What Makes Bistro Food Distinctive?

Popularised in France, bistro food is now commonplace all over Europe as well as the southern hemisphere. The idea behind a bistro is that it is much less formal than a restaurant where several courses are expected to be ordered and a certain etiquette is to be observed. Dining on bistro food means enjoying high-quality dishes that are the sort of thing you would find in a top-notch cafe. In continental Europe, bistro culture mixes cafe food with a bar life. Diners are often waited on and served at their tables but will sometimes also order food directly from the bar. Drinks are dealt with separately from food orders with diners generally heading to the bar to replenish the glasses. In addition, bistros are distinctive from restaurants because of the sort of food that is on offer. What makes bistro cuisine so distinctive?

Portion Sizes

Although a vogue for minimalist 'new cuisine' swept through the Western world in the late 1980s, generally speaking portion sizes in restaurants now offer a fuller dining experience. In a bistro, portion sizes are usually not so large, especially if there is a specific menu that is served at lunchtime. For example, a steak would usually be served with chips and a small garnish rather than with a choice of several different vegetables to bulk the order out.

One Pot Cooking

Like a typical cafe dish, one pot cooking is very much the bistro style. This means that portions can be served as ordered with little work in the kitchen being required to prepare food freshly during a period of service. Stews, risottos and soups are often prepared in bulk and kept warm ready to serve when an order comes in. This way, bistros are often able to achieve economies of scale and managers feel the need for fewer members of the kitchen team to be on duty.

Hearty Food

Although some bistros do make a great deal of effort to produce a fine dining experience, the food served in them tends to be hearty, on the whole. This means that dishes on the menu are designed to be filling and offer the customer a great deal of value for money by satisfying their hunger with a relatively modest amount of food. Pasta dishes as well as those which have rice as a base ingredient, such as paella, tend to be popular on bistro menus. Where dishes are served without carbohydrates being a central part of the recipe, bread and rolls offer a simple, low-cost accompaniment. In short, bistro-cafe food is comfort food!