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St. Paul Shift

Side Dishes: Burlington's 156 Bistro gets a new chef - and identity


Published August 3, 2010 at 4:34 p.m.

156 Bistro opened last year as a sports bar with classy touches. While televisions still offer plenty of games via satellite, the emphasis has changed to serving noteworthy food and making the restaurant “a social meeting place,” says new chef Dave Fonte, who joined the 156 team three weeks ago and premiered his fresh take on the menu last weekend.

Readers may remember Fonte, previously chef at the Basin Harbor Club, as one of the founders of Church & Main on Main Street. Why did he leave a restaurant that has yet to open? He says he was more excited about the prospect of remaking an existing business than starting a new one. “I was looking for a new opportunity to come in somewhere and turn things around,” he says.

One of his biggest improvements at 156 Bistro is the weekend raw bar. With the help of a family friend in Rhode Island, Fonte gets an array of fresh shellfish on diners’ plates, including oysters, shrimp, lobster and littleneck clams. It’s available by the piece for a quick snack or a meal.

Looking for something hotter? The spot’s popular truffle fries remain on the menu, alongside new additions such as duck confit spring rolls, and pulled-pork nachos with corn-and-black-bean salsa and smoked poblano cream sauce. Main dishes are now divided into two categories: “comfort” — including a Philly cheese steak and scallop-topped pizza — and more upscale “entrées.” Those choices include lobster risotto and halibut en papillote with lumped crab. “My goal is making this into one of the premier spots in Burlington,” says Fonte.