Does it feel like it’s been a year?
It’s crazy to think that it’s already been a year, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it. Time has definitely flown by. You blink and it’s over.
Do you remember much from the first few days?
I definitely do remember the few first days; it was very challenging. There was a big delay when we were first trying to get open, so we were having a few difficulties with staffing. It was a lot of on-the-job training right there, getting thrown right into the fire with a lot of people. It wasn’t the most ideal way to start, but we got through it, and it makes everyone who’s still with us even stronger.
Any surprisingly busy days outside of the usual ones?
Tuesdays tend to be pretty busy for us with a lot of after-work crowd. People are already waiting to get back out after the weekend.
How have you seen the neighborhood change over the course of the year?
It definitely seems like there’s a little bit more traffic coming through the neighborhood. Pastoral had opened up right before we did, and Tavern Road was open for a little while, and obviously Barbara Lynch was in the Fort Point area a little bit before everyone, but having Bastille Kitchen as another dining destination for the Fort Point area definitely helps strengthen it. It’s beneficial having Blue Dragon across the street; sometimes they’re busy and people come over and vice versa.
Was there a specific moment this year when you stopped and realized, Hey, this is really working?
It was probably in our second or third month when we really started to hit our stride. It’s tough no matter where you are, whether you've opened a restaurant before or not — each one has its unique challenges to it. There was definitely a learning curve with some of our team members; everybody who’s currently with us still has definitely learned a lot and gone through a lot with us, and we’re just continuing to look forward to what’s coming up next and what we can do to just improve ourselves continually, over and over again.
What was the hardest moment of the year?
I would say the actual opening was the hardest. I had started interviewing in January, and we didn’t open until July — almost August. We did our launch party, did our friends and family, and had just a few weeks in July, and then we went through four fairly busy nights.
December was our strongest month of the year. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had a large number of inquiries for private dining; we have a couple unique spaces to lend to it. Right off the bat, we were getting booked for private functions — 62 in the month of December, so averaging two a night.
But just to actually get up and going was definitely the hardest part of the year. Not to say that it’s ever the easiest thing running a restaurant, but it becomes easier as you become more established. That first year tends to be the hardest anywhere you go — new environment, new people, and a restaurant of this size in this neighborhood...I was a little bit surprised how busy we were right off the bat. It’s a lot of seats to fill, and we consistently did it throughout the last quarter of last year.
What's your favorite memory from the year?
Getting through our first New Year’s Eve was kind of a fun moment. Obviously in your first year, every single day is like your first day when you think about it, because you’ve never gone through any of those holidays before, and you don’t have any information to base off of what you did the years prior. We did a prix fixe menu, and we had a lot of reservations — about 250 guests for New Year’s Eve — and it was just nice at the end of the night to toast with a glass of champagne and welcome the new year in.
Have you made any significant changes over the course of the year, either based on feedback and reviews or just changes you always planned on making?
We did add brunch; Mother’s Day was actually the first day that we introduced it. We were trying to drive Sunday business, and being open for another meal period definitely helps drive that. We noticed an increase in covers and revenue instantly. We also got a 2 a.m. license after we opened up; that was another change that extended our hours on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
There’s no such thing as bad feedback; it’s up to you to interpret it whichever way you want, but yes, there were changes as far as when we heard comments on certain items and requests for things a certain way. We did make appropriate changes when that happened.
And as the seasons come and go, we do make seasonal menu changes; we did four already. We try to use seasonal ingredients as much as possible.
Is there an unsung hero on the menu that you're really proud of but you wish people would order more often?
To be honest with you, we have had some items in the past that didn’t necessarily sell that great, but we’ve been fortunate enough that basically everything on our menu is selling. Obviously you have items that will sell more than others, like the steak frites — that is one of our number one dishes overall. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’ve had anything that hasn’t really been selling. Our lowest-selling item for the month of July, for example, we sold 70-75 of them, and we did around 490 steak frites. When there’s ever something that basically flat-out doesn’t sell, which hasn’t really happened, we’ll look at trying to either reinvent that item or changing it to something that’s going to be a little more approachable.
What’s your absolute favorite right now?
I do love our steak frites. And we just added a porterhouse for two to the menu in one of our recent changes; it’s another great item. For a non-steak item, I would say the seared wild cod is one of my go-tos; it’s a little bit healthier, served on top of wild rice and braised cabbage with a chia seed vinaigrette. It’s an item especially for summer time; you eat it, and you don’t feel too full.
What would you say to convince someone who's never come to Bastille Kitchen before to give it a try?
It’s traditional French cuisine but with a modern twist. We try to be a little bit playful with some of the items. People do get a little intimidated sometimes if they’re not familiar with French cuisine, but I tried to make the menu approachable to many different demographics. You have some of the younger after-work crowd that comes in as well as people looking for those traditional French bistro items that you would see, staples like steak frites. And we do a braised beef wellington but, it’s made from short rib, so it’s a take on a classic.
For that first-time visitor, what you recommend as the ideal way to first experience Bastille Kitchen in terms of where to sit, what to order, etc.?
It would take a little bit of information from them to see what their likes or dislikes are, but they could start their night out grabbing a drink either in our lounge or at the bar before going to their table. And then they could start out with some of our tea-smoked mussels, our steak tartare — those are a couple good items to try. From there you could get a mid-course of the fruits de mer, which is a good sharing item; it’s a platter of oysters, clams, poached shrimp, poached lobster, and salmon tartare.
Depending on what they're feeling like for the night, for seafood, our seared scallops are very popular, and I highly recommend our steak frites. Or that short rib wellington is absolutely delicious. And what's not to love about creme brulee and some profiteroles to end off your night?
Beverage-wise, we have a great wine selection, either by the glass or by the bottle, and the Paris St. Germain is our number one selling cocktail — St. Germain, fresh basil, some other ingredients.
Any changes in the works for the coming year?
We are definitely going to change the menu come fall time. And we definitely anticipate that Sunday brunch will take off a lot more than it has already. We had a great time of the year to start it so that we were able to perfect it and get all the kinks out. We look forward to seeing what year two brings to us. We were fortunate enough that year one was very busy right off the bat, and we anticipate that we’ll hopefully be even busier this next year.