Fossil Fuel

The Bistro is an oasis in Sun City

Management probably doesn't get many complaints about any of the bargain-priced main courses, either. In what must be a tribute to the good old days, dinners here come complete with soup or salad -- such a wonderful tradition. The most expensive thing on the menu, in fact, is a lusty, eight-ounce filet mignon laced with brandy demi-glace on an herb crouton and partnered with potatoes and vegetables for $20.95.

I also doubt that management hears any unhappy comments about its reasonable $2 split-plate charge -- portions are massive, with a single dinner ample for two light appetites, should guests choose to share. Favorites include a sneaker-size pork chop, very lightly smoked, somewhat dry, but competently grilled under a brown sauce. In one lapse, the menu promises a Havarti cheese and pear stuffing, which is much more of an adventurous combination than the spindly bit of unidentifiable filler I find.

Lamb chops are another bistro staple, grilled to a juicy medium-rare turn as requested. I'm expecting two thick loin chops as listed on the menu, but am hardly disappointed to discover a half-rack of smoky, Frenched bones instead. An undercarriage of toasted banana bread stacked with razor-thin pecans is curiously effective; I've never seen this presentation before, but it's interesting, coupled with al dente saffron pilaf.

Sun City Grand doesn't have to be bland; food's fine at the Bistro.
Leah Fasten
Sun City Grand doesn't have to be bland; food's fine at the Bistro.

Details

Appetizers:
Langostino: $6.95
Stuffed mushrooms: $5.95

Entrees:
Sirloin loaf sandwich: $7.25
Lamb chops: $17.95
Prime rib: $17.95
Chicken breast Milanese: $13.95

Desserts:
Plantation pecan pie: $4.50
White chocolate mousse cake: $4.25

623-546-7415. Hours: Lunch, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, Monday through Saturday, 4:30 to 8 p.m.; brunch, Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

19900 Remington Drive, Sun City Grand, Surprise

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There's nothing offbeat about The Bistro's prime rib, though -- just good, predictable beef roasted and paired with Asiago mashed potatoes and cottage-cut zucchini, yellow squash and onion. But the meat is admirably lightly marbled, and studded with kicky grilled peppercorns. Even chicken breast gets special treatment, bringing two ample breasts seared in an eggy Parmesan batter, then topped with chopped tomato, red onion and olives in a full-bodied sauce of garlic, fresh basil and lemon.

The Bistro experience is so hearty and satisfying, it's a sad wonder that its desserts suffer so terribly. I doubt that these sweet shells are made in-house; if they are, they shouldn't be. Plantation pecan pie is nothing more than loose brown sugar and syrup cooked to a viscous mass, then scattered with sliced nuts. And white chocolate mousse cake resembles nothing more than pudding on a wet, dark chocolate crumb crust. Desserts sure look pretty, spiraled with whipped cream, fresh strawberries and chocolate drizzles, and that's where the pleasure ends.

The Sun City area is bustling, there's no doubt about that. It's an area that's ripe for interesting, quality-driven eateries. I've found a good prototype in The Bistro, and that's a proposition I can happily accept.

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