Sunday, March 30, 2014

Farmhouse - Brunch

I went to Farmhouse for dinner recently and really enjoyed it.  When I saw that they also did brunch, I decided to inform my friends and we decided to try it out recently.  I arranged for a reservation for 10 but only eight made it.  We didn't all make it but it was still a large party.  and it did tell me how well they were able to handle a large party.  I arrived early and saw that we would be seated at a group of tables that had been joined together.  It was nice because the light from the front window was good and it was a good place to people watch because we were able to watch people as they entered.  I waited outside for my friends and when a few arrived, we entered and were immediately seated.  When most of us had arrived, we decided to get an order of Beer Battered Wisconsin Cheese Curds and Cinnamon Rolls for the table.  I already knew that the Cheese Curds were good, it was nice though to share them.  The batter was light, the cheese was salty and flavorful, and while they didn't squeak (because they were fried) but they did have a nice and slightly chewy texture.  For the Cinnamon Rolls, there were two served in a small dish.  They were sweet, well iced, and soft, with a good cinnamon flavor.  They were also so good that they were eaten before pictures could be taken.
For my "entree", I got a Short Rib Hash with Celery Root, Parsnips, Poached Eggs, and Herb Butter (in addition to the Short Rib and Potatoes).  The dish looked very good, with the meat and vegetables well mixed and the poached eggs placed on top.  The eggs were poached slightly hard and well seasoned.  The vegetables were cooked but maintained much of their crispness and they and the short rib were well seasoned.  While everything else was cooked well though, the short rib seamed to be a bit overcooked in places and was a little dry.  I did think, for the most part, that it tasted good, but it would have been better if it had been cooked a little shorter.  I am sure that the cooks in the kitchen can cook very well and will assume that the slightly overcooked hash was a result of trying to prepare everything for our large party.

There was also a dessert menu for brunch.  This is a little unusual, but there are other restaurants that do it and I was happy to try it out.  I went with a Hyacinth Panna Cotta with other floral notes and Shortbread Croutons and was served with Pear Sorbet.  The panna cotta was brightly colored and had a lot of floral notes.  The croutons were slightly sweet and also floral.  The tartness of the sorbet cut the sweetness of the dish and the pear flavor enhanced the flavors of the panna cotta.  It was a very good dish and I really enjoyed it.

