“After all, you’ve been married for seven years now,” they say. “We know there’s a honeymoon period, but come on!” they cry.
I’ve heard that, at the best French restaurants, the waiters are savvy enough to look the other way when romance is in the air. So, when it came time for our next celebration, we decided to visit 5 O’Clock Bistro on Kings Way.
The restaurant gets the French bistro feel just right, with a few extra quirks. The rough brick walls are adorned on one side with framed black chalkboards where the the plates du jour are beautifully written.
Rich landscapes and moody scenes by Augusta artist Randy Lambeth, along with gilded mirrors, frame the fireplaces on either side of the room, and, in the center, there’s a striking, round hammered-metal bar lit with red glass lamps. It’s warm, cozy, beautiful – yet approachable.
It was easy to feel jealous of the lucky diners whose tables fronted the fireplaces (the opening of the front door brought in a chill wind), but our table had a perfect vantage point in the center of the room near the bar.
We’d made reservations, and our menus were placed and our cold waters poured before we sat down. White tablecloths, black napkins and soft candlelight from a single votive completed the scene. My husband and I squeezed hands in delight.
It was only Wednesday, but the restaurant was filling quickly. After a few moments to review the menu, our waiter, Brian, came over to take our drink order.
The restaurant offers a generous selection of cocktails as well as appetizers and small plates. My husband, Sean, started with a glass of Pinot Grigio; whenever I can find it, I order a Bellini, so when Brian mentioned it, my cocktail choice was easy.
Snails, or escargot, may not be everyone’s choice for a romantic dinner out, but like Bellinis, escargot are a rare menu option, so ordering them was a given.
Our drinks arrived, and the Bellini was fabulous – the sweet and delicate aroma of the peach schapps rose from the glass, and the cocktail itself was light, crisp and bubbly, with a perfect slice of peach floating in the glass.
The escargot were – surprisingly – already shelled, a nice touch. At $11, the small plate was actually fairly large with nearly 3 dozen snails bathed in a rich butter-and-thyme sauce, heavy with garlic, served on a bed of lightly toasted French bread. Brian quickly brought more bread on our request.
If you like escargot, you like them, and if you don’t, you just don’t. For the uninitiated, escargot remind me of oysters, but are much earthier, a tad chewier and garlic is a must. These were very good, but there were so many! It would have been better to order them with a larger group.
For the entrees, Sean chose the Maine lobster tail and marinated shrimp, with a lemon-caper-butter dipping sauce, risotto croquettes and snap peas.
After the heaviness of the escargot, I knew I should order a lighter meal, but I chose the grilled Australian lamb T-bones, with saffron risotto and broccolini, in a sweet mint demiglace.
The lamb was cooked perfectly, a delicate pink in the center, and so tender, and the risotto was deliciously creamy, if a little strong on the saffron.
The lobster dish, however, was just right after the hearty appetizer – the seafood was fresh and sweet, with the dipping sauce a perfect complement. The croquettes were crispy on the outside, with a cheesy, creamy center, and the snap peas tasted like spring.
We shared a dessert – chocolate, of course, with two spoons, which we used to do battle as we enjoyed every last bite of the Godiva chocolate trifle. The dessert glass was layered with crumbled brownie and bittersweet chocolate mousse, topped by rich whipped cream, a sprinkling of Heath Bar bits and a single perfect strawberry.
Our waiter even slipped us a taste of a red wine, a Portuguese blend, saying it would be a great match for the chocolate. And it was.
There were so many menu options I wish I could have tried. And this was definitely a special occasion meal, totaling around $100.
But the menu rotates often, according to our waiter. It’s a good reason to come again for another celebration, to enjoy more of 5 O’Clock Bistro’s perfectly prepared fare, warm and cozy candlelit surroundings, and the wonderful service of waiters who don’t seem to mind – or chuckle at – married couples in love.