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How 'bout them apples?

DINING REVIEW: Bad Apples Bistro 

How 'bout them apples?

I'd say Bad Apples Bistro is worth the drive to Spencerport, even on these frigid winter days. And that's saying something considering most people barely want to leave their driveways right now. The apple-themed, green-colored environment welcomed my dining party from the cold into a 50-seat dining area that felt cozy and pleasant.

Executive chef and owner Chris Kisiel's winter menu echoed that cozy comfort with dishes that hailed from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The dishes were approachable to the casual diner while still carrying a touch of refinement. One of the things we noticed — and later confirmed with the chef — was that there was a conscious effort to season the appetizers lighter and the entrées heavier in order to make a natural progression in intensity as the meal went on.

A quick aside: I make the best efforts to keep the average diner's tastes in mind when I write about seasoning and salt. But for those who prefer their dishes less salty or with mild seasoning, something to keep in mind is that I tend to lean toward heavier, more intense flavors.

A good example of this was the beans and greens ($10), which I thought was the most successful appetizer we had. The use of lentils and Swiss chard was a nice change from the traditional escarole and cannellini beans version most people are familiar with. The textures were spot on and there was plenty of garlic to flavor the broth. I preferred a sprinkling of finishing salt that was available, but the other diners at my table were happy as it was served.

The prosciutto and fresh mozzarella Arancini ($9) didn't really stand out to me; the filling was overwhelmed by the bright and quite acidic marinara. I thought the Risotto filling could have used more punch and richness to contrast the sauce and add more intrigue. But the French onion soup ($7) hit all the right notes, with a cheesy crust and a rich veal stock that surrounded the nicely caramelized onions.

Both the beet and apple salad ($9) and the crab cakes ($11) underwhelmed for the price. The salad didn't really come together as a dish and didn't resemble the description on the menu very well. Too much mayo on the apple slaw and not enough acid in the bacon vinaigrette. I know crab is an expensive ingredient but the cakes were a touch on the small side. It didn't taste like there was excessive filler but there weren't any distinct lumps of crab to bite into either.

One of the dishes that we really enjoyed was the Hungarian Porkolt ($19) which is an egg noodle-based dish covered in a porky tomato sauce. The wide cut noodles were made in house and were nicely chewy, complementing the slow cooked sauce. I loved the brightness of the sauce, highlighted by onions, red pepper, and a little spice. The overall profile was a touch on the sweet side and a pinch of finishing salt really brought the flavors in balance. The addition of sour cream helped round things out as well.

I hadn't had a filet ($27) in a long time — I tend to err toward more beefy cuts like the skirt steak. Even though I don't typically prefer this cut, I was pleasantly surprised with a perfectly grilled and seasoned piece of meat. I loved the choice to use Swiss chard which was creamed with Gouda, adding a great smokiness to the greens. Garlic smashed potatoes popped, and a rich demi-glace topped off this straightforward but well-executed dish.

Lobster bisque mac & cheese ($21) was more divisive at the table: the men ended up enjoying it but the women less so. It had the flavor of a richer lobster bisque and was right on the edge of being over salted. Small bits of tender tail meat studded the sauce, and the sauce reinforced the lobster taste. I think the intensity was a bit much for some — my wife was looking for a sort of traditional, thicker Mac and cheese sauce than the more soupy one served here.

The only disappointing entrée we had was the chicken curry breast ($19) which was surprisingly light in the noted Thai basil and coconut curry components. The bone in breast was cooked well with crispy skin and remained juicy, but the side of rice and julienned peppers barely had a hint of any of the Southeast Asian flavors. I had higher hopes for this one after the more assertively seasoned entrées we had tried before.

I was immensely satisfied with the apple crisp dessert which was topped with a phenomenal caramel and rosemary ice cream. Balance was the name of the game here with a lightly sweet oatmeal crumble and apple base. The apples still had tooth and the rosemary caramel ice cream was floral, piney, and a fantastic complement to the apples. We sprinkled finishing salt on it and it got even better.

All in all, I think that Kisiel's winter menu was successful in displaying his style and delivering comfort to our winter weary group of diners. Especially after learning about his background in fine dining in the Rochester area, I'm looking forward to trying out what he has in store on the next version of Bad Apple's menu.

You can read more from Chris Lindstrom or listen to his podcast on his food blog, Foodabouttown.com. Share any dining tips with him on Twitter and Instagram @stromie.

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