after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

wishing Gardenia was still around …

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t says:  g and I visited Rittenhouse tavern for brunch.  After such a glowing review from Craig LaBan (who did more of a dinner review), we figured we’d try give brunch a whirl first and then go from there.  We know that in the restaurant industry, Sunday brunch isn’t exactly “the best” of what the kitchen staff can do (or even possessive of “the best kitchen staff”), but we figured that if the last restaurant in that space, Gardenia, was already “good”, then this would be even better!

August 2012, Sunday Brunch, Party of 2.  g and I walked in to an empty restaurant.  I guess their brunch service takes a little while to get going.  We sat in the b-e-a-u-tiful outdoor space and proceeded to be torn in a variety of directions by the menu.  I could have gone in a sweet-breakfast direction, I could have gone in a savory-sandwich-lunch direction, I could have gone anywhere inbetween.  Everything sounded good.  Of course, some things sounded stupid, like the $25 foie supplement to the pancakes, or the $5 fruit supplement (I mean, seriously, how much fruit could they possibly be adding to the pancakes?  a quart of strawberries?).  But alas, we rolled with the punches and, after consulting with our server, ordered/ate the following:

fluke crudo

So I forgot that Craig LaBan actually love-love-loved the crudo, which was offered to him during dinner:  “That crudo of local fluke, cured in kombu before being layered with sheer radish chips and silky dabs of lemon puree, was one of the best bites of raw fish I’ve had in months.”  We have to agree that it’s a net-positive dish, as the crudo was a surprising mix of delicate flavors that were very-nearly-perfect.  We say “very nearly” because there was a little bit of a salting issue in that some pieces had salt (i.e. all the ones I had) and some didn’t (i.e. all the ones g had).  Thus, g was actually pretty underwhelmed by the crudo (and she loves crudos) … right up until she had a salted piece, and was much happier (but still not blown away).  It’s not necessarily “the best bite of raw fish we’ve had in months”, but it shows that someone can make a very pretty, very tasty dish that shows a nice balance of delicate flavors.

For our mains, we did the turkey schnitzel and the pancakes (sans fruit/foie):

g likes chantilly cream …

I have to come right out and say it: the pancakes were a disappointment.  Flat [“as a pancake”].  A touch rubbery.  A wee-bit burned.  g suggested I send them back (and g never suggests that I send things back), however, upon tasting the single not-visibly-burned pancake (1 of 3), I found that it, too, had some of that burned-smokiness to it, so I doubted whether it could actually be done any different – and it’s not like “buckwheat” is so full of flavor that I was missing out on something.  Now I know why someone would want to pay $5 for the fruit: to add some much-needed flavor and friendliness to the pancakes … and in that moment, as I doused my pancakes in the Chantilly cream, I longed for Gardenia’s lemon-ricotta-blueberry pancakes …

The schnitzel, on the other hand wasn’t bad at all.  The sauce was delightfully punchy, and the potatoes were nicely done.  The meat was well-seasoned and as tender as turkey could be.  Was it authentic Austrian schnitzel?  No.  But that’s ok – those things tend to be very heavy, while after this one, we felt full, but not gross.  So I put this one in the “win” column … not in the “rocked my world” column, but it was just a whole lot better than the pancakes.

We do have to mention one course that we did not have but looked pretty awesome: the bread board.  There were an assortment of breakfast pastries: I believe I saw a cinnamon roll, some small muffins, maybe scone or something like that.  Looked pretty tasty!  (And definitely better-looking than my pancakes tasted!)  So try that next time and let me know how it is!

In conclusion: Sunday brunch is something that we’re not going to be re-trying at Rittenhouse Tavern (and if a friend suggests it, we’ll try to re-direct them to Parc).  We will, however, give dinner a try, as that fluke was quite delicious [for me], so we hope that LaBan was actually on to something with the rest of his review.  On the flip side, our server said, and I quote, “The schnitzel is like one of the best things that we make, including the dinner menu …”  I hope not, because it was squarely good, but not nearing greatness … I guess time will tell …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

20 August 2012 at 10:59pm

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