Story and photos by Katie Thomas EBS Contributor
As spring weather approaches, many people in southwest Montana begin thinking about growing their own food. It’s time for farmers markets, gardening, community supported agriculture, and eating more fresh food after a long winter.
The ever-growing movement to eat locally and support sustainably harvested ingredients has found a place in Gallatin Valley, and we have a new restaurant where patrons can be sure this is a priority.
Bisl – which means “a little bit” in Yiddish – is an intimate restaurant in the heart of downtown Bozeman, in the space formerly occupied by Poor Richards News and Tobacco.
Opened to the public April 14, owners Davey and Kierst Rabinowitz are proud to offer an elegant yet approachable menu featuring an excellent range of tapas-style salads, bites and entrees.
The dining experience at Bisl’s soft opening April 9 was outstanding. Patrons were offered a choice of still or sparkling water, and a complimentary glass of sparkling rosé. An appetizer of fried trout skin with local oyster mushrooms and roe in a delicious broth started things off perfectly – a good preview of the adventurous meal ahead.
Next came the chard dumplings: soft bites of soy sauce-infused cabbage wrapped in greens and topped with minced ginger, a hit with everyone. A glass of the Château Puech-Haut Prestige – chosen by owner and Chef Davey Rabinowitz to best accompany the meal – paired well with the beet salad, which may be the new favorite in town.
In addition to creamy house-made cheese and delicate white radish, this beet salad contains the unusual citrus component of dehydrated lemon slices, which must be experienced, rather than described.
The best quality of this dish, however, is the abundance of beets – most beet salads skimp on their main character. Not so at Bisl – and it’s divine.
Then came the octopus plate, a rarity for a Bozeman diner. Served on a bed of watercress, strawberries, cilantro, and dusted with crispy yeast, this sea creature was chewy yet light, with a hint of charred sweetness. The strawberries meshed with the flavors surprisingly well, and although this was enough for a feast, the meal continued.
It was a hard decision, but next came the leek entrée – a good vegetarian option, among other enticing temptations. Soft, grilled leeks and skinless potatoes were piled high and complemented by a mayonnaise sauce and leek ash, which lent the dish an earthy, dark flavor.
Just when it seemed that Bisl couldn’t be any better, out came the caramel cake, with whiskey ice cream and fresh parsley broth, topped by decadent and generous slices of chocolate ganache. Hints of maple in the whiskey ice cream informed the palate it was time for dessert as the parsley broth soaked into the cake, turning it green and reminding the diner of Bisl’s farm-to-table focus.
Davey and Kierst Rabinowitz share a passion for fine dining and locally sourced foods. They literally met in the kitchen, working in the Portland, Ore., restaurant called Departure, eventually deciding to return to Montana and open their own establishment.
“We want people to know that a little bit goes a long way – our food is smaller portions, meant to be shared,” Kierst explained. “Some of the items on our menu take days or even weeks to prepare.”
In addition to Bisl, the Rabinowitzes are working on Bisl Farm, an organic garden on their Bozeman property that they hope will supply the restaurant with much of its produce.
Bisl is a sophisticated and cozy space, and is sure to be a favorite for date nights. The petite confines – with a capacity of 42 diners – creates an atmosphere of closeness, and softly worn brick walls and a wood-framed ceiling flank the tables.
The ambiance is warm and personal, with simple, clean décor of subdued lighting and minimal paintings hung on the walls, the hum of diners over background music, and both the servers and chefs taking the time to answer diners’ questions and explain how dishes are prepared.
Reservations are recommended, as the small space is sure to fill up nightly as locals and visitors alike hear about the culinary delights available.