You know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that? --Ratatouille (Pixar, 2007)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

New Local Café Falls Flat! The Tasting Room--Ardmore, PA

I like to think that I'm pretty easy to please. I like simple food that has a developed flavor to it. I rarely leave a restaurant with little positive to say about it because most types of foods appeal to me. Yesterday, I had the privilege of trying out a brand new restaurant in my own backyard, ready to make it an everyday favorite. Let's just say I'm still looking for that everyday favorite.

"The Tasting Room" had a meager setup, just a few tables cramped into a small storefront, but was well put together. A clean appearance with a glass case holding most dishes--you order your food at the counter and see it there before it arrives to your table--and the limited menu chalked onto the rustic blackboard seen below.
Our meal started off nicely as we talked with the co-owner of the restaurant. Joe Petrucci, the brains behind the operation, explained the restaurant's unusual style. As you can see on the board above, each dish can be ordered in any of three sizes: Taste, Entreé, or Family. My dining companion and I wanted to sample a few things, so we ordered various dishes in tasting and entreé sizes. The family size is really only ideal for picking up quick and large takeout dinners--it serves 3-4 people.

The premise had me. I was enthralled with the idea that I could split up my lunch (and its cost) between different mini-courses. It seemed like such a brilliant scheme that I couldn't believe anyone hadn't come up with it before. But I had yet to taste the food...
I first tasted the sweet potato fries (above), boasted by the owner to be healthily prepared in an oven and organic (not something I'm concerned with but never a detriment to the food), a big crowd pleaser. I had never tasted worse sweet potato fries in my life. They were completely overcooked, until the oven had sapped all the delicious potato flesh out of them. The disappointment of baking french fries (as opposed to frying them) is that they simply will not taste as good. Healthier, sadly, rarely is a synonym for "more delicious." Even so, there is little excuse for overcooking them.

I also tasted the lobster bisque (above), the soup of the day. The soup base itself was just average, it didn't have much body to it but the flavor wasn't terrible. The disappointment here was that the soup had little actual lobster in it. After I scooped out two small chunks, my soup bowl might as well have been empty.
Other dishes I sampled included the brussels sprouts and the "Twenty-Something-Spice Meatloaf" (above). I think my problem with the meatloaf adequately represented my overall gripe with the restaurant: why use twenty spices when you can use two? My first bite kicked me in the pants and out the door of the restaurant.  I looked at the board, saw the explanation that the meatloaf was a mix of beef and pork, and realized that I couldn't even feel the familiar taste pork gives my tongue because the meat had been pushed aside in favor of spices.
The final dish I tasted was the "Three Cheese Mac n' Cheese" (above). This was the only dish I enjoyed. The cheeses were tasty, well selected, and well blended, and the dish wasn't killed by too many obscure herbs. Additionally, it was topped with an adequate amount of adequately toasted breadcrumbs. Sadly, I can't see myself coming back to this restaurant for one decent dish.

Finally, for those whose first time it is reading this blog, let me be clear: I hate giving bad reviews, especially to local places. I really want Ardmore to be successful and welcome new and interesting restaurants. Still, I will not recommend a restaurant if I dislike it as much as this one. I left the restaurant feeling uncomfortable: the interesting idea for a restaurant that I had been so excited about not even an hour ago had already been dumped over my head. What could have been? We will never know, unless "The Tasting Room" makes some big changes.

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1 comment:

  1. Review "Pepper's Cafe"! Delicious spot and not well known!