Gypsy Apple Bistro
65 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls, 413-625-6345
Hours: Dinner Tue.-Sun. 5-9 p.m.; brunch Thu.-Sun. 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Knowing how difficult it can be to get a table on the weekend in Shelburne Falls, it was lucky I decided to visit the town’s new star attraction, Gypsy Apple Bistro, on the night of the Iron Bridge Dinner. While 300 diners supped together under the stars at one long table spanning the length of the bridge, I had the thrill of discovering this lovely little gem of a restaurant without having to fend off the usual throngs.
It hasn’t taken long for Gypsy Apple to develop a following since opening in April. Its warm, intimate dining room is one of the most romantic around, with deep garnet walls accented by a gilded mirror and blond wood banquette, and linen-draped tables each set with a long, tapered candle and a single red rose. Since there are just 20 or so seats, plus a few more out in the garden, it’s important to call ahead.
The mood is at once elegant and hip, thanks to the young trio who not only own the restaurant but also prepare and serve the creative French-inspired cuisine. While sipping wine and savoring wafts of the meal to come, the tenor voice of one of the chefs also floats from the kitchen, playfully singing along to the classic Duke Ellington arrangements on the sound system.
Briny olive tapenade and warm mini-Ciabatta rolls are a nice complimentary snack while you contemplate the concise menu, which is nonetheless full of tempting choices. It proved simplest to decide by taking the lead from my neighbors, whose beautiful plates I couldn’t help ogling as they sailed past.
A heaping bowl of small, succulent mussels in an aromatic saffron broth was impossible to resist. Best of all, it felt perfectly appropriate in this relaxed, cozy setting to slurp up each plump mollusk with its soup using a shell for a spoon. A slice of delicate chicken terrine was studded with vivid jewels of carrot, squash and sweet pepper and gracefully surrounded by dollops of whole grain mustard vinaigrette interspersed with multicolor cherry tomatoes. For me, this type of dish captures French cuisine at its best: both rustic and refined.
All entrées come with a mixed green salad tossed with the house mustard dressing and wedges of juicy heirloom tomatoes. It’s still surprising to me how rare it is to be served real tomatoes in a restaurant, even at the peak of the season, and this simple gesture was greatly appreciated.
I didn’t see one table all evening that didn’t order the scallops, since each stunning plate that emerged from the kitchen inspired the next order. Five pan-seared scallops are lined up on a rectangular platter over a light lemon-dill risotto flecked with slivers of house-smoked salmon. Flatiron steak with green beans and truffled mashed potatoes is as simple as it sounds, but all the more satisfying for just that reason.
Desserts should not be overlooked here, as they are all house-made with skill and care. The crème caramel is a textbook example of utterly smooth custard in a liquid pool of bittersweet caramel. Even the garnish of luscious local peach slices demands respect. An Alsatian apple tart is impressive for its countless layers of thinly shaved apples baked with cream in a crisp, buttery crust.
Gypsy Apple Bistro is the kind of restaurant I wish was around the corner from my house. It’s a lovely drive to Shelburne Falls, though, and I’m already plotting another trip out for brunch.