The Blackstone Bistro
35 Blackstone River Road, Worcester
Ever on the prowl for the next dining “discovery,” I recently learned of Blackstone Bistro. It’s independently owned, located in Quinsigamond Village and BYOB. The Quinsig neighborhood has a history of owner-operated places tending toward the eccentric, so I checked Blackstone’s website and found low prices and flashes of ethnic cuisine.
There was nothing elegant in what I’d seen so far, but Blackstone might, perhaps, be perfect for meeting friends for casual dining. A re-con mission was necessary.
So on a midweek evening, I met a friend for dinner. As we entered Blackstone, we found the dining room empty but fully stocked with enthusiastic greetings. The owner-chef came out to greet us, and Caitlin, our server, offered us our pick of tables. I immediately noticed the music ~ a mix of baroque, early classical and, improbably, sacred music that would play throughout the evening.
Glancing around at the rather austere décor, I concluded that if Blackstone’s cuisine was to prove noteworthy, it’s the type of place you’d call funky-chic in a DIY kind of way. I refocused on the menu.
The appetizer list led off with Queso Frito with guava sauce. But a couple entries down from that, we noticed Sautéed Mussels. They proved to be the perfect starter; a mid-sized bowl contained pristine mussels, not a trace of sand or off-taste, simmered in a buttery wine broth loaded with savory bits of garlic and torn basil leaves. The broth was so tasty, I sipped it by the spoonful, and we divided chunks of garlic bread to soak up whatever remained.
We were surprised when Caitlin announced the salad course. Salad included? Very unusual! Blackstone’s garden salad was composed of a mix of fresh greens, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices and red cabbage confetti. With a flourish, she also presented a cruet of fresh vinaigrette. Initially, I dressed my salad with restraint. Then, I tasted the dressing; it was such a fine balance of seasonings and vinegary tartness that I went back for more.
Some of the ethnic dishes ~ Spanish in particular ~ were what had originally attracted me to Blackstone Bistro. I was tempted to order the Pernil, a slow-roasted pork shoulder. But then, I read the description for the Eggplant Parmesan and realized I hadn’t had this elegant vegetable all summer. So, I veered direction to Italian.
The eggplant entrée started with a bowl of ziti topped with marinara. At first taste, I knew I’d made the correct decision; Blackstone’s marinara was fresh and light and perfectly seasoned. Then, the platter of eggplant came, traditionally breaded slices layered with stretchy cheese and more of that zesty marinara sauce. It was such a humongous plateload, half of the entrée went home for sandwiches later in the week.
I cautiously glanced over to my friend’s entrée, Charbroiled Rib Eye Steak. It was meticulously crisscrossed with grill lines and topped with a butter sauce featuring more of those garlic bits. This was the work of a chef unafraid of bold flavor!
However, the steak was a thinner cut, and I feared my friend would complain. Instead, he raved about its flavor and the cook’s achievement of perfect medium-rare. Co-starring on this dish were emerald-green steamed broccoli florets and a twice-baked potato that was broiled golden brown, with a crusty top and fluffy inside, rich with cheesy goodness.
Our Blackstone Bistro experience proved successful in each of the categories critical to informal dining: fresh ingredients capably prepared with robust flavors, friendly service and near rock-bottom prices. But as we glanced around at the empty dining room, we had just one last question: Where was the queue of parties waiting for a table?
I suspect they will come.