after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Snackbar: Where are the Snacks?

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t says: This past weekend, we were looking for something new to try, so we went to Snackbar. We had walked by several times before, and, given Craig Laban’s great review, it was on our hitlist. Of course, by the time we got around to it, head chef John Taus had already left, so now things were in the hands of his sous. Nevertheless, we still looked forward to our meal with excitement because the place is now new to us and Philly …

5/2010, 6:30pm Saturday, Party of 2. When we walked in with reservations, the host was kind of weird. He cut me off as I was introducing myself so he could “guess” who we were. Maybe that’s his version of trying to be amicable. Then, instead of walking us to our seats, he pointed across the restaurant and said we could sit anywhere along the back row. That was also weird. First off, the restaurant was empty – why were we restricted to sitting the back? Maybe there were tons of parties coming in soon – but I fail to see why we’re limited to the back row when other two-toppers were available (we did have reservations, after all). Also, it was a beautiful day outside – why not offer us one of the three empty outdoor tables? And maybe pointing at the seats in lieu of showing us the seats would save him the much needed energy to be weird to other people, later? We have no idea …

When we were seated, we were greeted by our waitress … who was also just a little “weird”; she wasn’t as obviously weird as the first guy, rather, a far more subtle weird. As she introduced herself and told us the specials and changes to the menu, she left these fairly awkward silences for us – it was like giving us time to say “oh that sounds good” … except for not everything she said warranted an “oh that sounds good”. Then when g asked her a question about which of two drinks on the menu she felt she liked better, she was kind of caught off guard and didn’t really know what to say – the result was some wishy-washy rambling. It’s an opinion question – you can just be honest and say the first thing that comes to your head.

After placing our order, g then saw the bartender utilize a rather unorthodox shaking method that he used to mix her drink … his whole body shaked. She likened it to a very bizarre dance. The way she described it sounded like a complex partial seizure. That’s weird – but I’m not a bartender, so who am I to judge?

Later, we saw a guy with an awesome ‘stache. It reminded me of Captain Hook … except the guy who bore it was in his late 20’s or early 30’s. I don’t know if he was trying to be cool or trying to be weird. But when he came around to ask how things were throughout the meal, we came to the conclusion that despite his conversation-starting appearance, he was probably the most normal person there …

Ok, so there are a lot of weird people here … but what about the food … ?

For an appetizer, we ordered the sea scallop special – which actually did sound good. It was three large scallops atop a puree of peas (I forget which kind) topped with julienned snow peas and some other micro-salad. The scallops were sizeable. Definitely not $4-per-scallop sized, but definitely $3-per-scallop sized (i.e. in a restaurant). Unfortunately, they were a tad over-cooked. It wasn’t awful, but it was similar to the level of over-cookedness that I have often over-cooked scallops to, given my own fear of ingesting raw seafood; I’d eat it at home, but at a restaurant, I suppose I have higher expectations. The puree tasted pea-y, which was good – however g did point out that purees might be kind of a cop-out, as you don’t have to worry so much about the texture of the ingredient had you prepared it some other way. I kind of agree. The julienne of snow peas … genius. Ok, maybe that’s too extreme of a word as all that was done was some fine chopping of snow peas. But the freshness and crunch they added to the dish compensated for the over-done scallop. I guess I had never seen that before. I actually stole this tactic the very next time I made pasta – I wanted to add some zing to the dish, and it worked quite well! As for the micro-greens … I’m over them.

For the entree we got the “carbonara” pizza. It featured pancetta, cheeses, “smashed peas”, and a raw egg yolk in the middle. First off – the crust. It was a little weird. It was crispy and thin which was enjoyable. But it was very dense. I feel like they overworked the dough a bit. The smashed peas and pancetta played nicely with the cheese. And the egg yolk was a nice touch to add some of that carbonara richness to the dish. But ultimately, it was only “good” despite what I think is an awesome concept. With a little more work (i.e. a little more pancetta and peas and egg yolk, and a better crust), I think this could be a hit! Maybe even something they’re known for – “hey man, try that pizza with the raw egg on it”. Yes, it’s gimicky as hell (and I’m sure he’s not the first to think of a carbonara pizza), but everyone, including me, loves a good gimick.

It’s a good thing we didn’t order anything else because by the end of these two dishes, only I had room for dessert – and only very little room at that. So we went to Yogorino in lieu of ordering dessert at Snackbar. Neither of their two options sounded super-wicked-awesome, so I figured it’d be better to save a few bucks and stroll around in the nice weather with my dessert in hand.

Conclusion? I think g summed it up the best …

g says: You know … the food was “ok”, but for a place called “Snackbar”, I was kind of expecting more … snacks?

t says: I agree. The snack-esque things that were listed sounded fairly ordinary. And the things that did sound somewhat interesting were the entrees. While there was some potential in what we ordered, what we really wanted was to order a variety of small items, each with an interesting “shtick”.

Oh well. We came. We saw. We ate. We got weirded out.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

23 May 2010 at 12:08am

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