Overall I really enjoyed brunch here.  While the hash was slightly overcooked, it was still good, and the service was very good.  Our waitress was very friendly and our service was quick.  I would definitely go again but I might come again with a smaller party. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I first heard about Alinea about 9 years ago when I was out at a volunteer event.  I happened to meet a girl who was a waitress at this new restaurant that had gotten a huge amount of preopening buzz and had just opened.   I had seen a little about it but I really wasn't familiar.  The girl said that the chef had come from a place called Trio in Evanston which I had heard of, and had heard very good things.  I had not gone there but it was on my short list.  I did eventually make it to Trio, but by the that time, there was a different chef.  It was still very good but it wasn't the chef that opened Alinea.  After talking, I decided to investigate and discovered that this was a very high end restaurant that served degustation menus featuring what became known as Molecular Gastronomy.  Coming here was going to be an event that had to be planned for.  Due to circumstances, it took me 9 years to eventually get here.  It could have been sooner but they initiated a ticketing system that made it very difficult for an odd numbered party to go (You have to buy tickets for all seats at a particular table).  I find it difficult to ask a friend to spend the amount of money necessary to go to a restaurant like this so it was difficult to make a reservation/buy tickets.  Eventually though, a friend asked me if I would be interested in going and I said of course.  The restaurant is located in a modern looking charcoal colored 2-flat in Lincoln Park.  There is no sign, but there was a guy standing outside in front of the enormous door.  He opened the door and I entered into a hallway with dim purple lighting that tapered in width as you walked into the building.  I walked back and didn't see anything so I was a little confused until an automatic sliding double door opened in one wall.  I walked through to a host's station where I was greeted.  I noticed the kitchen to my right (further into the building), a staircase in front of me, and a dining room to my right.  As I was telling them who I was, my dining partner came out of a waiting area and we were seated in the small, ground floor dining room which contained 5 two tops.  There are also three dining rooms upstairs for a total of about 60 seats.  We were seated at a corner which was great because it gave me a great view of the room and allowed me to see the action without turning my head.  I was seated against the wall at a dark banquette that had a yellow throw pillow.  Our table was dark, as were the other tables, there was a grey carpet on the floor and the walls seemed to be grey as well with several small modern art paintings for decoration.  The lighting was hidden in the walls and seemed a bit dim, but was sufficient, for the most part, for photography without a flash.  Above all of the tables was a Rhubarb Stem.  It seemed a little odd, but we assumed there was a point to it and that it would come into play later in the evening.  We started out with some water and some Rose' Champagne before our first course came out.  We were presented with a couple of what looked like a couple of goblets with the stem mostly removed.  It would roll on its base if the side was pushed.  Inside was a light, tart, and savory treat.  It consisted of Banana Puree on the bottom which was topped with some Arctic Char Roe, Ginger, and ultimately with Passionfruit Foam.  It was fresh, flavorful, and a great start.
The next course came out in large covered crocks that looked vaguely like coral and had steam coming out of them.  When the server removed the covers, we saw a lot more steam with a large scallop shell in the center of the crock.  When we opened the scallop shell, we were supposed to see that Ceviche had been prepared inside the shell.  There was so much steam in my crock though, that it was difficult to see anything until I blew it away.  The steam was from some dry ice and water under the seaweed that the scallop shell was resting on.  When I finally was able to see it though, it was an attractive visual.  There was Roe, Seaweed, Scallop, a fish of some sort, and Red Onion that I could identify.  The menu that we received at the end of the meal featured Citrus Aroma which came from the Lemon Juice in which the ceviche was prepared, and Thirteen Textures.  With the wide variety of ingredients, there were a variety of textures, but I didn't stop to count them.  I did like the intense sour flavor and the variety of ingredients used, which provided the different textures, though.
The next course visually was a relatively standard fine dining presentation although there were some surprises.  The dish featured Lobster which was fresh and perfectly cooked.  The lobster was set in Carrot Puree on opposite sides of the plate.  Around the plate, were various other accompaniments for the lobster.  At the top of the plate there was a small pile of what looked like roe but what was actually Grapefruit.  Also on the plate was Melon, Cauliflower, Earl Grey Tea, and Coconut, and in the center of the plate was a Lobster Puree.  This was very good and was a lot of fun trying the various accompaniments.
At this point, they brought out a piece of slate with some logs stacked for burning, set it in the middle of our table, and lit it.
They then brought out our next course which seemed to have nothing to do with the fire.  It was an Asian-Inspired Salad with Ebi (shrimp), Celtuce (Stem Lettuce), Sea Beans, Grapes, Wasabi, Carmalized Miso, and Yuzu.  It was a small dish, but it was very flavorful with flavors of brine, shrimp, and Wasabi, with a little sweetness from the Yuzu and Grapes.  It also had a lot of fresh crunch.
