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Parc Bistro
4067 Skippack Pike
Skippack, Pennsylvania
(610) 584-1146
www.parcbistro.com

Skippack Village - quaintly picturesque and home to a variety of boutique shops - is the perfect spot to spend a few pleasant hours of leisurely browsing on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It is also home to a plethoric potpourri of dining establishments. And, as you may have very well surmised, some are quite good... others significantly under-whelming.

For my money, however, Parc Bistro still remains the pick of the litter in this charming historic community. I first reviewed the restaurant nearly four years ago and very little has changed in the interim. The lovingly refurbished 19th century roadside inn still exudes a stylish rusticity; and Executive Chef William A. Tschoepe's seasonally changing menu remains the perfect complement to the casually elegant environs. And from the moment the basket containing herbed focaccia & crusty country bread - buttressed by artistic waves of olive oil and red pepper coulis - hits the table, you know your tastes buds are in good hands.

And Park Bistro's catchy slogan - "A little bit French; a little bit Country; a little bit Italian" - is certainly descriptive of the eclectic bill of fare. You may mix and match among the small plates (starters), go the traditional appetizer/entrée route, or even throw in one of the pizza possibilities from the establishment's wood burning oven.

To start things off, it's hard to beat the barbecued scallops. Two rich and meaty bivalves are wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, spiked with a healthy kick of horseradish, companied by a dollop of Fuji apple slaw, and finished with a circumscription of apricot barbecue sauce.

But even better - according to my wife - are "Aaron's Arrogant Mussels." Plump, succulent, and in the peak of good health, they arrive at table swimming in a broth redolent of Arrogant Bastard Ale and garnished with chilies, spinach, green onion, and smoked tomato. Consummatory touches include Sonoma dry jack cheese, a tiara of sweet potato fries, and dash of red chili mayonnaise.

On the other hand, if greenery is more your style, you may select either the mixed green salad enhanced with Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, smoked almonds, and provocative red grape vinaigrette (add on luscious seared goat cheese medallions) or classic Caesar - herbed croutons and aged provolone cheese - with optional anchovies. On the other hand, I'd probably go for the seasonal offering, which is comprised of roasted beets, baby spinach, cress, shaved fennel, red onion, and ground pistachios. Excellent on all counts... But it is the gentle infusion of an earthy Point Reyes blue cheese vinaigrette that transforms this presentation into an irresistible gastronomic gestalt.

Moving on to the main courses, seafood is always a good bet here. The special tilefish, for example, is beautifully sautéed and set on a sumptuous seabed of chickpea purée, crowned with melted leeks, and finished with a subtle splash of white balsamic. Equally up to the mark, the sautéed skate wing reclines on a pillow of celery root purée, is companioned by wilted spinach with toasted pine nuts, and finished with lemon and brown butter.

For those of a more carnivorous nature, the seared hanger steak comes replete with bacon-white cheddar grits, sautéed chard, and a house-made steak sauce; the loin lamb chops are served up with grilled fennel, a mixed grain & bean salad, and drizzled with a complementary combo of fresh lemon and roasted peanut oil; and purists will find it difficult to resist the charms of the famous boeuf bourguignonne, incomparably tender wagyu beef brisket braised in Burgundy wine and accompanied by assorted vegetables, natural jus, onion marmalade, and marrow-toasted brioche.

Desserts, I'm happy to report, are every bit the equal of their predecessors. The lemon and Gala apple tartlets are quintessential representatives of their respective genres. The former sports a benchmark shortbread crust and flawlessly textured & tangy filling; the latter, a topping of cinnamon crunch and scoop of Applejack ice cream.

But if you're a chocolate/peanut butter fanatic - as I am - Parc Bistro's chocolate peanut butter cake is simply too good to pass up. Chocolate peanut butter mousse is set atop a dark chocolate cake and garnished with peanut brittle and Concord grape jellies. A marriage made in heaven... and a feast for the eye as well as the palate.

There is a great deal to recommend Parc Bistro: The ambiance, including the attractive bar area, is cozy and comfortable; the restaurant also boasts a brick-paved patio with umbrella-topped tables for alfresco dining in warmer weather; the cuisine is exceptionally well prepared and presented and, while not a cheap date, the cost of an evening's sojourn here, given the overall quality of the cuisine, is certainly well within reasonable bounds; and, as an added plus, the service is both professional and personable.

The only quibble... the wine list, in my opinion, is severely overpriced. There are some excellent choices... but you will pay dearly for them. My advice is to stick with the house wines by the glass; they are much easier on the pocketbook and generally won't alienate the palate.

June 2010
The Artful Diner

The Artful Diner is an independent, freelance food writer.  His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.

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