Dining Out: Bistro du Midi

More great seafood comes to Boston. Only this time, it’s by way of Provence

THERE ARE FOUR basic rules for dining at Bistro du Midi: 1) Order fish. 2) Have the warm chocolate fondant for dessert. 3) Save room for the complimentary jar of nougat squares that arrives at the end of your meal. 4) Make sure everyone in your party shows up on time (they’re strict about seating groups in full). Follow all of these, and you’re likely to leave happy.

In fact, Bistro du Midi just might break what I’ll call the “Biba curse.” Over the past several years, the restaurant space in the posh Heritage on the Garden building — despite having practically the prettiest views in town — has come to be synonymous with expensive defeat. Ever since Lydia Shire’s legendary Biba, with its tandoor oven, bold design, and limitless salt and butter, closed in 2002, the Heritage hasn’t recovered. After Excelsior failed in two fully realized incarnations, I thought nothing else could succeed there.

But restaurateur Kenneth Himmel, who created Excelsior, has had too many successful restaurants to cry uncle for long. (His other Boston spots are Grill 23, Harvest, and the new Post 390.) So now he’s joined up with Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation, the force behind a string of London restaurants and two A Voce restaurants in New York, and the new partners have taken a spare-no-expense approach to creating a Provençal restaurant.

The early crowds at Bistro du Midi imply a lifting curse, and a fair bit of the food and service makes me see why. Not the décor, though — truth be told, with every redesign the space has gotten uglier. Bistro du Midi’s interior is strangely stodgy, as if following a brown and cream Mistral template with wrought-iron fixtures and rich woods. It looks like a hotelier’s idea of bland, safe taste, and the hard tiles, plaster walls, and low ceiling make for awful noise. If ambiance is what you’re after, the bar downstairs might be a better choice.

The menu reflects the restaurant’s namesake, the Midi region of France, which includes Provence and the Côte d’Azur and is known for its seafood. I was knocked out by the bistro’s fish dishes, which were so expert that I was puzzled why so many nonfish dishes were blah. The fish mastery makes sense: Executive chef Robert Sisca was formerly executive sous chef at Le Bernardin in Manhattan. He trained at Johnson & Wales and worked in New England, and now he’s back. Follow him wherever he’s cooking fish.

  • Kristin Kim

    I have dined multiple times at this restaurant since the first week it opened and I have never been disappointed. Dare I say that I like it better than Excelsior! I have introduced many friends to Bistro du Midi’s delicious food and warm atmosphere. I love the pumpkin barbajans, beet salad with a special goat cheese, and the beef daube. It’s a great place for a date, a friendly get together, or a business dinner. Having a friendly sommelier on hand is always nice too. I’ve even blogged about it! http://fleuririsee.blogspot.com/search?q=bistro+du+midi

  • Bern

    My wife and I are foodies and have enjoyed traveling in France and the US. As the reviewer indicates the fish is excellent and is reminiscent of Le Bernardin. However I found the meat dishes also excellent. The serive and wine list both strike the right balance of friendliness and professionalism. Unlike the reviewer, I found the atmoshere very like many places in Provence and quite appealing – not doubt why Mistral has a somewhat similar look. Bistro du Midi has a great view and is an excellent addition ot the Boston food scene.

  • Guess

    I’ve been to BDM several times since its opening seeing as it is less than a block from my apartment. The food is amazing. I’ve never had a bad meal. The bar/cafe area downstairs leaves something to be desired. They use to have some great bartenders but apparently they’ve moved on and in their place, bland showpieces who clearly don’t know what it takes to keep people coming back. If you want a great meal this is your place just steer clear of the bar.

  • Guess

    I’ve been to BDM several times since its opening seeing as it is less than a block from my apartment. The food is amazing. I’ve never had a bad meal. The bar/cafe area downstairs leaves something to be desired. They use to have some great bartenders but apparently they’ve moved on and in their place, bland showpieces who clearly don’t know what it takes to keep people coming back. If you want a great meal this is your place just steer clear of the bar.