of the soup du jour. I was very pleased with the flavorful potato leek, which was puréed and creamy, not too heavy for a summer evening. My husband also raved about the rich French onion soup that accompanied his dinner.
Other than appetizers and some side dishes, there was only one vegetarian entrée, the Vegetable Lasagna ($10.75). Although our friend enjoyed the very hearty portion -- more than he could finish -- I was disappointed with the lack of vegetarian selections. However, I was very pleased when without hesitation the waitress confirmed that another entrée could be modified and made "vegetarian style." The Chicken Linguine with Vegetables ($12.50) was made with asparagus instead of chicken and covered in a mild, creamy Dijon mustard sauce that was very flavorful.
My husband thoroughly enjoyed his Pork Tenderloin "Charcutière" ($15.95) and the au gratin potatoes that accompanied it. Other recommendations from our server included the Steamed Rainbow Trout ($15.75) which we had enjoyed at our previous visit, served with julienne vegetables and a soy ginger sauce, and the Grilled Salmon ($15.75) served on a bed of spinach and topped with a lobster cream sauce.
Although we were too full to sample any of the dessert selections, the tray of fresh pastries and white and chocolate mousses looked wonderful. In fact, after such a fulfilling dinner, even the Graeter's ice cream shop two doors down couldn't tempt us.
Definitely better the second time around, Bistro Gigi was well worth a second chance. In fact, the more I think about it, the contemporary, bold and eclectic establishment tucked into the quaint, historic Mariemont Square actually fits quite nicely. I'm sure my mother would agree. ©
Go: 6904 Wooster Mariemont
Hours: Bar opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; Dinner 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 5 -9 p.m. Sunday
Prices: Moderate to Expensive
Payment: Major credit cards accepted; carryout available.
Vegetarian Friendliness: Only Vegetarian Lasagna ($10.75), but other menu items can be prepared "vegetarian style" on request.