After this dish, the server came and put the fire out and removed it to a serving tray he set beside the table.  He then opened a couple of logs, which turned out to contain a slice of very marbled Wagyu Beef  and a Parsnip.  These were presented on a charred log which was used as a plate which also had a Black Trumpet Mushroom covering a Parsnip Puree, and a Kombu (Edible Kelp) Puree.  This was very savory from the beef, the mushroom, and the kelp, with the parsnip providing a moderating element.  The Wagyu was very tender and the parsnip root was very crunchy.  It was a very creative and surprising dish that was also very good.
Our next dish was a very simple palate cleanser.  Frequently, I have seen sorbets used as palate cleansers because they are simple and the tartness does the job.  This dish, while not a sorbet, did fall into the simple and tart category.  It was served in a clear glass dish and consisted of Lily Bulbs, Rambutan (an Asian fruit similar to Lychee), and a Distillation of Caviar Lime (Finger Lime cells distilled).  Palate cleansers aren't meant to be much abut I liked the sweetness and the tart of this and it would have been nice to have more.
 At this point, the hanging Rhubarb came into play.  We were brought out a very cool glass bowl containing a salad containing Celery Branches, Celery Root, and a coating of Licorice along one side of the dish.  The fresh Rhubarb was sliced over the salad.  It was light and refreshing with bitterness from the celery and licorice which was moderated by the tartness of the rhubarb.
 After the palate cleanser and the salad, it could be thought that we were starting our meal over again.  This course was an entree as would be expected, but it definitely looked like we were taking a step down into Chinese Takeout.  I like Chinese Takeout and think there is a time and a place for it, but this was obviously a joke.  While we were presented with a Chinese Takeout Container, and the food that was contained inside was in an Asian Style, it very definitely was not a step down.  The container held Sweetbreads, with Orange, Ginkgo Nut, Mustard, and Cilantro and we ate it with Chopsticks that were actually Cinnamon Sticks that were lit on one end to imbue the dish with a cinnamon aroma.
We kind of stayed on an Asian theme with the next dish but it also kind of had a woodsy, natural theme to it.  We were served a Wood Ear Mushroom with Allium, a strip of Pig Ear, Parmesan Cheese, and Black Garlic.  It was chewy, savory, and very good, and one of those dishes it would have been nice to have a full plate of.
 The next dish was interactive again and the most popular dish in the restaurants history.  It has been on the menu from the beginning or if it leaves the menu, it quickly returns.  It's a small dish in a small round bowl called Hot Potato, Cold Potato.  It consists of a Cold Potato soup in the dish, over which hangs a slice of Black Truffle, a Hot Potato, a Chive, a small cube of Butter, and a slice of Parmesan Cheese which are skewered by a pin that runs through a hole at the edge of the dish.  The trick is the pull the pin, causing everything to fall into the soup, and then quickly pour it into your mouth so you can quickly experience the temperature and textural differences.  It was a lot of fun to eat and it tasted very good too.
 With the next dish, we were given very little explanation as to what everything was but that was part of the surprise.  The main part of the dish was Duck which was served 5 ways: Confited, Pulled, Roasted, and Pate which were served with a Duck Gravy, and a Duck Liver Mousse on a Cracker.  In the center of the table was placed a platter with 60 accompaniments.  Our instruction was to when we took a piece of duck (slice it in two or three pieces), take an entire accompaniment to eat with it.  That way each of our experiences would be individual.  We were not told what was on the platter, it was our job to figure that out ourselves if we desired to know what it was other than whether it tasted good or not.  Some items like the Pecan, the Fried Onion, and the Olive were fairly easy to figure out visually, and some were pretty easy to figure out by taste like the Pea Puree, the Apricot, and the Plum, but it was a lot of fun picking and choosing.  I ran out of duck before I ran out of items to to taste, but that didn't stop my tasting and we did finish everything that was on the platter.
The duck was the last of our savory dishes and we then began with desserts.  We started with a Pistachio Dessert which started with Pistachio Gelato and Pistachios, and continued with a Strawberry Marshmallow, a Black Walnut Gellee, Mascarpone Cheese, and Lemon Curd.  It was bitter, sweet, sour, and tart, with a variety of textures.  It was very good and played back into the emphases of the variety of flavors and textures in each dish.
The second dessert reprised the idea of the interactivity of many of the dishes.  It was a pretty simple dish but it was also very interactive, tasty, and fun to eat.  We were each brought a balloon.  I was then told to remove my glasses because the balloons were a course that we would be eating.  We were told that the best way to eat it was to suck out the top and more or less let it collapse around your face as you are eating it.  The balloon and string were Sour Apple Taffy and were filled with helium.  The whimsical would use the helium to talk funny but that didn't happen with everyone.  I think that I commented that it would be fun trying to get it out of my moustache.  It wasn't that bad, but there was some picking.
 For the final course, they brought out a silicone mat that covered the table top.  Chef Grant Achatz, the Executive Chef and Partner at Alinea, then came out with a round frame and several bottles and dishes and built our dessert on the table which we were to eat off of the table.  The course was beautiful and contained Milk Chocolate, Caramel, Butterscotch, Meringue, Violet, Hazelnut, and Blueberry.  It also tasted very good and was fun to eat.

