The Cellar Bistro
WHERE: 132 N. Hale St., Wheaton
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
DRESS CODE: Casual
INFO: 630-653-6299, www.thecellarbistro.com
A friend mentioned The Cellar Bistro as a favorite destination, so my dining companion and I decided to drop by one recent weeknight to see for ourselves. Outdoor seating beckoned, but we opted to sit indoors in the charming dining room. The bistro's corner location in downtown Wheaton is ringed by large windows, but, at night, the lighting goes way down to amp up the romantic ambiance.
Amid tables and a few banquettes, we selected a hightop at a window to oversee the burgundy-red room and an attractively backlit bar, where stemware and wine bottles glimmer.
After viewing the menu's expansive wine list, it's easy to see why the word "cellar" is part of the bistro's name. The full bar also features a few craft beers and alternates two on tap.
We opened with mushroom brie soup, accompanied by baguette slices. It was delectably savory, with a hint of sherry, and finely minced mushrooms in a creamy soup that tasted more complex with every spoonful.
Next up, we changed the meal's flavor profile with a golden and red beet salad, served atop a variety of tasty greens including peppery arugula and a well-aged balsamic glaze balanced by mild goat cheese and accented with slightly sweetened nuts.
The menu had so many tempting choices, including a lobster salad with fresh peas and mixed greens, to pizzas, sandwiches and entrees starring prawns, lamb meatballs, salmon, sirloin and pasta.
We decided to split the pork medallions and were rewarded with a superb combination of ingredients evoking a Thanksgiving flavor palette. The meat was accompanied by fluffy mashed sweet potatoes, a delicate variety of dried fruits and walnuts, and wonderfully fresh, sauteed spinach.
"That's a very good melange of flavors and textures," said my companion between bites.
We also appreciated the beautiful presentation of the split dish plated for the two of us.
The menu describes the bistro's commitment to serving preservative-, hormone- and antibiotic-free foods, organic whenever possible, and whose ingredients are purchased from family-owned concerns. It's a delicious business model that supports local craft foods.
The Cellar Bistro's dining room is inviting with faux granite tabletops that echo a European aesthetic. The noise level is low to facilitate lingering conversations over a glass of wine. The space's design touches include brick and wood, with sheer curtains in a soft swirl of patterns and mocha hues.
Musicians are featured from 6:30 to 9 p.m. each Sunday and Monday, with plentiful parking available in the city deck half a block to the west.
Service was friendly and attentive, and we look forward to a return visit on a night with live music. This time, we'll wisely aim to leave enough room to indulge in the server's recommended crème brûlée kissed with Grand Marnier for a sweet finish to a special meal.
The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Suburban Life Media. The diner's identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Only positive dining experiences will result in published reviews.
(To view the Mystery Diner's photos taken at The Cellar Bistro, go to http://shawurl.com/s7q; visit its website at www.thecellarbistro.com.)