A Last Taste: Bistro serves up classy cuisine


Natasha Davis

The Mezze Platter served on a wooden cutting board features three different dips, pickled vegetables and pita bread.

As my senior year comes to an end, I have thought long and hard about which restaurant I wanted to review for our last issue. I’ve tasted many different cuisines found in Shorewood, but I haven’t been to one of the more classier restaurants we have on Oakland Ave. 

Bonobo American Bistro, formerly known as North Star Bistro, is an upscale restaurant, featuring a seasonal menu from a scratch kitchen. Not only are they known for their hand crafted cocktails, but for their tasty food as well. The advertised elegant dining experience encouraged me to give them a chance. 

Service was prompt and pleasant, giving us the opportunity to choose from the daily dinner specials. The atmosphere was sophisticated but casual enough to dress in everyday clothes. Dim lighting and booths lined the walls. My father, forever searching for the next best wine, selected from a large list to accompany his plate.  

The small menu had prices ranging from $9 to $14 for appetizers, $12 to $16 for salads, $14 to $16 for sandwiches, and $16 to $24 for the entrees. There was also a small menu for Friday Fish Fry’s and desserts. We opted to try out some of their appetizers, sandwiches, and entrees. 

With only five different starters to choose from, you would think it would be easy to decide. We debated between the Grilled Beets and Goat Cheese and the Mezze Platter, before giving in and ordering both.  

The Mezze Platter screamed elegance solely based on the presentation. Beautifully arranged on a wood cutting board, it included three different dips, pickled vegetables, and pita bread. Muhamara, a Syrian red chili pepper mash, was drizzled in balsamic to cut the spiciness of the peppers. The hummus wasn’t my favorite as it had a strong chickpea flavor, but my father liked the raw taste. There was also some sort of green dip that didn’t have any distinct spices. The crispy pita bread triangles were done well: the outside just on the edge of burnt, the inside soft. The turmeric spiced cauliflower topped with pomegranate seeds was served cold and delicious. Two types of olives, thinly sliced cucumbers, and red peppers gave a salty and sharp aftertaste to the savory pita and dip combination. There were little decorations that added to the overall look, including seeds, a wild rice blend, olive oil, and spices. This large platter would be perfect even as a meal if you were in a snacky mood. 

The Grilled Beets and Goat Cheese featured slow roasted golden and red beets covered in crumbled goat cheese, crushed pistachios, pea shoots, and a lemon chermoula dressing. The beets were cooked to perfection and complemented nicely with the creaminess of the cheese and crunchiness of the nuts and pea shoots. I was expecting more of a zing from the lemon, but it was hidden by the greens on the bottom of the dish. 

My mom ordered their Crab Cake appetizer as her meal. She has had it in the past and loved the simplicity of the small patties. On a bed of greens, cucumbers, peppers, and oranges, the dish was covered with a lemon vinaigrette. She observed that although they were small, they were nicely crisp on the outside and not fishy as most crab cakes are. A side of standard tartar sauce that accompanied it added a tartness to the savory starter. 

As for the main course, I was happy to see gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian options. I went for their take on the vegan Impossible Burger. Served on a pretzel bun, the thin patty came with sliced avocado and a spread of cashew cheese. I loved the fresh avocado but was disappointed because I couldn’t taste the cheese at all. I immediately took out the raw onion as I am not a fan, but kept the large pieces of butter lettuce and the oddly thin slice of tomato. If I ordered this again, I hope to see a thicker slice. The patty itself was nicely seasoned and was surprisingly heart considering it was a meatless meal. I don’t usually opt for fake meat, but I appreciated how it didn’t taste like soy. I loved the pretzel bun that upgraded the sandwich to a dressier feel, but disliked how it overpowered the ingredients as a whole. 

My father went for one of their more unique entrees: the Chicken Picatta. The menu advertised a herb crusted chicken breast, baba ghanoush, haricots verts, and a white wine caper sauce. He was surprised, but delighted at the presentation of three smaller breasts, which made it easier to eat. Not only was the meat tender, but moist and wonderfully flavored with the rich cream sauce. The hint of lemon added a nice acidity to the dish. The added capers gave it a salty finish and complemented the eggplant dip on the bottom of the plate. He was pleased with the portion size as it gave plenty of food to enjoy. However, he wished for a starch, like roasted potatoes, to add to the meal as a whole. 

We ended up bringing home a Fried Chicken Sandwich for my sister to enjoy as she was not able to join us at the restaurant. Typically featuring pickled green onions, lettuce, and an aioli along with the herb crusted chicken, she chose to take everything off and eat the chicken plain. She was very disappointed in the soggy hamburger bun, but this could have been the result of traveling home. She didn’t taste any distinct herbs on the thick chicken patty as well. This also came with a side of fries which were pretty standard in our books. In the future, we would upgrade to kettle chips, parmesan truffle fries, or a small side salad for an extra $2

Although the prices were a bit high, the quantity and quality made up for them.

Although the prices were a bit high, the quantity and quality made up for them. The sandwiches were the only exception, for I cannot warrant a $16 burger despite how delicious it was. The atmosphere gave off a classy vibe without it being too upscale. Bonobo American Bistro is perfect for a date night or nice dinner with friends. Families and events are welcome, as the restaurant also includes a kids menu and private dining room. Overall, I would definitely recommend coming to taste their ever changing menu. Not only are the flavors unique, but the presentation and ambiance was expensive without insanely high prices. This restaurant certainly met my high expectations and gave my family one final delicious meal to review.