I went to Niko’s Bistro recently for dinner to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I had high hopes for this place as one of my friends had been several times and spoke highly of it. We went on a recent Saturday evening. One of my friends had called in advance to make reservations and was told that the time they could accommodate us, being a party of 7, was at 7:30pm.
Our evening started off fine when we arrived for our reservation. We were seated immediately but it did a while before we were given menus. Our drink orders were taken shortly thereafter and the drinks arrived in no time. Our server then took our appetizer order but not our entrée order at the same time.
It didn’t take long for our appetizers to arrive. We had ordered two appetizers to share. The first was the Melanzane Ripiene ($9), which consisted of a baked eggplant filled with tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms. It usually comes topped with parmesan and mozzarella but since one of my dining companions could not eat dairy, we told them to skip the cheese. The baked eggplant was tender and tasty and I enjoyed the tangy tomato sauce topping.
For our second appetizer, we had an order of Bruschetta ($5). The Bruschetta consisted of diced tomatoes, garlic, parsley, and extra virgin olive oil and was served with a basket of toasted baguette slices. The tomato mixture was flavourful and garlicky while the baguette slices were crispy and drizzled with olive oil.
After we were done with the appetizers, our server took a while before coming back to take our entrée orders. One of my dining companions had ordered Veal scaloppini but our server returned about ten minutes later to tell her that they were out of veal. So in the end she ended up ordering the same version of the dish except with chicken. Then we waited and waited and waited for our entrées. After a while, we all became really hungry and restless as it was already 9pm, which was 1.5 hours after we had been seated, and our entrées had not yet arrived. I had noticed several tables around us that had arrived after us, including another party of 7, had received their entrées and were practically done eating. It may have been more forgivable if this was the opening night for a restaurant and they had some kinks to work out. But Niko’s has been around for some time and it was them who told us that they could accommodate us at 7:30 when we had originally requested an earlier reservation. I would have expected that they would have managed the timing accordingly knowing how many guests they were expecting at a given time. Our entrées finally showed up around 9:10pm and by then, we were all starving.
I ordered the Spaghettini Frutti di Mare ($15). The spaghettini was topped with baby shrimps, baby clams, calamari, mussels, tiger prawns and tossed in a white wine tomato sauce. As I normally prefer my pasta on the firmer side, I thought the spaghettini was cooked a little longer than I would have preferred. The flavours in the dish were good and the seafood was cooked perfectly. To my surprise, the sauce was spicier than I had expected as I wasn’t expecting the dish to be spicy at all. The spice wasn’t really a problem for me since I can eat very spicy food. Overall, I thought this dish was good but not amazing. Considering that it was only $15, this pasta was certainly better than many of ones I’ve tried at other casual Italian restaurants in town.
Two of my friends ordered the Pollo Boscaiola ($19). This dish consisted of thin slices of chicken breast in a wild mushroom cream sauce. The entrées came with a choice of salad, pasta, or fresh vegetables. One of my friends chose the Caprese salad as her side. I had a taste of this dish and thought it was a winner. I loved the flavourful mushroom cream sauce and the tender chicken pieces. The Caprese salad was tasty as well with the creamy bocconcini cheese. The only minor issue that my friend had was that the thin chicken pieces got cold quickly since the plate couldn’t be warmed because of the salad.
Another friend ordered the Agnello alla Cacciatora ($29), which was the rack of lamb with garlic and rosemary in a balsamic vinegar red wine sauce. For his side, he chose the Caesar salad. The rack of lamb was cooked correctly to medium rare as my friend had ordered. However, the meat was not very flavourful. In fact, it tasted as if the meat had not been marinated much and was slathered with sauce on the outside instead so the flavours did not permeate through the meat. At $29, I didn’t think it was worth it as I’ve had much tastier and flavourful rack of lamb elsewhere.
Of the three mains that I tasted, my favourite by far was the Pollo Boscaiola along with the Caprese salad. I thought the Spaghettini Frutti di Mare was ok while the Agnello alla Cacciatora (Rack of Lamb) was my least favourite.
Some of the other entrées that my dining companions ordered but I did not get a chance to taste or take a picture of included the Pollo Prosciutto ($19), which consisted of thin slices of chicken breast with prosciutto and sage in a white wine sauce; the Cannelloni ($14) which were homemade crepes, stuffed with ground veal, beef, and mushrooms in a creamy tomato sauce; and the Penne Aglio e Olio ($13), which consisted of penne with garlic and mushrooms tossed in extra virgin olive oil.
Overall, everyone in our group thought the food was alright, though not spectacular. It was more the long wait for the food and the slow service that was really frustrating for us. We ended up skipping dessert as we were all tired by the time we were done our entrées and our patience had run out. Perhaps, I may go back one day with a friend or two to try some of their other dishes but I’ll make sure that it will be on a weeknight so hopefully they will be less busy. I’m certainly reluctant to go back again with any large group for dinner on a weekend given our experience. Their prices are indeed very reasonable and the atmosphere is quite nice. However, I just don’t have the patience to wait that long for my food, especially when I’m hungry.
1241 Kensington Rd NW