Sunday, April 4, 2010
You know the old saying, you never get a second chance to make a first impression? Well, clearly the general manager of Simon Pearce in West Chester, Corey Fair, doesn't agree. I contacted Corey last week to let him know about the mishap that occurred at his restaurant on March 27th. If you don't know what I'm talking about read this entry. Corey was extremely apologetic and asked that we come back in to try the food. I'm not one to fester and stew on past misfortunes, or bad experiences, so I took him up on his offer.
When we arrived, there was a bottle of 2000 Chateau Duhart-Milon waiting, already decanted, glowing ruby red in the sunshine streaming in from giant windows that wrap around the entire restaurant. Those of you who aren't familiar with Bordeaux wines should know that there are basically four vintages that matter, 1961, 1982, 2000 and 2005. My experience at Simon Pearce was already a very different one than the last. Needless to say, I was getting excited.
Our waitress, Carol, brought over our menus and then poured our wine out of a Simon Pearce, hand blown, crystal decanter. She came back several minutes later to take our order. There was no hesitation at all. We knew exactly what we wanted when we sat down. The Bread and Butter was served a few seconds later. The Butter was slightly chilled, but still easy to spread, which I hoped was a good sign of things to come.
The starters were brought out in quick order and I noticed a smile forming on my face from cheek to cheek. My Grilled Baby Octopus with Chorizo, Pappadew Peppers and Butternut Polenta was a photographers dream dish. The colors popped off the plate and into my Nikon lens registering on my sensor with brilliant clarity. The taste was equally impressive. The spiciness of the Chorizo and Pappadew Peppers gave the dish a much needed kick and made the delicate Baby Octopus stand out. My Wife's Braised Lancaster Pork Belly with Manilla Clams, Bacon, Spring Garlic and Fava Beans was a thing of beauty. It was dainty and subtle, but the mixture of ingredients worked together, one upon the other to produce an interplay of tastes in my mouth. I loved it.
After a brief intermission and several sips of the glorious 2000 Chateau Duhart-Milon, we were brought our mains. Again, the presentation was pure art. The diffused light flooding in through the windows made it even more idyllic. Again, the tastes were subtle, but harmonious. My Grilled Grass Fed Beef Strip Loin with Braised Cheeks, Smoked Lentils, Salsify and Spinach was truly a gastronomic delight. It reminded me of the food I have eaten so often in the great Gastropubs of the U.K. This dish could have been served at The Hinds Head in Bray, or The George and Dragon in Speldhurst. The meat was so clean and fresh it could only be locally raised and grass fed.
My wife's Jamison Farm's Braised Lamb Shank with Eggplant Risotto, Fennel, Preserved Orange and Mint was also a stunning example of clean, fresh, locally raised meat. The flavors were perfectly paired together, the tart of the Orange and the hearty Lamb worked together flawlessly with the Fennel. I felt a spiritual cleansing eating this California inspired cuisine. And it's no wonder, both the head chef and general manager have strong backgrounds in Napa. And it comes out in the final product. Perhaps the only flaw was the Risotto. It was plain. Very plain. It felt more like a filler than part of the dish. If it was made more complex it might overpower the Lamb, but certainly there is a way to incorporate more complexity and flavor in the Risotto in order to make the entire dish more rounded and complete.
For dessert I chose the Mango Pot de Creme with Passion Fruit and Milk Chocolate Chantilly. A very good choice. My wife had the Banana Custard Tart with Lychee Sorbet and Golden Pineapple. Yet another delicate dish from this glass blowing factory in West Chester, PA. Their food is as intricate and beautiful as their glass. If I have learned one thing from this meal it is this; never draw a conclusion from a first impression and always complain if something isn't perfect. There are too many great restaurants now to settle on inadequate service and inferior food. Corey Fair and Simon Pearce clearly know this. And they have my business because of it.
My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography