Bianca, Bryn Mawr

24 N. Merion Ave.
Bryn Mawr, PA
(610) 519-0999

Rating: 3 silver spoons out of 5

Overview: Bianca, which recently replaced long-time Bryn Mawr restaurant Toscana, has outgrown some early service flaws and blossomed into a solid, if slightly expensive restaurant. The diverse menu is interesting and well-prepared, and the setting is quite romantic.

Food: Chef/owners Dominique and Sabine Filoni’s concept is “home cooking” or what they might prepare if friends came to dinner. Basically, this is a way to say that the menu is creative and varied.

For starters, we tried the goat cheese mousse stuffed zucchini blossoms, fresh herbs, citrus emulsion, which was very tasty — the key being that the goat cheese did not overwhelm the dish (as goat cheese can do). The shaved fennel and mushroom over baby arugula in a lemon vinaigrette was decent, but a bit too one dimensional — perhaps the vinaigrette could have offered more flavor.

I sampled a variety of entrees over two visits, and all were very nice. Perhaps my favorite was the roasted wild Alaskan halibut, potato leek puree, broccoli rabe, sauce vierge — as described it seemed quite simple — halibut with fresh herbs and oil — but in actuality it was a wonderfully paired dish, all the pieces came together brilliantly, fueled by the great puree. A special one evening, the plancha (basically a Spanish sauté pan) seared scallops with cauliflower puree and roasted cauliflower was excellent, highlighted by the uniquely fabulous puree — a creamy, succulent change of pace from your average mashed potato. Another favorite among my companions was the horseradish-crusted Maine salmon, potato roesti, leek and zucchini spaghetti, pancetta, warm citrus emulsion. The fresh horseradish crust is not spicy at all, and the spaghetti-shaped zucchini makes an excellent bed for the fish. Also nice to see was Chef Filoni improving this dish over time, replacing some underwhelming cannellini beans with the better leek and zucchini side. The grilled yellowfin tuna, julienne carrots, baby bok choy, shiitake, ginger, scallions, warm sesame soy sauce is nothing new — practically every fine restaurant offers some kind of Asian-inspired tuna dish, but this one was ably done. Although I was unable to taste it, I was disappointed by the presentation of the grilled Black Angus filet mignon, Barolo reduction, with choice of truffled yukon gold potato puree or braised asparagus — it was basically a steak on a plate with a side dish on another plate. A heralded chef like Filoni should be able to come up with a better, more integrated setup for what looked like a very nice filet. Lastly, I’m not sure why the menu also offers side dishes — they are not necessary.

For dessert, the bittersweet Valrhona chocolate mousse with fresh berries was clearly the standout — we fought over the decadent last bite. The orange scented flourless chocolate cake: honey poached orange, passion fruit coulis was not as popular — the citrus just didn’t match well with the chocolate flavors. We also tried the roasted peach tart with strawberry gelato, which was ok but not worth the calories.

Ambiance: Basically the same room as Toscana before it — a rustic, moderately charming dining area. They also offer some outdoor tables when the weather permits it. Don’t miss the awesome wine room when you step off to the restroom upstairs.

Service: When Bianca first opened, the waitstaff was clearly undertrained and misguided — mistakes abounded. Lately, however, the staff is courteous and helpful. There were a few minor oversights — some of which may hold Bianca back from true greatness, but overall it was a solid improvement.

Bar: I would love to see Bianca offer more reasonably priced wines at lower prices — espeically with all the BYOB competition they have in the area. A Smoking Loon Pinot Noir at $30 was palatable, but nothing to write home about. In addition, one of the biggest gripes we had with Bianca was the wine by the glass service — the portions were painstakingly small. Ordering wine by the glass is never cheap, but if you want to try different wines it sometimes becomes essential. Bianca’s “glasses” were more like a few sips, hardly helping the poor service that we were already experiencing.

Value: The entrees are reasonably priced — high teens and low 20s. As mentioned above, the paltry glasses of wine are way overpriced for the amount of wine that they give you. As I mentioned above, Bianca is fighting against BYOB kitchens that serve food of close to the same caliber, which hurts its overall value. Clearly Filoni is trying to be a “city dining” destination in the ‘burbs, with prices to match. He’s on his way, but not quite there yet.

