by Damon Noisette // photo by Agnes Lopez
Even with Nordstrom being the hottest addition to the area’s mecca of retail, the St. Johns Town Center, calling to make a reservation at a restaurant in a department store still seems a bit strange. The “casually sophisticated” Bazille, located on the south end of the second floor of the store, might just be worth making a call or scanning the OpenTable app for an available time to complement a holiday shopping run. Taking its name from a 19th century French Impressionist painter, Frédéric Bazille, who was known for his en plein air (“in the open air”) works, the dining room is appropriately airy and open, with touches of wood, Edison bulbs suspended individually from the high ceiling, and comfortable seating. Most tables have a clear view of the bustling kitchen, which is separated from the dining area by a large glass wall. The menu features bistro cuisine from locally sourced and mostly organic ingredients, fitting in nicely with neighboring restaurants Seasons 52 and Moxie Kitchen & Cocktails. Offerings like French onion soup ($6.50), Niçoise salad with salmon ($14.95), and steak frites ($18.95) and au poivre ($25.50) complete a menu with accepted bistro standards.
We chose to deviate a bit and ordered a crisp calamari appetizer ($10), which came lightly fried and paired nicely with its sweet chile sauce. The
calamari was quickly overshadowed by the prosciutto and arugula salad pizza ($11), which even drew raves for its arugula pesto base and soft crust from one in our group who is normally no fan of pizza.
Seeing how quickly we were enjoying our strawberry and blackberry lemonades ($3.50), our server was kind enough to warn us that they didn’t qualify for free refills. The sweet tea, luckily, did.
My grilled shrimp and asparagus risotto ($18) was missing something I couldn’t put my finger on until I tried a bite of my companion’s roasted salmon and herbed mushroom risotto ($19). The rosemary butter sauce mingled beautifully with the risotto of the salmon entrée and added the flavor I was hoping to find in my entrée.
My disappointment was short lived thanks to our dessert choices, lemon curd crème brûlée ($6.50) and white chocolate bread pudding ($5.95). The crème brûlée is adorned with a large, gelatinous scoop of curd on the caramelized surface, adding just the right level of tartness to pair with the creamy Tahitian vanilla bean custard. Our bread pudding was served warm with a white chocolate and raspberry sauce that simply melted in our mouths and urged our group to linger and savor just a little too long past the store closing time. By the end of our meal we could see we were close to the last diners of the evening; the shoppers were long gone.