Chef Andy Kenser of HG Bistro in Puyallup offers the Halibut Bijoux-- broiled halibut filet topped with a cherry compote and lemon parsley oil over arugua, served with mashed potatoes. (Peter Haley / The News Tribune)
By Craig Hill
The News Tribune
The locals call it The Goose, but it seems more like the ugly duckling.
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Not because the HG Bistro is ugly, thanks to its Tuscan style décor it's anything but.
However, sitting in front of a concrete factory and next to a bowling alley, the restaurant with a gourmet menu couldn't be any more out of place.
"We do surprise people when they come in here," owner Tim Hall said. "But that's what we want to do. We want them to forget where they are and enjoy the experience."
The restaurant is steeped in more than 40 years of Hall's family history.
It started in 1968 when his grandfather purchased the concrete factory. In the early '70s, his grandmother, Marion Pattee, turned the building that's now the HG Bistro into a fireplace shop.
In the '80s, Carolyn Hall, Tim's mom, turned the fireplace shop into the Hungry Goose Eatery, named for the geese that use to flock to the field across the street. The gift and sandwich shop quickly became a local hangout.
Hall took over as manager in 1998 and when his mom passed the company to him in 2005, he decided to convert the popular shop into a restaurant.
The change has paid off. Seafood, steak, creative presentation and live music on weekends has once again made the Goose the place to be in Puyallup.
"We like to be known as affordable gourmet," said Andy Kenser, the lead chef and general manager. ". . . Good food, good service and a good wine list."
Menu highlights: Kenser says the most popular menu item is the stuffed chicken ($16). The chicken breast is packed with red pepper, feta cheese, sun-dried tomato, artichoke hearts and spinach. It is topped with a gruyere cheese sauce and served on a bed of pasta. "All of our pasta dishes are very affordable," Kenser said, "so a number of people go for them."
In the Kitchen: The HG Bistro kitchen staff includes Kenser, breakfast chef Paul Wheeler and pastry chef Nicole De La Paz. Kenser started with HG Bistro when it open in '05. However, he recently returned to the HG Bistro after leaving for a couple years to pursue a career in the wine industry. "My passion has always been in the kitchen," Kenser said.
Dining Notes: The Bistro's menu offers the opportunity for various degrees of adventure. Our party of four started at opposite ends of the spectrum with an order of traditional spinach artichoke dip ($8) and creole calamari ($9).
The warm dip came in an ample serving size, but with only four small pieces of bread to dip. Considering there were only four of us this was a little disappointing. But I was pleased to find extra bread added to the dip when I cracked open the left-over container the next afternoon.
For entrees we order the Mediterranean Linguini ($11). The linguini is prepared in white wine and butter sauce and topped with pine nuts, olives, red peppers, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes.
Our most interestingly presented (and named) dish was the Forbidden Scallops ($17). Despite the name, the waiter allowed us to place the order. A plum sauce was drizzled over the prawns, which were accentuated by a large bundle of asparagus and apple smoked bacon and cheese polenta.
The Creole salmon and prawns ($18) also was served on a bed of linguini tossed with a spicy sauce. The generous plank of salmon topping this dish made me a little jealous this wasn't my choice.
I'd opted for the seafood capellini ($19), a sampler from the sea served over angle hair pasta tossed in bordelaise sauce. The plate included tiger prawns, a pre-split king crab claw, Alaskan scallops and clams.
Dessert: As satisfying as our meals were, the highlight of the evening was dessert. The white chocolate coconut bread pudding ($6) was good, but became an instant afterthought when the Bistro Bistro S'more ($5) arrived. Hall said this is the Bistro's signature dessert.
I'm not sure what we expected but it definitely wasn't the fiery dish that almost singed the arm hair off our waiter. "An occupational hazard," Kenser said.
The coolest version of s'mores I've ever seen was a chocolate pastry topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and garnished with crushed graham crackers. The dessert was served on a cedar plank, which was placed on a plate with a flame that we had to blow out before we ate.
Brunch: The breakfast menu is a la carte with all the standards - omelets, bacon, pancakes, french toast, etc. "It has something for everybody," Kenser said. The lunch menu also is quite traditional highlighted by the Kobe bacon cheeseburger and Philly cheese steak. Nothing on the breakfast or lunch menu costs more than $10, but there is a $3 charge for splitting an order.
Variety: Kenser prepares a short list of four or more specials for each Friday and Saturday night. His goal is to never repeat a menu item. At hgbistro.com, patrons can sign up to receive the specials menu by e-mail. He says 400-500 patrons subscribe to the list.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497
THE HG BISTRO
WHERE: 1618 East Main Ave., Puyallup
HOURS: Dunner: 5-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Brunch: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Happy Hour: 4-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
PARTICULARS: HG Bistro accepts credits cards and reservations. The restaurant is wheelchair accessible. They offer takeout specials on Tuesdays - two dinners for $20.
PRICE RANGE: Entrees up to $29