I am very glad that I went to Alinea.  It is very definitely a world-class restaurant.  The food was very good and was fun to eat, the space was clean and modern, and but for an irritation that was not completely there fault, the service was exemplary.  I can have a tendency to talk loudly when I get excited and I was told that I was disturbing another diner.  I did try to tone things down but I was told a second time.  This is not a church or a library it is a restaurant and a very good restaurant.  Because of this, people will get excited and might talk with an elevated volume.  I was not shouting, so telling me to tone down the volume was an irritation to me.  Other than that point, the service was fantastic, I liked my experience, and I would definitely recommend it to those people that might appreciate it.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


While the weekend is the hot time to go out for dinner, I actually like to hit a neighborhood restaurant during the week.  I generally don't have to worry about a reservation and it gives a smaller business some business at a time when they might not see many customers.  I went to Deleece recently for a midweek dinner.  While it is now located next to the Mercury Theatre in the Southport Corridor in Lakeview, this is a new location.  It has a long history up the road just north of Irving Park Rd.  With the new location, there is also a new chef and while they are still offering contemporary takes on American dishes, the only thing that is the same between the two restaurants is the ownership and because of that, the name.  This is neither good nor bad, but simply an observation.  As I mentioned, they are next to the Mercury Theatre.  In fact, they are so close to the Mercury Theatre that they share an entrance and you have to walk by the ticket booth to enter the restaurant.  Obviously they count on a lot of theatre traffic which is advantageous to both parties because many theatre goers enjoy dinner before the show.  The dining room is open and seats about sixty.  The bar is next to the entrance and the kitchen is carved out of the corner opposite the entrance.  Seating is at a banquette on a wall opposite the entrance, four tops through the center and along the front window wall, and a communal table which seats about twelve beside the bar.  The walls are antique brick and have several old theatre posters, except for the previously mentioned front window wall, the large mirror behind the bar, and the flat black wall dividing the kitchen from the rest of the room.  The ceiling was tin painted white and the light was from the front window, track lighting, and a couple of chandeliers over the bar.  There were tea lights at the tables as well but I really don't know if they really contributed that much light to the room.  The room was pretty dim especially for those seated away from the window.  I was seated at the banquette next to the window so I was probably in one of the brightest spots in the room.  The cocktail list at Deleece plays on the fact that the restaurant is next to a theatre and many of the cocktails have names referring to the theatre.  I had The Understudy which contained Absolut, St. Germain, Fresh Lime, and Cashew-Walnut Orgeat Syrup.  It was a mild drink that had a nutty and slightly floral taste with a tart finish from the lime.
 The appetizer list featured a lot of appetizer standards like PEI Mussels, salads, calamari, and a cheese board.  I went with something that sounded a little different.  I didn't realize that the reason that it sounded different was that if it was a little bigger, it would have fit well as an entree.  I had Mushroom Sherry Beef with Cherry Tomatoes served over Cous Cous.  It actually reminded me of a Chinese stir fry.  The meat was thinly sliced and tender, there was a prominent sherry smell and flavor and there was enough sauce to flavor the tender cous cous well.   The tomatoes were sliced in half so they didn't explode hot in your mouth when you bit into them but they did remain juicy and they added flavor to the dish.
For my entree, I went with something that I probably would not eat at home.  I ordered New Zealand Double Cut Lamb Chops with Julienned Carrots and Zucchini over Smashed Garlic Potatoes which was one of the specials.  I like lamb, but it is easy to overcook, so it isn't something that I would readily prepare myself.  The chops were cut two ribs to a chop in tomahawk style and were cooked medium rare.  The meat was tender, came off the bone pretty easily, and had a good flavor.  The zucchini and carrots were stacked next to the chops on top of the garlic mashed potatoes.  The vegetables were fresh and crisp and were a good combination with the lamb and the potatoes.  The potatoes were creamy and had a strong garlic flavor.  On their own, the garlic would have been too much but the flavors of everything else, the vegetables and the lamb, helped to moderate it.
I didn't think about the fact that entrees frequently are served with a vegetable and  thought that since I had ordered two courses that were essentially meat, I should add a vegetable to balance things out.  I ordered Brussels Sprouts with Red and Yellow Peppers and Neuske's Bacon.  The dish was very colorful and well prepared.  The brussels sprouts were halved and like the peppers, were cooked to a point that reached some softness but still remained crisp.  Neuske's Bacon is a small producer from Wisconsin that makes some very good bacon and this was very good bacon.  Bacon and Brussels Sprouts make a good pairing and while everything was prepared well, it didn't feel like a finished dish.  Everything here was good but it seemed to need something else.
By this point of the meal, I was feeling a bit full, but I did want to get dessert.  I knew that I wasn't going to get something heavy, like a chocolate cake, so I went with something that, while lighter, was still very good.  I got a Mint Chocolate Baked Alaska.  While it was basically monochrome, it was still a very nice looking dish that obviously took some time.  A Baked Alaska starts with a piece of sponge cake on the bottom, which is topped with ice cream and covered with meringue which is then browned.  The ice cream was an artisan mint chocolate chip and the meringue was formed into flowers.  It was then placed on a plate striped with chocolate sauce.  It was light and very minty, so it would probably not be a favorite of those that don't care for mint.  I like mint, so it wasn't an issue.

