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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: The Bistro Restaurant and Bar

Restaurant Insider

March 6, 2022

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANNE LEE

Anne Lee and The Bistro owner Matt Ernsdorf sit down for a meal at the Kauai restaurant.

ANNE LEE speaks with The Bistro owner MATT ERNSDORF

Gather Federal Credit Union is supporting the Kauai restaurant community by offering a 3% cash-back perk for Gather FCU Signature Visa card holders or double points for Platinum Visa cardholders until April 2022. One of Gather FCU’s favorite restaurants is The Bistro, a neighborhood place where everybody knows your name, located toward the North Shore side in Kilauea. I had a chance to meet with owner Matt Ernsdorf, who was born and raised on Kauai. He prepared some of the favorite dishes that they are known for and shared some insights of this popular restaurant and newest venture, Palate Wine Bar & Market.

Braised Beef ($19.90)

AL: Tell me the history of The Bistro.

ME: Prior to it becoming the Bistro, it was an Italian restaurant that I had worked at as a kid. I started in the restaurant business at age 15. There are many other places that I worked at over the years, but Casa di Amici was my first start in this industry, and now it’s come full circle as The Bistro in 1999, and then on to opening Palate in 2015.

A charcuterie board from Palate Wine Bar & Market

AL: Tell me about The Bistro’s happy hour.

ME: I wanted to create a happy hour for our local clientele. We have half-off wines by the glass and select beer. We have our mai tai that we serve over ice with pineapple juice, triple sec, orange liquor, light rum, guava juice and dark rum float topping. The John Daly’s is an Arnold Palmer with vodka. Guests can also nibble on bar food menu items that are also half-off.

Specialty drinks are on the happy hour menu

AL: Tell me about Palate Wine Bar & Market.

ME: I started the Palate concept seven years ago with the intention to bring out the taste and feel of different areas that I have traveled throughout the world, especially Europe. We strive to serve high-quality simple foods with great wines. With the market adjacent to the restaurant, it allows our guests to try different wines with the option to purchase a bottle of what they enjoyed. The menu does change very often, as well as the wines, with daily specials on flatbreads, pastas and soups. For Palate’s happy hour, we select different wines and offer a $5 wine special and a different flatbread that’s half-off from 5 to 6 p.m. daily.

AL: How did you come up with the menus, and does it change throughout the year?

ME: For The Bistro, the menu changes quarterly and is a collection of some of the dishes that we’ve done throughout the years that were our bestsellers and what’s available in different seasons. For Palate, it’s a collection of different samplings and tastings from my travels in Europe. The core menu stays the same and we change specials nightly.

AL: What are we featuring today?

ME: The Fish Rockets ($13.90) are fresh fish wrapped in lumpia that are flash fried and served with wasabi aioli. Its named the fish rocket, as we used to serve it standing up like a rocket. The Prosciutto & Goat ($12.50) is prosciutto wrapped around a cheeseball, which are cooked up on the flat top served with candied pecans, Craisins and honey drizzle. The Seafood Gumbo ($17.90), which is my personal favorite, is shrimp, fresh fish, mussels (when available) and sausage served in our homemade gumbo sauce with white rice. Braised Beef ($19.90) is seasoned beef that’s slowly roasted and braised in the oven, and served with our homemade demi-glaze mustard sauce, roasted red potatoes and asparagus.

AL: The island of Kauai is very unique, what makes Kilauea unique to you and why?

ME: I’m biased to Kilauea since I grew up here, but I love the North Shore. I like small towns with aloha-living communities, that is important for me. I have four kids, and this is the best place I know to raise children.

AL: Anything else you want to share?

ME: I want to express my gratitude for the people of Kauai for their support over the years. This has been important to me as a neighborhood restaurant providing a place for the community to enjoy on the North Shore of Kauai.

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