Bibi’z Antidote to Winter’s Doldrums

Bibi'z
Pumpkin risotto with seared tuna

The following is a guest post by Heidi Raker-Goldstein. Heidi’s blog, A Redhead with a Fork, focuses on her experiences with restaurants, cooking and more. She is founder and principal of Raker-Goldstein, a public relations & marketing firm.

With temperatures dipping toward the single digits, there’s a natural hankering for lusty, soul-satisfying fare that warms the body as much as it excites and teases the palate. I’m talking lusty braised bone-in meats, richly flavored stick-to-your ribs stews, roasted vegetables and gratins and plenty of risotto. Offset with a crispy cool salad or steaming bowl of soup, meals take on new meaning as life sustaining and ever important. And when enjoyed by a blazing fire, they are the stuff of life.

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While many restaurants offer fireplaces in bar areas and dining rooms, Bibi’z has a centrally located fireplace that brings diners a romantic glow and respite from wintery weather. Ask for the two-top adjacent to the fireplace or book a larger table nearby to enjoy the full benefits of its warming crackling, flickering flames.

Co-owner Ida Martin brings her smart sensibility to the menu, sourcing local and organic, offering gluten and vegan offerings and a coded menu that offers small and large plates, flatbread pizzas, a range of salads, proteins and deeply flavored pastas. Martin debuted several dishes expressly for winter that are worth noting, and more importantly, enjoying.

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Kale salad with apple, fontina and walnuts

There’s a new kale (a hearty green that grows through even the most frigid temps) and apple slice salad with a bright dressing to start with. Or go big with friends and tuck into one of Bibi’z grilled artisan pies made with flatbreads ($13), available gluten-free ($2 upcharge) without compromising flavor or texture. New for cooler months is the BBQ chicken variety with red onion, fontina and asiago. Lots of good flavors here melding together.

Also new is Sojuk-roasted garlic flat bread pizza, a beef peperoni and fontina medley that’s tangy and zesty. Still, my hands down favorite is the wild mushroom with fontina, shaved parm and drizzled with white truffle oil. The lahmageen is hearty and complex, topped with ground lamb and beef, parsley, onion and cilantro.

Martin introduced a seafood risotto that had rotating fruits of the sea on different visits. One night we enjoyed a shrimp and extremely tender calamari saute atop risotto with a bright herb and lemon emulsion mixed through. Sublime. On another visit, we had a pumpkin-infused risotto served with a generous portion of seared tuna alongside. A roasted Jack-a-boo pumpkin filled with the classic risotto made the presentation charming.

Bibi’z vegan Tunisian cous cous, made in a cous couserie to deliver authentic flavor and texture, is served with well-flavored zucchini, mushrooms, onion, eggplant and peppers ($15). It’s a satisfying meal for a wintry night. A lemony chicken piccata is a generously portioned entrée for protein seekers looking for a balance of hearty portion and delicate flavors. Use the warm crusty bread Bibi’z offers to sop up all that sauce.

Bibi’z is an easy place to enjoy. A friendly vibe and steady stream of regulars create a warm atmosphere.

Bibi’z Restaurant and Lounge 284 Center Avenue in Westwood, NJ Website

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