Sips Bistro & Bar, Phoenixville, PA – A Review

by artfuldiner on January 19, 2017

in Artful Diner Review, Opinion, Pennsylvania, Review, Wining and Dining

Sips Bistro & Bar

400 Bridge Street

Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

(484) 924-9721

I first reviewed Sips Bistro & Bar in November 2012, four months after its debut in the ancient building that had previously been home to the Chester Hotel & Moon Saloon (and numerous other incarnations).

Proprietor Fabien Chaigneau’s bustling French bistro had always had a great deal to recommend it. However, in November 2014, when Chef Chris Siropaides – alumnus of Georges Perrier’s Brasserie Perrier & Georges’ – became the restaurant’s power-behind-the-stove, the cuisine really seemed to find its own unique voice. Chef Siropaides has significantly updated Sips’ menu; and yet he has still managed to maintain its quintessential French bistro style.

The restaurant’s creative fare strikes a perfect middle ground between often intimidating esoterically-oriented upscale cuisine and somewhat less than sophisticated pub grub. It is “bistro” in the very best sense of the term, utilizing pristinely fresh ingredients that are lovingly prepared and sent forth in attractive, soul-satisfying presentations.

Sips - Onion SoupTo start things off in a truly French manner, nothing quite measures up to the incomparably delicious Soupe à l’Onion Gratinée. The rich meat stock is loaded with tender onions and topped with a surfeit of delightfully gooey melted gruyère. A fabulous starter… but, be forewarned, it is very filling. Throw in a couple slices of baguette, and you have a meal in itself.

Other strictly French options, if you are so inclined, include the earthy Escargots with garlic butter; Tuna Tartare companioned by wasabi, mango, a zippy soy-ginger dressing, and rice crackers; and the Crispy Goat Cheese Beignets finished with a balsamic reduction.

Sips - Sips SaladBut if you’re in the mood for a somewhat lighter opening move, bear in mind that the salads here make first-rate preludes. You have, but of course, the ubiquitous Wedge – buttermilk blue cheese dressing, bacon, red onion, tomato, chives, & blue cheese crumbles – and the Classic Caesar. Both very good. For something a bit more interesting, however, I highly recommend the Poached Pear with candied pistachios and sherry-vanilla vinaigrette. My nod, though, goes to the Sips’ Salad (pictured), a winning combo of mixed greens, crisp wafer-thin apple slices, red onions, goat cheese, toasted almonds, and a thoroughly engaging splash of white balsamic vinaigrette.

On the other hand, when it makes a special guest appearance, the one not-to-be-missed appetizer is the Sautéed Chicken Livers. Pure velvet upon the tongue, they are set on a pillow of haricots verts, accompanied by lardons (diced, fried bacon), minced onions, and finished with an addictive red wine sauce. “Superlative” would be a gross understatement. If the Chicken Livers are unavailable, the Chicken Liver Mousse Pâté is the next best thing… and equally as decadent.

Sips - Wild King SalmonAs you move on to the entrées, things just keep getting better. When it comes to matters piscatorial, the chef has a deft and discerning hand; so if you enjoy the fruits of the sea, Sips is the place to indulge. And the Wild King Salmon should be at the very top of your dining agenda. The filet is beautifully pan seared and pillowed on braised lentils and a root vegetable medley. The pièce de résistance is a pool of sweet and savory whole grain mustard vinaigrette. An extraordinarily delicious presentation.

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Other diverse possibilities include Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with grilled asparagus, fingerling potatoes, and sauce béarnaise; and the remarkable Stew à la Provençale, a combo of the daily catch, shrimp, octopus, spinach, and fingerling potatoes all swimming in a classic tomato fumet broth. The table favorite, however, proved to be the Loup de Mer (pictured), also known as European seabass or branzino in Italian. The flesh cooks up to an attractive opaque white and is lean, finely textured, and beguiles the palate with its sweet and mild flavor. The chef pan sears the filet and presents it on a bed of gigante beans & ratatouille finished with an addictively assertive herb pistou emulsion.

Sips - Braised Short RibsLandlubbers may feast on such typically French main courses as Coq au Vin (red wine braised chicken with mushrooms, pearl onions, bacon, and pomme purée), Steak Frites, and Lamb Ragout. Recently sampled, on New Year’s Eve, as a matter of fact, was an excellent rendition of the latest menu craze, Braised Short Ribs. Tender and succulent, the meat luxuriated on a sensuous sweet potato purée surrounded by a medley of Brussels sprouts and was consummated with a rich red wine sauce.

I’m sure many people would consider the apps and entrées somewhat expensive for beautiful downtown Phoenixville. Most starters are in the double digits and a number of main courses hit or exceed the thirty dollar mark. Fortunately, if you’re prefer something a bit more casual, you can also drop in and enjoy a hefty sandwich – Croque Monsieur, Croque Madame, Grilled Reuben, Short Rib Grilled Cheese – or the first-rate Le Burger, and your pocketbook will escape relatively unscathed.

If you have an incurably sweet tooth, desserts include staples like Warm Apple Tart, Crème Brûlée and a delightfully decadent English Toffee Cake garnished with vanilla ice cream. My absolute favorite, however – unless the restaurant happens to be offering a special peanut butter/chocolate combo on a particular evening – will always be their impeccable Key Lime Tart. The color is just right (yellow NOT green), the consistency as smooth as silk, and the taste appropriately tangy… with the contrasting crunchy graham cracker crust in a strong supporting role.

Sips - High-Top Tables in BarThe restaurant’s interior has a great deal to recommend it. There are several dining areas, including a spacious enclosed outdoor patio. My favorite spot to chow down, however, remains the comfortable bar area. The highly polished antique bar – shipped over from England in 1894 – is an attractive drawing card. And its rustic charm is perfectly complemented by a series of sturdy high-top tables. This is a warm and inviting space, the perfect spot to settle in and enjoy a specialty cocktail, a glass of wine, a snack or a complete meal… and do a bit of people watching.

Bon Appétit!


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