DINING: Citron Bistro – A new era dawns at the Village Shops

As the new, improved Village Shops prepares for its first full season under ownership of Jay McLaughlin and wife Joan, among the things very much improved over any restaurant there before is the Citron Bistro.

For the casual dinner, the Citron Bistro seems poised to fill for Indian River Shores residents and north islanders the role a good neighborhood restaurant fills on Manhattan’s Upper East Side (and by the way, the McLaughlins own such a restaurant, which is a local favorite only steps from their Madison Avenue clothing store).

The Citron Bistro is not a white-tablecloth restaurant. As its name suggests, it has a bistro feel, with woven green place mats on butcher block tables. Under the wood beamed ceiling, the green banquettes that line two walls harmonize nicely with the wooden chairs, providing seating for about 32 inside.

On the nice fall evenings we can look forward to in a few weeks, about the same number can dine in the courtyard outside under large blue umbrellas.

On a visit last week, my husband – who had missed lunch – was ravenous and ordered the bistro’s New York strip steak ($30). I was less hungry, and asked if the steamed mussels appetizer ($12), was a large enough portion to enjoy as an entrée. Absolutely, the server said, adding that I could order a side of veggies or potatoes to accompany them if I wanted.

First, however, we each had a salad. My husband ordered the classic Caesar ($6) and I decided to try the kale salad ($7). The Caesar was a fine rendition of this dish, but the kale salad was tremendous – shaved kale, wheat berries, queso fresco, dried cherries, fresh mango and sunflower seeds, with a sherry shallot vinaigrette. Highly recommended.

My husband’s steak, marinated and pan seared, was perfectly prepared Pittsburgh style, and served with veggies and very tasty truffle parmesan fries. The huge plate of mussels – which would have been too large for an appetizer for all but the heartiest appetite, were steamed in white wine with garlic, fresh herbs, scallions and cream. The mussels were tender and delicious, and the sauce was yummy.

On a previous visit, for entrées I enjoyed the shrimp & grits ($22) – jumbo shrimp perfectly sautéed with mushrooms and spinach, and served over scrumptious creamy cheese grits – and my husband had the crab cakes ($24), pan seared, served with a mango salsa and cilantro-avocado emulsion, with rice pilaf.

For dessert on both occasions, we shared one of Citron’s house-made temptations – a blueberry bread pudding with crème anglaise ($6.50). Delicious.

The Citron Bistro offers a small but adequate selection of beers and wines, with bottles of wine mostly priced in the $30s. The only thing missing here is a liquor license that would allow diners to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail.

With an appetizer, entrée and a modest bottle of wine, a party of two should be able to dine at the Citron Bistro for about $100.

Overall, the atmosphere is clubby, the food prepared correctly, and Citron gives northern barrier island residents a good neighborhood restaurant. But come on the early side. The last seating is at 8, and the restaurant’s agreement with Indian River Shores is that everyone will be out and on their way home by 9:30.

I welcome your comments, and encourage you to send feedback to me at tina@verobeach32963.com.

The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.

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