# of times we’ve eaten there: 3
Reservations: Yes
Bar: Full Bar
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2 thoughts on “Bianca, Bryn Mawr”

  1. From Tom (11/05): I was with a party of 9 (family) to celebrate a 30th wedding anniversary. The table was tight and getting the waiters attention was impossible (I guess the add on gratuity of 18% did not give him much incentive). Food was OK….two chicken dishes came out of the kitchen undercooked with pink and red around the bone. One dinner did not come out at all and the person had to wait 15 minutes for it to arrive. By then everybody else was done… Needless to say a very special 30th anniversary turned into a very expensive evening with mediocre food and poor service.

    From Michael (09/05): I had made reservations at Bianca earlier in the week for a reservation Saturday nite, 7PM, for a party of 3. I was celebrating an 18th wedding Anniversary with my wife as well as my 89 year mother-in-law’s birthday. Upon a timely arrival, we were informed that the reservation was for 2, not 3. The first mistake the hostess made, an attractive woman with an accent, whom I suspect is the same person that took the reservation earlier that week, was to assume that I had given her the wrong information. Under this false assumption she insisted that there was no room at the inn. When I explained to her it was HER mistake, she
    changed her tune and proceeded to suggest setting a table in some ridiculous location of the restaurant. We left the restaurant never to return. The moral of the story is… never assume that the customer is wrong, make every attempt at an accomodation that is acceptable, and failing that, make a sincere apology and SOME token gesture to have them return another day. That’s 3 failures in 10 minutes. As a former bar and restaurant owner, that is UNACCEPTABLE.

    From John (06/05): I’ve been to the Bianca restaurant numerous times now since they recently opened and I do not have a complaint yet! I think the food is delicious, the atmosphere warm and inviting and I find the service to be friendly and upbeat. I highly recommend that anyone who has had a rough experience- if that is possible-take the second chance to visit Bianca again. And I would strongly encourage anyone who has not been there to make it top on their list for their next evening out. They will find themselves pleasantly surprised by the charm, ambiance and quality of this best-kept neighborhood secret.

    From John (02/05): I just was at Bianca for the first time. I’m definately going back. The service was very professional and the wait staff are all very friendly. I think you should re- review this place. The food is wonderful. I had the Mushroom Soup (you have to try this, its amazing, I can’t say enough good things about it) and the short ribs (easily the best in the area, wow, the go so well with the that was selected for me, so tender, Yum!!). Give Bianca another chance, its definately worth it. I’m going back this Saturday!

    From Cathy (02/05): This is a great place to dine! We loved the food and atmosphere. We will definitly return!

    From Emily (02/05): After reading the above review, I wanted to weigh in on the service at Bianca. I’ve now been to eat there three times, and each time the service has markedly improved. I’ve found the staff at Bianca to be extremely friendly, and they’re always willing to help out in whatever way they can. What might have been a little rough around the edges in the beginning has certainly matured into a fully functioning service team. This brings us to the cuisine… which is absolutely delicious – a truly outstanding menu! The boneless braised short ribs are TO DIE FOR, and the grilled tuna is also fabulous. Please don’t dismiss this restaurant because they may have had opening night jitters… this is a truly fine establishment well worthy of a visit.

    From Craig (1/05): I’m not sure when you looked at Bianca, but my experience’s have been totally different. I’ve been there 4 or 5 times. I love the place, this could be a spot to be at once a week. I really think you should give it another chance. My first time there was a little rough, but, the waitstaff has improved, the owners seem to be fixing any opening problems in short order. Since my first visit, i’ve only been hearing great things. I love the wine list, there’s some wonderful bottles there and the gentleman who assisted me one friday was very charming. Give them another chance, everyone has opening night gitters. I’ll be there!

    From Larry (1/05): My wife and I tried Bianca the other day and were very pleasently suprised! I had heard so so things about it, but they were all wrong This place in wonderful! Interesting entrees loaded with flavors that compliement one another. Save room for desert!

    From “Good Girl” (1/05): I loved Bianca. I recently visited there for my 25th Birthday and was blown away! They are so tastfully decorated that i felt like i had never left my home. Thier food was amazing, very approchable dishes. something eveyone could enjoy. thier waitstaff was wonderful, they tended to my every need. they have very exciting wine list with many things i was eager to try. i cant wait to go there again, i miss it already! i greatly reccomend this restaurant if you want something to excite and relax you all in the same evening.

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