Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Tucson restaurant news: Ai Bistro at Art Institute

Slow Roasted Sockeye Salmon Filet
Image by Sifu Renka via Flickr

Today I went to lunch with friends Christina and Jodi. I have been wanting to try Ai Bistro at the Art Institute of Tucson.

The Bistro is only open Tuesday through Thursday and reservations are required. Every week the menu changes so don’t get attached to anything.

We were sitting in the middle of the room where we could look into a vast kitchen and watch students in chef whites work. As for the décor, I cannot recall, I would say generic.

Diners can either have the 3-course tasting menu for $10.95 or the 2-course chef’s menu for $7.95. Amazingly, we all opted for the same items on the 3-course tasting menu.

The first course was a choice of shrimp and lemongrass fritters or salad or soup. We chose the fritters. I wouldn’t call them fritters; they were more like nuggets but still flavorful nuggets anointed with benign curry-ish sauces. The flavors were subtle not popping.

Next we all ordered the salmon filet with wild rice and vegetables. Once again the flavors were good but subtle as if not to offend.

I must talk about the bread; it’s texture reminded me of my grandmother’s challah which never resembled the mass produced challah of today.  Except this bread which is made on the premises was sweeter and came with flavored butter.

The same dessert was served to all of us, no choices. There were three tiny pieces of cakes on a plate with raspberry coulis and tinier rosettes of whipped cream. Oddly, Jodi who never eats dessert, ate hers. Christina did not because she is from the school of dessert-must-wow me and this does not. I ate mine – the tiny cheesecake and chocolate toffee cake were good, the multi-layered yellow cake bite less so.  Coffee was mellow.

The servers are all aspiring chefs or restaurateurs. They take turns being in the kitchen and in front of the house. Our server was a bit timid at first but then seemed more relaxed. After he saw the tip we gave him, he asked us to come back tomorrow.

We sat there for awhile catching up and laughing about David Sedaris’ stories and psychopaths we have known.

I’m sure I’ll return again to try another menu.

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