Finally an event worthy of an excursion to the Crooked House Bistro! One of my dear girlfriends was having a birthday, so we and our husbands went out to dinner to celebrate. Fortunately I am lucky enough to have friends who understand my obsession with food and they allowed me to interrupt our dinner to photograph our experience.
The restaurant is small and cozy, it seats about 20 inside and has additional seating on their patio. The atmosphere is intimate and I believe we were waited on by the owner, but I can't be sure.
When you first walk in there is a chalkboard listing local businesses that supply products. The night we were there Cascade Baking Company and Pitchfork and Crow were listed. Personally I love it when local restaurants work with local suppliers, it's a big plus in my book.
The menu changes often, and although their website has a section called "Menu of the Day", it's not updated daily, so the menu was a surprise. There was a small selection of appetizers, salads and entrees and there was enough variety to satisfy everyone at our table.
They have an extensive bottled wine list, but all other beverages had to be listed by the server. I requested a Sauvignon Blanc, the husbands ordered amber beer and my girlfriend (who is expecting) ordered the "alcohol free pinot noir" as the server described it, which was actually a sparkling grape juice. She appreciated that it was served in a wine glass, lending to the feeling of having a "drink" with dinner, a nice touch.
Two of our party had never had frog legs, so we decided to start with the appetizer. Everyone says "it tastes like chicken" but it kind of does. It has a similar texture to white meat and although I mentioned a slight fish aftertaste, the guys thought I was crazy, so I may have just been imagining it. It did sort of weird me out that they looked exactly like the back end of a frog. I know, what did I expect right?
The sauce was scrumptious and we used our bread to soak it up. I highly recommend getting the basket of bread as it allows you to clean up all the tasty bits left on plates throughout the meal.
Sauteed Frog legs in garlic and parsley
I have to say that generally I avoid salads, but they all sounded so lovely that I couldn't resist. I ordered the beet salad and I absolutely loved it. The beets were tender and sweet and the garlic balanced it nicely. It almost looks like too much garlic, but it wasn't at all. With a sprinkling of salt and some bread- I would come here for this salad alone.
Beet Salad with olive oil and garlic
The tomato salad was my second choice, which I made my husband get so I could eat half of it. The tomatoes were amazing, there is just nothing like a locally grown heirloom tomato. The peppers were tasty, but a little crunchy and the creaminess of the goat cheese was a nice compliment.
Heirloom tomato salad with goat cheese and roasted poblano peppers
This was the other dish at our table and I was envious of the warmed goat cheese, it was so beautiful sitting atop that colorful salad.
Farm green salad with piquillo peppers and warm goat cheese on toasts
Both of the guys ordered the venison, which came cooked to a nice rare/medium rare. I had never had venison that was so tender as it often ends up overcooked and chewy. There was little seasoning which allowed the flavor of the meat to come through. If you've never had venison before, it has a stronger flavor than beef and is very lean.
Venison with duck fat fried potatoes and snap peas
This steak was also cooked perfectly, it was rare and had a nice sauce although for the life of me I can't recall what was in it. A note on the meat: while ordering we were not asked how we wanted things cooked, so if you prefer to have your meat cooked beyond medium rare you will need to let them know.
Bavette Steak with caramelized carrots and potatoes
And then there was the lamb. Everyone at the table was jealous of the blue cheese stuffed figs, which were amazing. The lamb was tender and flavorful, but I was disappointed at the presentation.
As the most expensive dish on the menu I would have expected a more elegant presentation. What you see below is exactly how it came to the table. The ribs could have been more cleanly cut and I found the main rib to be very fatty.
On the plus side the lamb was cooked well and tasted delicious. I was glad I spoiled myself and ordered it. Also the wine the server brought me was bright and crisp and a perfect compliment to the meal.
Rack of lamb with blue cheese stuffed figs over polenta
Since we had a birthday cake waiting at home we skipped dessert, but overall it was a pleasant evening. Crooked House Bistro is one of the more expensive restaurants in town; for our party of four we averaged about 50 dollars a person, but it was a great meal and we're happy to have higher end options right here in Salem.
For those of you who are budget minded check out their 4-course Tuesday night special for $35