Ni Fen Bistro
If you’ve never been to Shelby, NC you are missing one of the prettiest downtown areas a small town can offer. I was so charmed by all of the quaint restaurants along the strip frequented by the locals of the town, everything within walking distance. On this night we chose to dine with Ni Fen Bistro and had one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in a while.
Ni Fen has a very open feel, with few tables and high ceilings. I was struck by the large front door as we entered, very welcoming! We had a reservation, and were quickly seated at a spacious table.
Our waitress took the order for our drinks and was very knowledgeable about wine selections. We ordered appetizers and salads and then our lovely server brought us some of the best bread we’d ever put in our mouths. Crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside, we ate two basketfuls with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar they brought out as soon as we sat.
I ordered the Spinach Salad which was enormous! Fresh spinach leaves topped with shaved red onion, bacon, chopped hard-boiled egg, blue cheese crumbles and candied pecans and dressed with a sherry vinaigrette. It was fresh and delicious with just the right touch of richness from the cheese and eggs offset by the sharpness of the vinaigrette. A simple dish done perfectly.
Dustin ordered Pot Stickers for his first course. The homemade stickers were filled with a spicy chicken mixture speckled with ginger and green onions. The tipping point came when we dipped the little gems into the hoisin sauce. When Dustin finished his pot stickers he poured the hoisin sauce out on his plate to sop up with his bread. It was that good!
Our friends got steamed mussels, which was a special on this night. They were succulent! They were tender and seasoned so deliciously, full of parsley and garlic. And truly, the best part was the broth that collected at the bottom of the plate that we all helped sop up with that wonderful bread. The portion was enormous, too!
My entrée was a special for the night: Lobster Thermidor. Who does that?? I rarely see it on menus (at least around here) anymore, but after eating it Friday, I think it deserves a resurgence. This one was lighter than ones I’ve had before, with a light wine broth enrobing the chunks of lobster and sliced mushrooms. Again, the bread came in handy.
Dustin and Robert both got another special that night: Seared scallops with a beurre blanc sauce. It was served with mashed potatoes and haricots vert. The scallops were cooked perfectly with a light sear on the outside and creamy firm insides. And they tasted so fresh! The sauce was amazing and delicate, a perfect accompaniment. The mashed potatoes were creamy and rich, with plenty of seasoning. The haricots vert (you know, green beans) were bland, but who cares? I will say that the rest of my tablemates loved them, but you can’t trust them.
Jeri got the third special of the night: Filet Mignon. Oh, it was a perfect slab of beef with just the right amount of color. It is rare that we leave a restaurant when my friend doesn’t need a doggy bag, but on this night, she ate the whole steak. It was just that good.
After all of that delicious food, there was just no way that dessert could compete. But, to make a completed review, we all took one for the team and ordered them anyway. I had a flourless chocolate cake which ended up being more like a Torte that a cake. It was very dense and rich and I could only eat a few bites. Dustin and Jeri got Bananas Ni Fen which is bananas in a rum glaze, reminiscent of Bananas Foster, atop a scoop of ice cream in what tasted like a Phylo dough bowl. It was fresh and yummy. Robert, as usual, got the creme’ brulee. He is a creature of habit! He pronounced it delicious.
We all agreed that the chef of this restaurant uses a deft hand with the spices and has the experience to cook the food correctly and with perfect timing. It was a well-orchestrated experience. But it goes beyond that. The staff worked as a team. We were completely taken care of by our server for the night, but we were also visited by the owner and helped by other servers. We felt welcomed and spoiled. I can’t wait to get back.