Bobby Trigg threatens to do a hat trick in our own backyard. The opening of his way-cool BT Bistro tucked into the side of the Palmer Inn (Clarion Hotel) on Route 1 South is the second venue for his triple crown. The well-known and well-loved Ferry House is still thriving on Witherspoon Street. This newest destination can only enhance his reputation.
The funky decor starts at the facade where the bold red paint catches the eye from the road. As you enter, a serene glass waterfall divides the space into the foyer and the bar entrance. A startling spray of chrome branches and tiny bright lights makes a strong impression. These lights are scattered throughout the restaurant and, coupled with small spots, throw good lighting down on the tables.
The large bar has ample seating both for a gathering of friends just for drinks or as an optional dining area. The strong use of rich, warm wood and bright chrome create a modern look that doesn’t scream hotel trendy. The extremely high-backed black wicker seats in the bar area give the perception of privacy. This sense of enveloping intimacy is carried through into the main dining area where the backs of the upholstered banquettes soar a good three feet above diners’ heads. These, coupled with a low ceiling, keep the noise down to a mercifully low level, even when the room is well populated. My friends and I were able to have an actual conversation at normal decibel levels. This single aspect of the venue is worth its weight in gold given the trend to create barn-like environments.
Trying a new restaurant with another couple means everyone can get something different and all can sample a variety of dishes. The menu is small and supplemented by nightly appetizer and entree specials. The first time I dined there, we tried the pureed bean soup ($8) and the fried calamari ($9). Both disappeared rapidly. Our main courses were a special of sea scallops served on pulled pork, a surprising combination that worked on all levels ($27); a filet mignon that could be cut with a fork, served with truffle mashed potatoes on a Portobello mushroom ($30); salmon ($25) and the rack of lamb ($32).
For people who protested that they would eat lightly, we all cleaned our plates, were in danger of licking them and then ordered a sampler plate of desserts that included a baby creme brulee and a profiterole with cinnamon ice cream ($8). All this with wine and beer was a respectable and reasonable $188 for four.
The wine list is suitably small and the choices of wines offered by the glass are ample, each hovering around the $8 mark. The menu offers a good variety of chicken, red meat, and pasta main courses ranging from $18 for pasta to specials running into the $40-plus mark for aged beef. The bar menu is also varied and the bar itself was doing as brisk a business the nights I was there as the main dining room. Trigg has trained the staff well and each server was helpful with all our questions. Service was proper with the only gaffe in the “serve from the left, remove from the right” being made by one of the managers who reached across both women at our table.
The only burning question now is when can we expect the third potential jewel in the crown to appear: the renovated Peacock Inn on Bayard Lane. A call to the Ferry House yielded only the response, “There is no set date.” If it follows the lead of its sibling venues, we will have a real dining dilemma on our hands.
— E.E. WhitingBT Bistro at the Clarion Palmer In, 3499 Route One South, 609-919-9403. Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner 5 p.m. to close.