Bistro Poplar is an unexpected pleasure in an unlikely place. The small downtown of Cambridge, Maryland is not where you'd expect to find expertly prepared French/modern American food, cooked by a chef who trained with food icon Thomas Keller, founder of Napa Valley's famed French Laundry. Trip Advisor's average of 4.5 stars is apt-- this review rounds up to 5.
We heartily enjoyed our dinner at Bistro Poplar. The Bibb salad with blue cheese and tarragon dressing was easily the best dish we tasted-- the lettuce was perfectly fresh, beautifully set off by the tarragon dressing and the sharpness of the cheese. The salad was more than the sum of its parts, sublime in its simplicity. Escargots in puff pastry were extremely good. Our entrees were roast, stuffed quail (excellent) and braised short ribs enhanced by lardons (our gigantic portion-- and we managed to eat every delicious bite-- was a bold tour de force that can be described as comfort food at its best.)
Our wine was a delicious Bordeaux, priced enticingly at $8 per glass and well worth it. For dessert, we splurged on homemade beer ice cream-- the bitterness of the hops contrasted interestingly with the the deepness of the cream. Beer ice cream is likely an acquired taste (not sure that we'd buy a gallon), but great fun to sample as a smaller quantity. Another splurge and a most worthwhile one: the outstanding calvados.
Bistro Poplar is owned by its chef, Ian Campbell, and his family. As detailed above, Chef Campbell's cooking is tremendously rewarding and Bistro Poplar delivers outstanding value to the diner. Service is professional and attentive. If our choices were indicative, the wines and spirits are excellent and well worth exploring. The setting is comparatively simple, yet welcoming.
Bistro Poplar is an exemplary regional restaurant, a small gem in a small city. Definitely worth exploring.
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