Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tranquil Bar & Bistro

Name: Tranquil Bar/Bistro
Location: 36 Pine St., Binghamton, NY 13901
Phone: (607) 723-0495
Cuisine: French/American
Price: $75+ for two

Tranquil Bar/Bistro represents the closest thing to a French fine dining experience in the Binghamton area. If you are a "foodie" like me and have never been to Tranquil, stop whatever you're doing right now and make a reservation. I guarantee you will find something to your liking.

Tranquil is located at the intersection of Pine and Fayette Streets in Downtown Binghamton, one block away from NYSEG Stadium, home of the Binghamton Mets. The restaurant occupies the former Player's Club Bar, an establishment I'd never been to, but it's an excellent spot for a restaurant, an older brick building that has a distinctly European-cafe feel inside. The space is divided fairly evenly into a bar and a dining room. We were seated quickly upon our arrival and we each order a glass of wine to begin the experience, along with the Spicy Cream Mussels appetizer. I elected to order Chicken and Andouille Sausage Jambalaya while Megan opted for the Shrimp and Wild Mushroom Risotto, hoping for a better risotto dish than that she had a couple weeks ago at Grotta in Vestal. We were presented with a small loaf of French bread ("authentic" according to Megan, who lived in Paris for five months last year) with a delicious sweet-cream butter. This was a fine start to what would become an excellent meal.

The mussels appetizer arrived after a short wait and were completely delicious. I was stunned at how tender the mussels were and how easy they were to pluck from the shells. The spicy cream sauce did indeed have a nice kick to it. I sat there trying to figure out the ingredients in the sauce....besides the obvious cream and butter, I am guessing either crushed red pepper or cayenne was what provided the heat, but there were lots of subtle flavors. Megan normally does not care for bivalves, but she was quickly converted by these mussels and ate half the generous portion with ease and enthusiasm. Next visit, I'll try the Mussels Vermouth to see how they compare.

Our entrees were next to arrive, and both were quite good. Megan's risotto was delicious and had a perfect consistency. As I've said before, risotto is a somewhat challenging dish. If undercooked, it's practically inedible, because who wants to eat crunchy rice? If overcooked, it's a gummy, starchy mess. This was spot on, perfectly seasoned and topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese. Megan was happy with the dish and is pretty jazzed about having the leftovers for lunch today.

My jambalaya was very tasty also, though it was perhaps a little too spicy for my liking. Don't get me wrong, I love spicy food of all varieties, but when I took a bite of this jambalaya, I initially found the heat to overwhelm the other flavors in the dish. With bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, chicken, andouille sausage served over Creole rice and topped with fresh scallions, this was a fine dish with lots of nice flavors once I got beyond the heat up front. I would order it again for sure, but on my next visit, I am excited about trying something different.

Time for dessert, and there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to have the British Style Toffee Pudding, which I had on my first visit to Tranquil a while ago, and have said on a few occasions is my absolute favorite thing I've eaten in the area. Well, it was no disappointment on this occasion either. This English pudding is very much unlike what most Americans would think of as "pudding," and has more of a cake-like consistency. Whatever it is, it's completely delicious, and I highly recommend trying it out if you go to Tranquil. Megan got the chocolate pudding (also British Style) which was delicious, too. But I highly recommend the toffee.

I would be remiss in my duties if I did not mention the service at Tranquil, which I feel many people would perceive as "slow." In my opinion, there is a distinct difference between slow service and "paced" service, and I think that Tranquil tries to offer a complete dining experience rather than just trying to get people in and out the door. If you need to eat in a hurry, this place is not for you. I found that our waiter provided a nice pace to the meal and provided good recommendations.

Tranquil is the best restaurant in the City of Binghamton, if not the entire area. The atmosphere is nice and appropriate for the food that's served. The food was excellent from start to finish, with my only criticism being the slightly overly spicy jambalaya, but that is an extremely minor quibble. The Toffee Pudding dessert deserves special mention as a totally awesome dish and an excellent way to end the meal. As I said, service is not quick, but with an experience like the one offered at Tranquil, who really wants it to end, anyway?

Grade: A

Tranquil Bar/Bistro on Urbanspoon
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