While everything here was not absolutely perfect, it was good.  I liked the space and the food was good.  It would be a good place to start an evening, whether the theater next door, the Music Box down the street, or another entertainment venue in the area.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Slurping Turtle

For several years, Chef Takashi Yagahashi, of Takashi fame, served noodles at his eponymous restaurant on Sunday.  This Japanese comfort food was very popular, selling out frequently, so about a year and a half ago he opened another restaurant, Slurping Turtle, which was based around noodles and ramen.  I really liked the restaurant, Takashi, but I had never been there for noodles.  Having said that, I was confident that this would be as good as the original.  I finally got around to dining here last night (Saturday).  Located in River North, it is a bit more casual than some of the hot restaurants in the area.  It looks on the outside, like any other restaurant in the area.  While there is a door at the front of the restaurant, it is blocked and is not the actual entrance.  The actual entrance is shared by a neighboring nightclub with a large modern metal door.  Entering Slurping Turtle requires a walk down a hall and entering at the rear, near the open kitchen.  As it was Saturday in a hot dining area, it was pretty crowded and there were people waiting outside the restaurant.  I left my name with the hostess and had to wait a few minutes but I was fairly quickly seated at the bar.  The bar is relatively small for the size of the restaurant but it seemed to handle orders pretty quickly.  The space itself was pretty big, high ceilinged and very unfinished.  The ceiling was unfinished hanging lights and the walls were unfinished cinder blocks (other than the tall smoked windows in the front).  There were tall photographic prints hanging on the walls.  Seating, other than the bar, consisted of a large communal table in the center of the room, some 4 top booths along the wall opposite the bar, an 8 top table in the front of the room, and some more 4 tops on the second floor which is located only at the front of the restaurant.  As I said, I was seated at the bar which featured craft and Japanese beer, sake, wine, and cocktails.  I ordered a drink called the Groundhog's Day while I was looking at the menus.  It contained Ford's Gin, Luxardo Bitters, Yellow Chartreuse, Housemade Pomegranate Grenadine, and Lime Juice.  It was tart, bitter, and refreshing with a botanical flavor and I really enjoyed it.  The food menu was divided into Hot Tapas, Cold Tapas, Bao, Sashimi, Noodles, Rice, and Sides.  This actually made things a little confusing when making choices.  There was also a much smaller prix fixe menu containing a selection of three appetizers, three entree, and a dessert chosen from the larger menu to choose from which made things much easier when trying to make choices.  I decided to go with the prix fixe menu.      
For my appetizer, I chose Hamachi Tacos which were listed as Hot Tapas on the main menu.  There were three tacos which contained Tomatoes, Cilantro, some very tender Hamachi, and Crisp Corn Shells.  The lettuce that invariably can be found on all tacos was used as a garnish on the plate, framing and separating the shells.  The tacos were crisp, juicy, and very flavorful.  I really enjoyed them and they set my palate for an enjoyable dinner.

