I was skeptical of Prima Bistro after encountering a cassoulet made by them which sported a thick tuft of breadcrumbs as bushy as the pubes on a 197’s centerfold. Besides, they’re located in the charming village of Langley, WA on Whidbey Island. Plus, they’ve got a killer second story deck and a pristine water view. So I assumed that it would be like many other Oceanside tourist traps: overpriced and bland shitholes which serve yellowing iceberg lettuce and anemic wedges of mealy tomato doused in a pint of Thousand Island Dressing and they somehow also discovered a way to put slices of pork tenderloin on top of fettuccine alfredo with a straight face and everything is $23. But did they fulfill my dire prophecy? READ ON IF YOU DARE!
We started with the chickpea “fries” ($6.50), which, since the "fries" actually do seem to be fried, was the worst abuse of quotation marks since I saw a sign asking people to “Please ring the ‘doorbell’” but it was in fact an ACTUAL doorbell, and not a midget’s nutsack painted to resemble a doorbell in the hopes of tricking you into comically molesting a midget. Six big foamy yellow planks of what I can only assume is a slurry of deep fried chickpea flour were burnished a crusty bronze outside, with a yielding and almost cheese-like interior. These had the consistency of the yellow foam that mascot costumes are typically made of, but unlike the Capitol City Goofball or the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, Prima Bistro’s Fightin’ “Fries” at least come with a ramekin of curry mayonnaise.
Crispy pork belly ($6.50) was tasty as fuck. This was a typically perfect example of pork belly, which is used to make bacon, which you might find in a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich: it had been confited, with a crunchy and salty fried exterior, and a moist interior so unguent, so tender, so delicate, it was as if the pig never did a situp in its life, which I suppose it probably never has, because pigs are lazy as fuck. The belly came with a neat quenelle of a sweet and tart apricot mostarda, which was good enough to spread upon a toasted slice of brioche and had no business playing second fiddle to a fried square of disemboweled pig.
Salade nicoise ($14.50) was an excellent template of the classic French salad. A big pile of spinach leaves were doused in a gleaming pearlescent vinaigrette, along with some boiled fingerling potatoes, a couple olives, thinly sliced apples, and a boiled egg, halved lengthwise. Slices of seared ahi tuna completed the picture. The vinagigrette was tart without being overly zingy: your mom could learn a thing or two about the way this vinaigrette comports itself. The egg was expertly boiled, with a perfect sunny orb of yolk completely devoid of the green shitty ring that indicates a cook who doesn’t even know how to boil a fucking egg.
The worst thing about this nicoise salad was these weird diamond-shaped slices of pecorino blanketed over the top of the salad, looking like cheesy Superman logos. These were worse than unnecessary because pecorino is not a proper ingredient for a true salade nisoise. The second worse thing about this salad was that they didn’t include any haricots verts. A third grader may disagree with me but freshly picked, lightly steamed green beans are tasty as fuck, and I’ll point in the face, yelling at any third grader who disputes my claim.
Salade lyonnaise ($12.50) was, like the salade nicoise, similarly well-behaved. A bushel of frisee, wilted under a warm vinaigrette like Tim Tebow under the pressure of professional football, was interspersed with crunchy lardons hidden cleverly within its midst, and topped with a poached egg. This salad worked well, with a dressing that mixed adequately with the soft yolk drooling from where I pierced the egg’s side, but I didn’t like how the frisee was so wilted it was almost cooked. I prefer frisee to be crisp and bitter as the repartee between two aging vaudeville comedy partners. Instead the frisee was as limp as my dick when I see your mom.
But the best thing was the charcuterie plate. A small one was a mere $8.50 and included: bresaola, boar and pistachio salami, fennel and coriander salami, smoked chorizo, pork belly rilettes, and lonza. The bresaola, air-dried beef bottom round for those of you ignorant of the charcutier’s art, was typically beefy and sweet, shaved into deep crimson curls, and not too salty. The boar salami, by contrast, was salty and greasy and had the rich priapic musky swagger of a rutting boar. The fennel and coriander salami was fairly standard and modest, but it seemed forgettable amid the other strong personalities on this charcuterie plate.
The chorizo was unapologetically spicy. The rilettes were delicately spiced, as silken and greasy as that first delicious thrust, and I gleefully smeared the rilettes all over the (SPOILER ALERT) bread which Prima Bistro graciously provides to diners FOR FREE. Finally, the lonza was smoky and salty like some old lobsterman guy wearing a sweater and smoking a pipe. Alongside the meat was an unnecessarily spicy pickle. This charcuterie plate was fucking legit, and it hallmarks Prima Bistro’s dedication to technique.
Charcuterie is a difficult skill to master, so I'm impressed that they cure the charcuterie in-house at Prima Bistro. Especially challenging are dry-cured sausages such as salami. I know because I tried it and it ended up looking, and smelling, like a used condom filled with decaying roadkill. But all of the meats Prima put together on this very affordable plate were impeccably prepared.
We didn’t get dessert from Prima; instead I went around the corner to the P S Suisse bakery and dropped $2.50 on a spitzbuebe, a special Swiss raspberry sandwich cookie that sounds like something I like to do to your mom.
I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by Prima Bistro’s deft avoidance of being a completely shitty tourist trap. In addition to what is an obvious working knowledge of classic French technique, Prima also boasts a solid wine list, reasonable prices, and a lively small-town atmosphere. A friendly small town, that is, and not one that puts a boot on your car and plants heroin in your pocket if you voted for President Obama. If you’re ever in Langley for some reason, by all means go.
Rating: 8 small town stereotypes out of 10
Prima Bistro is located at 201 ½ 1st St, Langley, WA
For reservations call 360-221-4060