Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Dawson

Restaurant Week is one of my favorite times of the year.  It gives me a chance to try a bunch of restaurants that might be on my list to try but have not yet made it there and I get to try them at a discount if I decide to go with the Prix Fixe menu they are offering for Restaurant Week.  One of the places I chose this year was The Dawson, the newest restaurant from the team behind The Gage and Henri partnered with a restauranteur behind several notable suburban restaurants.  The Dawson is located at the border of Westtown and River West at a space formerly occupied by the Dawson Brothers, one of the most successful fireplace mantle companies in the United States at the turn of the 20th Century.  Most recently, it was occupied by the breakfast place, Orange.  The space has been completely rebuilt since changing from Orange to return it to a vintage Prairie-Style look.  The front has a darkened window wall with divided windows and a very large wooden door which opens into an entry way with the host's station, that leads to the main floor dining area, or the upstairs lounge.  As I was coming to dine, I was led into the main dining area which was open and had a rectangular bar in the center of the room, and seated at a table in the corner looking out on the patio that is used during more temperate times.  Looking over both menus, the main menu and the Restaurant Week Prix Fixe menu, I saw that there really wasn't much difference in the prices between the rebular menu and the prix fixe so I decided to go with the entire menu.  I started with the Maryland Crab Cakes with Golden Pea Shoots, Cucumbers, Peanuts, and Mustard.  This was very good.  The crab cakes were slightly crisp on the outside and very flavorful with a slight cayenne pepper flavor to go with the crab.  The cucumbers were thinly sliced, crisp,  and tasted as if they were slightly pickled.  The pea shoots were fresh, crisp, and slightly sweet, and provided a vegetal flavor to the dish.  The mustard and peanuts added a little crunch and some tartness for the finish.

I continued with the seafood theme with my entree and ordered the Seared Maine Scallops with Braised Beef Cheek, Cannellini Beans, Blood Oranges, and Potato Chips with Trumpet Mushrooms and Purple Cabbage as Garnishes.  This was a beautiful and very colorful presentation with every element bringing something visually to it.  Unfortunately, while some of the items contributed visually, the dish may have been better had they been removed.  The main items in the dish, the scallops and the beef cheek, were very good and very well prepared.  They were both tender and flavorful.  The blood orange slices and the cannellini beans added both color and flavor, and the little potato chips on the top of each scallop provided a salty and crunchy surprise.  The mushrooms and the cabbage though, while they looked good were very dry.  They were fragrant but it was like they had been dehydrated and someone forgot to rehydrate them. 

For my dessert, I obviously did not go with seafood.  I went classic (and a little decadent) with a Chocolate Cake with Cremeux, Pickled Blueberries, and Amaretto Cream.  A Chocolate Brittle framed the  chocolate cremeux (a very creamy item similar to a mousse).  The cake was very rich and with a dark chocolate flavor.  The cremeux had a rich flavor but was creamy and light.  The brittle was light and crunchy.  The blueberries were juicy and were lightly pickled and tied the cake to the amaretto cream.  Everything tasted good individually and together.

With the dessert, I had a glass of Fernet Branca, an Italian bitter, as a digestif.  Having had it before, I knew that it was thick and bitter and not something that you would slam.  While I happen to like it in small doses, one of my friends has suggested that it has the texture of cough syrup and tastes somewhere between Listerine and Scope.  It is definitely not for everybody's palate.  Despite, or perhaps because of its bitterness, it actually went well with the chocolate cake.

I liked my dinner here.  The space is beautiful although loud, the service was very good, there is a very good beer and cocktail list, and despite the strike with the scallop garnishes, the food was also very good.  There is more to try here so I would be happy to return.   

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