While I could have come here and eaten rice or sushi, Slurping Noodle was made to showcase Ramen so I had to try one of the Ramen dishes here.  I got Tonkatsu, which came in a large bowl and consisted of  Thin Housemade Ramen Noodles, Silky Pork Broth, Pork Chashu (Braised Pork Belly), Bok Choy, Pickled Mustard Greens, and Braised Woodear Mushrooms.  It was also garnished with Green Onions.  This was truly comfort food.  It was rich, creamy, and salty with a lot of different textures.  The Pork Chashu was very tender and flavorful.  While it was definitely porky, it surprisingly didn't remind me of bacon which comes from pork belly and the bok choy, mustard greens, and woodear mushrooms contributed there own flavors.
While the dessert I had was not classically Japanese, none of the desserts that I have had at Takashi were really Japanese.  Having said that, they do have a Japanese flavor to them.  I had a Green Tea Cream Puff.  The cream puff was served on a fresh tea leaf.  The puff had a solid, slightly salty, and flavorful shell that was sprinkled with Green Tea Powder.  The cream inside the puff was green, as might be expected of a green tea flavored cream.  It was slightly sweet with a pronounced green tea flavor.  While it was good, the green tea powder was a little tricky and I accidently inhaled a little while I was eating it which was rather unpleasant.  It was otherwise pretty good and made for a fitting finish to my meal.  I really enjoyed my meal here and will definitely return. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

25° Restaurant

There are any number of bars and grill where you can get a burger.  Most of them aren't bad but most are also not memorable in any way.  There are a few places though that step things up and offer something more than the standard burger.  Kuma's Corner is the best of these but there are a few other places that do a good job offering there own take on gourmet burgers.  I went to 25° recently because I wanted a good burger and was looking for something new.  While technically a chain, there are four in the world, two are in Southern California and the other is in Bangkok, so I will give it a pass.  The burgers offered at the Chicago location are also slightly different than the other three.  The name 25° comes from the difference in temperature between medium rare and medium well.  The restaurant is located in River North and is actually kind of small considering its location.  It isn't too hard to find though, because it's painted black with a white 25° painted on it.  Inside, the space is dominated by the bar in the center of the room.  Seating is on all sides of the bar with tables on the outside of the room next to the red velvet walls.  There are several TV's in the room playing ESPN although I would not call it a sports bar vibe.  Lighting is from hanging lighting including two chandeliers inside the bar.  For food, the restaurant does four burgers with an option to build your own.  They also do a variety of hard floats, shakes and sodas.  What makes their burgers special besides their high quality meat is the wide variety of cheeses that are available.  They offer 15 different cheeses ranging from the standard American,  3 Cheddars, Mozzarella, and 2 Blues, to such things as Vella Toma, Grand Cru Gruyere Surchoix, and Cardona Goat Cheese.  The burgers are also put in a Brioche Bun.  For my burger, I ordered the creatively named Number One.  The Number One had (besides the ground sirloin and the Brioche Bun) Aderkasse Reserve Cheese (a soft, mild, pasteurized cow's milk blue cheese), Vella Toma Cheese (a soft slightly-ripened cow's milk cheese), Caramelized Onions, Bacon, Arugula, and Thousand Island Dressing.  This was a big, very good, and very flavorful burger with the onions, the blue cheese, the funk of the Aderkasse reserve all adding something.  The only thing I would say on the down side would be that it needed a little more bacon.  The bacon did add a textural element but the flavor was kind of lost with everything else.  It was a very good burger but with a little more bacon to bring the flavor out, it would have been much better.
 For sides, there are a lot of the bar and grill standard sides with standard and sweet potato fries, onion rings, chicken wings, and salads, but they also have spicy tuna, bacon wrapped dates, charcuterie and cheese, fritters, and tempura fried green and yellow beans.  I decided to go with the standard french fries which were well crisped and salty, but as far as taste was concerned, not that different from any other order of good french fries.  They were served in a container like a Chinese take-out box that was spilled over a long plate.  It was a good presentation that elevated the dish.

