Combine a guy who fell in love with food during a year of graduate school in France, and the girl from Denmark he fell in love with who has also traveled the world, and what do you get? Solo Bistro in Bath — an outstanding restaurant with a European flair and very creative food.

Linda

Sometimes you can tell you are in for a creative dining experience just by the design of the silverware. Solo Bistro is one of those places. Modern and edgy is how I would describe the Finnish utensils and glassware. Angela Adams’ wall hangings accent the brick walls and are incredible pieces of art. The modern lighting will grab your attention right off — big globes of rose-like swirls hanging from the tall ceiling.

Co-owner Pia Neilson grew up in Denmark, and has used her European flair to design this space. The fact that this modern-feeling restaurant sits in the historic downtown of Bath makes it even more special.

We walked to dinner from the Inn At Bath with light snow falling and a definite chill in the air. It was an incredibly beautiful walk as the snow piled up on the huge historic buildings we passed. So when we arrived at Solo Bistro the ginger and carrot puree being served that evening sounded pretty tempting.

A basket of their freshly made bread took the chill off nicely. Who knew lemon garlic butter even existed? It was incredibly delicious.

I ended up ordering the Baby Arugula Salad because it had a bit of a twist. Theirs included feta cheese and spiced roasted chickpeas, which made this salad a standout.

My entrée was the Local Mushroom Ragu served over creamy polenta. It wasn’t a vegetarian dish due to the fact that they braised the mushrooms in duck broth, but this gave the dish a nice richness. It felt like healthy comfort food with an amazing amount of flavor. I’ve never loved any kale that I’ve cooked, but I certainly loved theirs! It was a meal light enough that I could eat the whole thing (and enjoy all the bread and butter I wanted).

The Solo Bistro makes their own sorbet and ice cream. My strawberry-raspberry sorbet held an intense berry flavor. FYI — it comes in three-scoop servings, so one serving would be enough to split unless you’re still hungry.

I overheard the diner at the next table say, “This is like the perfect meal!” Well said.

George

Throughout the two years we’ve been writing this column, we’ve been getting recommendations for Solo Bistro. No one exaggerated. This restaurant draws foodies from throughout Maine, but Pia never loses focus on what the local folks want. I was really impressed that the place was packed during a Saturday night snow storm.

While this is very fine dining, the restaurant is not at all intimidating or dressy. Superbly decorated, yet offering an atmosphere that is relaxed and comfortable, the restaurant provides three rooms — one of which looks into the open kitchen. We sat in the second ground floor room, but we checked out the downstairs room with its rock walls and were very impressed. A small bar is also downstairs.

The Neilson’s sure know their wine, and offer a very impressive and extensive list. We selected the least expensive bottle, an Arido Malbec for $21, and it was delicious.

At a nearby table, three generations of a family were celebrating a birthday. Many of them ordered burgers. That’s right, this fine-dining establishment offers the “Bistro Burger.” Boy, I’ll tell you, if they’d been open the next day, Sunday, for lunch, we’d have gone back for those burgers. They looked mighty good! Alas, we can’t write a whole column about burgers, so we looked elsewhere on the menu.

And what we found was pretty impressive. Moroccan Spiced Lamb Stew. Grilled Faroe Island Salmon. It was all I could do to pass over the Seared Duck Breast that included duck confit casssoulet.

While Lin was being good with her salad, I started with Slow Roasted Pork Belly accompanied by a creamy polenta. The pork belly was thick and crispy yet tender, described by Lin as “like bacon times 10.” Soooo flavorful.

It had been quite a while since I’d had a steak and I was hankering for one, so I ordered the Grilled New York Strip with green peppercorn brandy sauce, herb roasted potatoes and sautéed green beans.

The steak was incredible, perfectly seared with flavor packed into every bite. The sauce had a great zing. The green beans were cut into tiny pieces and were nice and crunchy. And the potatoes were tasty. At one point, I dropped a piece of steak on my notepaper. Lin quickly said, “If you forget what it tasted like, you can just sniff your paper.” Ah. So true.

Portions are sizeable here — another concession to the expectations of Mainers — but I still ordered a full dessert: ice cream with blood orange and mint. The chef also sent out a piece of walnut cake. As I dug in, my conscience (better known as my wife) said, “You’re not going to eat all that cake and ice cream, are you?” It didn’t really sound like a question.

Our server for the evening, Erin, did a superb job and told us that the menu changes seasonally — giving us another excuse to visit again soon in addition to those Bistro Burgers!

Visit George’s website: www.georgesmithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.

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