Where You’d Least Expect It

20170307_barbistro_072When you call to mind the South Sound restaurant scene, your go-to location might not be Midland. But in an out-of-the-way building in the area, there’s Bar Bistro, a restaurant making its mark on the dining scene.

It wasn’t owner and operator Eric Poulin’s goal to defy the rules of location when he purchased the building at 99th Street and Portland Avenue. The property was available and at a good price that made remodeling more feasible. Bar Bistro opened in fall 2013.

“I definitely knew we were going to have to defy the odds of this location,” he said.

But at the same time, there’s a lot to love about the location. It’s affordable with ample parking and easy access from WA-512, and it’s close to rapidly growing South Hill. Poulin said about 50 to 60 percent of customers come from Puyallup.

Poulin said the ripple effect of customer recommendation takes time, but the restaurant has seen a great deal of support from its customers.

“It’s small business,” Poulin said. “It has had to be built on word-of-mouth.”

The kitchen is led by Chris Lewis, chef de cuisine, who has been with the restaurant since the beginning, and started out as sous chef.

Chef de cuisine Chris Lewis

Chef de cuisine Chris Lewis

The restaurant borrows from Latin and Spanish cuisine in a form of fusion. Poulin said the restaurant wanted to do something different and exciting, and hadn’t seen much in the way of Latin and Spanish offerings.

The menu kicks off with starters including the caprese salad, which uses heirloom tomatoes topped with burrata mozzarella and the restaurant’s house-made reduced balsamic, and shredded fresh basil. The sharpness of the balsamic complements the cheese that sits on top of the bed of tomatoes.

“I definitely knew we were going to have to defy the odds of this location.”

Diners often share the steamed mussels that come with a white wine cream sauce with fennel and tomatoes. The mussels are served with two crostinis that are perfect for dipping in the cream sauce. Poulin joked that the restaurant gets frequent requests for extra bread as diners soak up the goodness.

“(It is a) fairly simple dish that has been really popular,” Poulin said. “The white sauce really has diners addicted.”

Seafood is prevalent on the menu — the hallmark of any Northwest restaurant worth its weight. A symphony of seafood is found in the paella. On top of a bed of saffron rice are sautéed prawns, steamed mussels, and whitefish. There’s also crab and chorizo in the rice, which has other vegetables as well. It’s proved popular.

“The paella is a great dish to represent some of the Spanish and Latin cuisine,” said Poulin.

20170307_barbistro_062Another seafood star is the salmon cioppino. A grilled fillet of salmon sits atop a tomato and fennel broth that has sliced jalapenos, potatoes, mussels, and clams swimming in it. It’s a different take on what is normally a seafood stew-like soup.

“We really wanted to create something with a little bit of our own flavor,” said Poulin.

The space has an ample selection in the bar, as well. With a nightclub atmosphere, the restaurant can easily shift from bistro to, well, bar. A signature cocktail on the menu is the sangria margarita. That’s right: two drinks in one. The fruity drinks blend together for a fresh, punchy cocktail. It’s served in a mason jar with a salted rim and a spear of lime and grapes.

The menu changes seasonally, and in the process of changing the menu, the restaurant does research on the different roots of the dishes it plans to make. Lewis said the planning of a menu takes time, and often what’s written on paper isn’t what hits the plate as the kitchen experiments with what works.

“It takes a lot of research and a lot of patience,” Lewis said. “And it’s a lot of fun, too.”

When You Go

1718 99th St. E.
barbistrotacoma.com

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is a staff writer at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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