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.
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.