January 16, 2009

Thomas Street Bistro's One Man Band

Adam%20at%20Thomas%20St%20Bistro.JPGHis name, Adam Freeman, doesn't sound French, but he's from Toulouse. "All I ever wanted was a little 20-seat bistro." How often have we heard this sentiment (usually from celebrity chefs with giant egos) and found it pretentious at best, unrealistic at worst? Yet the modest Adam is actually doing it.

Yes, you ask, but is he doing it well? And here we get into the realm of realism, of physical limits, of expectations. No, he's not doing it as well as a "commercial" restaurant, even a neighborhood spot with kitchen big enough for three or four cooks.

You have to take Thomas Street Bistro on its own terms, or leave it alone. It's not Palace Kitchen, it's not Canlis, it's not The Corson Building. Rather, it's the clean, modest front room of a walk-up apartment. The menu is basic: chicken, steak, fish, nothing over $15. For another couple of bucks, Adam throws in soup, salad and dessert.

At that price, you can't expect haute cuisine, or even the sort of fake ambition that comes from a soulless restaurant supply company (think of all those stuffed chicken breasts you've seen on tavern menus; you know they're delivered pre-cooked and flash-frozen). Here, if it says chicken, it's real chicken. The downside is that side dishes do double and triple duty, even if the seasoning isn't exactly right. And, truth be told, I'd have preferred a little less nutmeg in the noodles served with both the chicken and the fish. But the most remarkable thing is that he does it all by himself. No busser, dishwasher, prep cook or server, just Adam. And, for atmosphere, a roomfull of animated guests and a student from Cornish playing the piano

Listening to a classical medley while sipping a Côtes du Rhône, listening to neighborhood regulars in lively conversation with each other from their separate tables, I felt the contentment of being in a friend's living room. No mean accomplishment.

Adam has just returned from his annual vacation. My view: we should welcome him back!

Thomas Street Bistro, 421 E Thomas St., 206-323-0914  Thomas Street Bistro on Urbanspoon

Posted by Ronald Holden at January 16, 2009 6:00 PM | TrackBack

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