Bacchus is an urbane restaurant. It's long and narrow, sleekly decorated, and it has big windows that provide an interesting view of what can be a very busy street.
It's also a comfortable restaurant. A long, busy bar stretches along one side, and the rest of the space is devoted to luxuriously set tables, some on a tier, placed far apart. The menu is concise, mostly divided between "small plates" and "large plates" -- a very trendy procedure right now, but also sometimes hard to pigeonhole. "Large plates" are full entrees, obviously. But some of the "small plates" are really small (i.e., they are really appetizers, perfect to munch while drinking wine). For examples, the artisanal cheese plate (which changes daily and can offer up to 20 unusual varieties) or the Seared Scallops for $11.
Other "small plates" are more substantial -- this is beginning to sound like the story of the three bears to me. The bigger small plates are just about the right size for a meal on an evening when you're not too hungry. Bistro Steak with fries and an au poivre sauce is $15; Cassoulet is $9.
Since two sizes definitely do not fit all, we picked and chose carefully. The Beef Carpaccio ($10) was more of a first course. Extremely rare, shaved beef sprinkled with Parmesan wisps, capers and truffle oil was an intriguing mixture of flavors. And the lightly cooked sunny-side-up egg atop all this was the coup de grace.
We also ordered Seven Onion Risotto ($9), which came in a large enough portion to constitute supper. And what a risotto it was. I didn't count up the onions (leeks and scallions probably figured in there, and crisp tobacco onions were used for garnish) but they added a deep, addictive flavor. And the rice itself was cooked perfectly, managing to be both creamy and bitey at the same time.
Nine "large plates" are listed on the printed menu. Some are pretty standard, though they do have their decidedly non-run-of-the-mill accompaniments: Grilled Filet Mignon with Wild Mushroom Risotto and Garlic Rapini ($32); Balsamic Glazed Rack of Lamb with Braised Cippolini Onions and Parmesan Risotto; Atlantic Salmon with Potato Leek Crepes; and Roasted Tomato and Chive Beurre Blanc ($26).
The Free Range Chicken ($19) we did order was nicely served with creamy polenta and puttanesca sauce. And the Roast Duck Breast ($24) came along with some clever Duck Confit-stuffed Spring Rolls over a Mango and Greens Salad.
Desserts included a Banana Cake, slightly dry, all towered up napoleon-like, garnished with whipped cream and maple syrup. Also, Chocolate Custard Torte in an ever so slightly tough shortbread. Great conceptually but instead of an "A," they have to get a "B ."
A word here about wine -- this is, after all, a wine bar. The list is long and interesting. We ordered by the glass a lovely Tempranillo ($8).
The glasses were thin and beautifully shaped. The bottle was presented so that we could see the label; a taste was offered. After we approved, the wine was poured by the server with his hand correctly behind his back.
It made us wish that by-the-glass service was this exemplary in all restaurants. Could they take some lessons? This is far from the case.
3.5 stars (out of 4)
WHERE: 54 W. Chippewa St. (854-9463). Sophisticated wine bar/restaurant offering a menu featuring small and large plates. Excellent wine list, as you might expect. Credit Cards: American Express, Master Card, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Seven Onion Risotto
NEEDS WORK: Food is of very high quality.
PRICE RANGE: Small plates from $9. Large plates from $19. (Most large plates over $22.)
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
HOURS: Dinner 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 to midnight Friday and Saturday.
HEALTHY CHOICES: Atlantic Salmon, Grilled Halibut, Herb Polenta Cup.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: One shallow step.
PARKING: In the ramp or on the street.
KID APPEAL: Get a sitter.