47 North Front Street
Kingston, NY 12401
Dinner served Thursday through Monday
Boitson’s Bistro appeared on our culinary radar soon after they opened in uptown Kingston last summer. Their days of operation were problematic for my Wednesday Night Boyz crew, as the restaurant closes Tuesday and Wednesday. Luckily a few of us found ourselves in Kingston last Monday for a meeting at UPAC, and we took advantage of the opportunity to stop at Boitson’s for dinner. We were very glad we did. I liked the place as soon as I walked in the door.
We love bistros and the physical theme at Boitson’s is decidedly that of a Parisian bistro, complete with a dozen white marble topped tables lined up along the dining room’s long banquette against the left wall. Padded bentwood bistro chairs line the opposite side of the tables. The opposing wall offers a gorgeous bar with seating for nine, topped with a matching white marble slab and metallic barstools. On top of the slab sit stainless wire “trees” of hard boiled eggs reinforcing the theme – shades of Cafe Des Artistes. Tucked into what is left of the room is a small semi – exposed kitchen, with just enough of a view so that you can watch the chef in action.
We arrived around 6 PM and grabbed the three seats at the end of the bar, next to the kitchen pick up service area. The “specials” blackboard hangs next to the kitchen, and announced the day’s offerings of fresh Bluepoint ($1.75) and St Simone ($2) oysters from New Brunswick, along with a half chilled lobster as apps. On our arrival we were the only people in the place. That was about to change in a hurry.
My new favorite bartender Alanna brought over a wine list, and announced that the oysters were half price tonight. The restaurant was going to be closed for the next two days, and the oysters – which arrive daily from Gadaleto’s in New Paltz – would be discounted until they were gone. Once gain we found ourselves in the right place at the right time.
We ordered a bottle of Night Harvest Sauvignon Blanc ($6 gl / $24 btl) to help wash them down. The wine list is limited almost exclusively to California, and is value priced. There are two or three “premium” wines – Symmetry ($95), a Rodney Strong “Meritage” Bordeaux style blend is the high end of the list- but almost all of the offerings are priced around $30. I ordered some fried oysters ($10), to go along with the chilled half-shells, and a substantial platter of the tender morsels, tiny breaded pillows, light as a feather but bursting with briny flavor, arrived with a remoulade style dipping sauce. Killer dish.
As we devoured our platters the place started filling up, first the nine seats at the bar, then table by table. Groups of twenty-somethings getting home from work – all of whom seemed to know each other – gradually took the place over, and within an hour I thought I had been transported to the upper west side of Manhattan. As the sounds of Motown wafted from the bar, we made our dinner selections to a serenade of Marvin Gaye, Aretha, Gladys Knight, and Diana Ross. We were happy campers. So was everybody else. The intimate space does not lend itself to a private conversation, and I can see how a weekend bar crowd will encroach on the dining room space – or lack of it. On the other hand, you can ask just about anybody to pass the salt.
The menu, in keeping with the whole bistro theme, looks like it was printed on a mimeograph machine, circa 1950, and is presented in a red leatherette cover. It is obvious that the proprietor – one Maria Philippis – thought long and hard about the restaurant’s design, and has a wonderful eye for detail. Maria stopped over and introduced herself soon after we were seated. She realized immediately that we were first time visitors and wanted to know how we came to be there. When she left, her friend and co-worker Christine took over the hostessing duties, and she made sure that we were well attended. The friendly service team was completed by our server for the evening, Aja. It was immediately apparent that they all worked together well, they all thoroughly enjoyed being there, and they were all consummate professionals. Add a solid kitchen, a great menu and the result is a packed dining room full of happy regulars – and the place just opened last summer.
Our entrees arrived accompanied by a basket of house made, beer fermented yeast rolls and a plate of sweet butter. I started with a charcuterie platter, which included generous slices of dried cured jambon and course mustard with grilled rustic bread, slices of boiled egg and cornichons, and shaved curls of a semi soft Swedish cheese – for $12. Another great app was a beet risotto cake ($9) topped with warmed goat cheese. We added a dish of “devils on horse back” ($5), sweet broiled dates and bleu cheese, wrapped in bacon. We also succumbed to a special of Spanish meat balls, baked in a small souffle dish and served with a cream sauce spiked with paprika. The chef also talked us into trying a curry wurst, a bratwurst braised in a sweet curry sauce, just like a Munich street vendor. We were running out of room.
Lots of classic French bistro classics appear on the menu – hanger steak frites ($23), trout meuniere ($23), an appetizer of mussels with shallots, lemon and butter ($10), and chicken chausseur ($18) sauteed with mushrooms, tomato, white wine, carrots and pearl onions. The dish I look forward to ordering on my next visit is the house specialty (and decidedly not a French bistro classic) – fried chicken and mashed potatoes ($17). I do hope that visit is very soon. My tablemates felt the same way. George – also known as Grumpy – was heard to say “Fantastic!” three times during dinner. I am told that the last time this happened he was on shore leave from the Navy in Antarctica.
Boitson’s is hard to describe. It is a very fun cocktail of one part urban chic neighborhood hangout (as urban chic as they get in Kingston), one part very serious eats, with a hint of Lyonnaise bouchon. Better yet – you should go find out for yourself, and report back. Don’t forget to call for a reservation. The complete menu appears here.