Wister BYOB is, in a lot of ways, a perfect dinner (or brunch) spot for Old City, with its dimly lit and spare décor and forward-thinking, but classically influenced, menu.
The menu, created by chef Benjamin Moore, is small and ever-changing, allowing the restaurant to choose whatever flavors highlight the season. There’s a first-course menu, a second-course menu and a dessert selection, each with a handful of options.
The first-course menu has the more adventurous plates. The asparagus potage ($14) is a creamy and thick vegan soup with generous pieces of asparagus and morel mushrooms throughout, but the main attraction is the morel dumplings, which are plump and tasty enough by themselves. The crispy and light beer-battered morel mushrooms that top the dish add some wonderful textures and depth to the dish.
The scallops ($20) are quite amazing and unique, easily worth the trip to Wister by itself. Moore makes a crepe out of pureed scallops and fills it with a clam risotto. Two perfectly seared scallops bookend the crepe, and the dish is dressed with a citrus beurre blanc that brightens it.
The second-course menu is more traditional in scope but no less exciting. The grilled stone bass ($28) was perfectly executed with a nice range of refined flavors and textures thanks to the colorful sweet-pepper emulsion, a nicely roasted escarole with pancetta and brown butter croutons.
For dessert, we went for the most decadent item on the menu. Yeah, the pot de crème ($7) or the carrot cake ($7) might have fallen in line with the more refined and elegant arc of the meal, but damn that. We had to try the Nutty Buddy ($7), which called — no, sang — our names from the dessert menu like angels perched on a cloud with harps. Wister’s take on the treat that made everybody chase down an ice-cream truck during their youth is every bit as decadent as you would expect. Chocolate ice cream from Franklin Fountain is perched atop a crunchy chocolate-peanut ganache, melted caramel and sugared ice cream cone, creating an intoxicating swirl of different temperatures (cold, warm, crunchy, smooth) and flavors (creamy, sweet, salty) that take you back to childhood while keeping one foot firmly planted in adulthood.
Wister BYOB is definitely worth a stroll through Old City for a casually elegant and exciting meal. Just stop by the nearby wine store first and Wister will do the rest.