I finished things off with a Spiked Shake.  There were eight shakes on the menu that would have been good without the booze but the alcohol added something extra.  I ordered a Salty Caramel Shake which came with Makers Mark, Vanilla Ice Cream, Butterscotch, Red Hawaiian Sea Salt, and a lot of Whipped Cream.  This was very good, if a little dangerous.  It was easy to forget the alcohol.  It was sweet, salty, and buttery, and oaky, and a great finish to the meal. I enjoyed my meal and will definitely return to try more cheese and more shakes or floats.   

Saturday, March 1, 2014


With some places, you go in with certain expectations.  With any number of restaurants in River North or River West, you can expect good food and service with a really nice looking restaurant.  Neighborhood restaurants tend to be less flashy with the food a little lower end but many still do a nice job with their meal presentation.  Sometimes though you will run into a surprise.  There are restaurants in the high end areas that don't live up to expectations but there are also places in the neighborhoods that are able to step things up.  I went to Township recently because I happened to be in the area and I was hungry.  I wasn't expecting much because the place doesn't look like much and I certainly wasn't expecting to find anything to blog about.  I was familiar with the space before it became Township.  It was a very low-key Puerto Rican restaurant called Pancho's that made food that was edible but was really nothing to write home about.  The layout of the two restaurants is the same.  In fact, about the only things that changed as far as look was concerned is the sign.  Located across the street from a police station, the space is on a corner, is long and narrow and divided into two public rooms.  The front room is dominated by the bar/counter with tables by the windows.  The rear room has some tables but it is fairly open and is used as a performance space.  There is a small semi-open kitchen off of the front room but a lot of the food prep is done behind the counter.  While the place looks clean there really isn't anything to write about as far as design is concerned, the bartender was friendly though.  My surprise started when I first looked at the menu.  For a place that could easily be mistaken for a dive bar, they have a pretty extensive beer and liquor list with a pretty good selection of local stuff.  The cocktails did look pretty good but I decided to take it easy and went for a beer.  The food menu has many bar and grill standards but there was also hummus, a caprese salad, paninis, and a favorite of mine, Samosas.  Samosas are generally vegetarian pastries that originated in India and contain things such as peas, lentils, potatoes, and onions.  They are distinctly triangular and are frequently like rounded pyramids.  They are frequently served with chutney.  The Samosas served here were triangular and bulging, but not pyramidal.  They contained potatoes and peas and were served with two chutneys, a Cilantro Mint Chutney and a Tamarind Chutney.  The samosas were hot and crispy on the outside as they are supposed to be, with the inside moist, and flavorful.  I did try both chutneys and they both added a lot of flavor to the samosas but I preferred the tart and tangy tamarind chutney which was a little thicker than the cilantro mint.  The cilantro mint chutney which while flavorful, was thinner, and a little too spicy for my taste in this instance.

For my main course, I could have gone with the standard burger but the Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich with Red Onions and Mixed Greens on a Croissant piqued my interest especially considering that they had done the samosas very well.   The sandwich also came with a side which could have been french fries, salad, or soup.  I decided to stick with the theme I had been following and went with the Apple Tarragon Cole Slaw.  The croissant was delicate, flaky, and overstuffed (not that I'm complaining about that).  It was also toasted which prevented it from getting soggy and falling apart.  The chicken salad was made with some very good and flavorful chicken.  It had the standard things you might expect in a chicken salad other than chicken:  celery, onions, and mayo.  The curry also provided a nice spice.  The onions and greens were fresh and crisp, and added to the flavor of the sandwich.  The cole slaw had was a standard shredded cabbage salad with a light mayo based dressing.  It was crisp, slightly sweet, and very fresh.  The apples and tarragon made this more than the standard, but good, cole slaw.  There were a lot of thinly sliced apples that added a crisp tartness and the tarragon added some bittersweet notes.

Township's dessert list was very small, but their were a couple of things on it that really sounded good to me.  I ended asking the bartender what he thought was better and I went with a Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberries and a Fruit Coulis.  The plate (and cake) came out covered in powdered sugar.  The cake was rich, chocolaty, and very good.  The coulis (a fresh fruit sauce) blended very well with the flavor of the cake and added a little tartness.  It was a very nice finish to an unexpectedly good meal.  While the space really has nothing to draw people, the food is very good and I will be back for more some time.