For a kid who grew up ordering chicken fingers and hamburgers from restaurants, River Bistro was a huge culinary shock. But don’t let that fool you: what a great shock it was.
River Bistro, located inside the Double Tree hotel on Water Street in Downtown Binghamton, is one of the the city’s best-kept secrets.
Upon entering, it’s hard to miss the upscale decor of the restaurant. The table settings give the feel of fine dining, while the large, open windows allow for a pleasant amount of sunlight during an early evening meal.
River Bistro’s service was fantastic. As soon as we arrived, our server Nicole greeted us with a warm smile. After we were seated, we tried two dishes from the new tapas menu: coconut curry chicken wings and brussels sprouts. I’ve never had brussels sprouts in my life, but trust me, these are more delicious than anything you can imagine. The mix of parmesan cheese, almonds and perfectly cooked and flavored brussels sprouts led to a dish that left me wanting seconds.
After our tapas came the Restaurant Week menu. Emma, my dining partner, ordered a creative take on French onion soup, while I chose the duck confit.
While most onion soups feature a layer of cheese at the top, this version had cheese melted on top of a crostini, a baked baguette slice. This soup had a tremendous presentation but the flavor wasn’t all that great. While the soup tasted fine, the crostini and cheese were underwhelming. The cheese lacked flavor, and probably would have tasted better if it was put in the soup in a more traditional way.
The duck confit can be summed up in three words: oh my god. This is a must-have on the menu. The portion was the perfect size and the duck was tender and moist. The bed of parsnips and carrots complemented it well. Although it was an appetizer, the duck was very filling.
Our entrée was equally as good. I’ve always been a huge meatball fan, so naturally I ordered the lamb variety that the restaurant offered. I love my mother’s home-cooked version of this dish, but this updated take on a sometimes-overdone classic was better. Sorry, mom. The meatballs were perfectly complemented by a Lillet Rouge wine sauce, and sat on a layer of greens. The components worked well together, while still allowing each ingredient to stand out.
Emma opted for a vegetarian option: crispy tofu. The meal was presented perfectly, with skewered tofu pieces surrounding a beautiful sauce with sesame seeds. The dish was tangy and featured a great combo of sweet and spicy flavors.
Dessert did not disappoint, either. We split the two offerings: a white chocolate raspberry panna cotta and a banana bourbon pecan bread pudding with sticky toffee sauce. The bread pudding was a heap of dessert goodness, featuring raisins, nuts, caramel and whipped cream.
The raspberry panna cotta was equally tasty. The ratio of raspberry topping to white chocolate pudding was perfect, and led to a great balance of flavors.
It may be tucked away, but if you’ve never been to River Bistro, go, and go fast.
River Bistro is located on 225 Water St.