Bistro 13    
4910 Verdugo Way
$12.95 – $32.95   

Nestled at the top of Camarillo, the quiet suburb of Mission Oaks is a collection of upper middle-class houses, well-funded schools and small, quaint restaurants, which, while few in number, are about as far from the corporate chain mentality as one can get. As well as a void when it comes to Italian eateries that offer a relaxing atmosphere. One of them, Bistro 13, is a privately owned and operated Old-World-style business one would usually be delighted to go out to in lieu of the many Thai and Americana-style places that permeate the area.

Bistro 13 has long been a staple of the Camarillo dining scene, having been mentioned by local foodies as far back as 2008. The outside décor is unremarkable, but that is due to the location and is through no fault of the restaurant itself. Inside, the ambience is an interesting combination of formal and functional, with the bar area completely separated from the main dining area. The few tables available outside are Spartan in design and offer a view of the parking lot and stores right across the way.


The bistro offers mushroom risotto
with chunks of perfectly cooked
medium rare filet mignon.

Our night began with a bottle of wine, a 2009 Barbera, which was passable but kind of pricey at $43 a bottle. Unfortunately, the wine selection at Bistro 13 is limited at best, though it does offer a varied and well-stocked full bar and a few decent beers, both domestic and imported, if wine is not your beverage of choice.

The appetizer we enjoyed was baked brie and roasted garlic, which is best described as warm, rich brie cheese on toasted focaccia with roasted garlic. This was easily the best part of the meal.

After the baked brie we ordered the entrees (which I shall get to in a moment) and were offered either a soup or salad. We opted for the Caesar salad, which was tasty but standard. Then again, what can you really do to make a Caesar salad stand out? That is not the job of a non-entree salad, and it was a good precursor to the upcoming meal.

The establishment provides a fairly varied menu, and we wanted to try two different items, on opposite ends of the spectrum. We went with the bolognese lasagna, which is a generous portion of ground veal layered with ricotta cheese, spinach and mozzarella cheese and the mushroom risotto with filet mignon, a rural-tasting mushroom risotto topped with chunks of filet mignon, freshly shaved parmesan and a thin balsamic reduction. The lasagna was disappointing and while two people could easily split it, there was an unusual texture and flavor to the meat that completely distracted from the tangy sauce. The risotto was much better though there was a very heavy presence of mushroom that overpowered the taste of the tender medallions of steak. It was refreshing to have the steak delivered to us prepared medium rare as most places tend to overcook the meat.

The service here is friendly, but seemed slightly overwhelmed at times. This is a fine dining establishment, and one should expect a certain amount of a wait, especially when having a three-course meal. But the duration between the arrival of the salads and the delivery of the entrees was a tad excessive. The restaurant did not seem to be busy enough to justify this. That being said, the wait staff is incredibly courteous and, when available, go out of their way to try and provide a pleasant time.

Having had a slightly more positive experience here before (at lunch time) I can only describe the instance spent here during the meal as only slightly below par. The potential is there to have a wonderful evening at Bistro 13, as the owner is delightful, the staff very courteous, and most of the food very palatable. A little tweaking is recommended and once some improvements are made, Bistro 13 will be a great place to enjoy some authentic Italian food in a part of town that is severely lacking in that aspect.