Sunday, September 29, 2019

Pirogue Grille, Bismarck, ND

For our 40th anniversary we decided to visit North Dakota, our 50th state, and I needed to find a nice restaurant to celebrate. We were flying into Bismarck, so that is where I concentrated my search, although I was open to other areas. 

I finally narrowed it down to Pirogue Grille in Bismarck. It was the number 1 restaurant in Bismarck on Tripadvisor, the no. 1 restaurant in North Dakota in Only In Your State, one of the 10 Tastiest Places to Eat in North Dakota on Culture Trip, featured as a Vacation Idea in Dream Vacation Magazine, is Zagat rated and gets 4.5 stars on Yelp. I initially thought Pirogue might have something to do with pierogi, a Polish staple. However, after a visit to the Lewis and Clark sights north of Bismarck, I'm sure it must be a reference to the two large rowboats that the Corps of Discovery used that they called pirogues. 
Unfortunately, when I called to make a reservation for the evening of our anniversary, I was told they were closed because of the 45th annual Downtowners Street Fair that would be going on outside that night. The only time we could visit when they were open was the evening we flew in, the day before our anniversary, and our flight did not arrive until 8:00 p.m., much later than we normally like to eat. We finally decided to eat lightly during the day and eat there late. 

We got there about 8:40 p.m. and found the street in front of the restaurant filled with workers setting up large tents for the street fair. Although dark outside, it was nice and light inside and we found the staff very friendly. One of the things I was attracted to in my restaurant search was their focus on local foods. 

Judy ordered grilled lamb loin chops with black mission fig, lemon and balsamic relish. It came with mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. I was tempted by it, but decided I would take a taste of Judy's and order a bunch of appetizers instead. The lamb was good and the fig, you can see smeared on the top, gave it a nice sweet taste. 
I started with a bowl of roast corn and bison soup. It was already pretty dark with pepper and I had them add some more. It was cold and raining outside and I'd arrived from the airport in sandals and shorts. So the warm soup was perfect: I absolutely savored it. It was not too hot, and the heavy pepper combined nicely with small chunks of bison, corn, carrots and a rich broth. I don't know that I've ever enjoyed a soup more. 

Judy has German heritage and loves spaetzle, so we ordered the appetizer of herbed spaetzle, braised rabbit, soffritto and parmesan. It was a nice conglomeration of tastes with little chunks of rabbit. Comfort food, also nice on a cold evening. 
I got another appetizer of house-made venison sausage with grilled onion relish. The sausage was dark and quite strong. The onion relish was kind of vinegary, and I didn't like it with the sausage. But the stone ground mustard was fabulous with it. It kind of covered the strong taste of the sausage with the seedy textury zing of the mustard. 
I ordered an appetizer salad special which included some vinegary greens, quartered cherry tomatoes, a vinegary corn relish and cold and vinegary chanterelle mushrooms (apparently from Saskatchewan). I was kind of disappointed with this. None of the parts were really great and it did not mix together well. 
My favorite of the evening, aside from the warm comfort of the soup, was the Walleye trio of tastes appetizer, including smoked walleye, a prosciutto wrapped walleye and a walleye version of crab cake. All three versions were good, all had different textures and is the kind of dish I really love: It was exotic food to me, in the sense that I've only tasted walleye a few times; and it had an unusual presentation, both individually and as a grouping. Each version was in a small square bowl/dish, placed side by side on a larger rectangular plate. I would not have wanted an entree portion of any of them, and did not find any of them to be outstanding, but together as a mixture of tastes and textures, it was fabulous. 

For dinner, Judy got chocolate tart with chocolate glaze and a huge dollop of whipped cream. Judy really likes dark chocolate, but my taste for it has never really developed. 
I got a special, a berry trifle, with blue berries and raspberries. The berries were wonderful and the sponge cake and custard were good, although I prefer it a little more wet. 
Altogether, it was a very special meal to celebrate a significant milestone in our lives, with a nice touch of North Dakota thrown in. 

1 comment:

  1. This was such a wonderful surprise--a Class A restaurant in North Dakota! No offense intended to North Dakotans, but this was a restaurant that could hold its own in any large American cities. The taste and presentation of the food was top-notch. I wish we could have gone back to try more items on the menu.