The Monitor, McAllen, Texas, Amy Nichol Smith column
Mar 22, 2013 (The Monitor - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Most of my reviews of lunch at area restaurants are based on one or two visits, but this review of Fromage Bistro and Wine Lounge will be unique.
I first visited Fromage months ago when the elegant restaurant was just testing dishes on the few customers who would wander in. At that time, four of us sat near the bar in one of the oversized cream-colored booths. We tried fondue, crepes, European-inspired sandwiches and soups. All of it was delicious. The owner stopped by to talk about wine and cheese and ask us how we liked everything. We raved. The soups (a lentil one and a red pepper one) were stand-outs.
My co-worker Maddy and I went back when we had an early dinner with one of Festiva's movie reviewers, Brooke. We opted for the oil fondue which featured tiny bits of raw beef and raw vegetables that you cook, or fry, in a pot of herb-infused oil at your table. It was fun, interactive and different. I also ordered the red pepper soup because I remembered it being so good before. Brooke had a spoonful and called our server back to order a cup for herself. That's how good it was.
Recently, Maddy and I met with The Monitor's former features editor to catch up. We chose Fromage. I was so excited to introduce Brandon to the flavors I'd described before. Unfortunately, our latest experience wasn't quite as remarkable.
Since they didn't have the red pepper soup, I chose to try the asparagus soup. Maddy remembered the lentil soup being hearty and full of flavor, so she asked for that. Brandon ordered an argula, pear and blue cheese salad.
The salad was very fresh and the combination of ingredients were classic and perfect. The pear added just enough tartness to cut through the richness from the cheese and dressing.
While the asparagus soup tasted fresh, it had little more flavor than that of pureed asparagus. I sent it back. The lentil soup was watery, the lentils were overcooked and it lacked depth.
I decided to try the England sandwich. It came piled with ingredients -- thinly sliced roast beef, Gouda cheese, mushrooms, caramalized onions, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula. A spoonful of raspberry chipotle sauce is served on the plate alongside a small side of dressed brussel sprouts with red onion and blue cheese. I really enjoyed the mix of ingredients on the sandwich. And for those who are balking at the side of brussel sprouts, I urge you to try them. I'm usually not a fan of the vegetable, but prepared with the cheese, onions and dressing, I ate my whole serving.
Something has gone awry at Fromage, though, because this was the first time the restaurant lacked consistency. However, the ambiance, service, wine and appetizers are worthy of repeat visits.
(Fromage Bisto and Wine Lounge, 400 W. Nolana Loop, McAllen; (956) 686-8466)
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