DINNER 236: Thursday, August 24, 2006
This evening Wendy & I attended a special preview event at MESH RESTAURANT, the newÂ project by local ‘Culinary Visionaries’ Paul & Pam Sturkey. The new space is located in a strip mall (!) in West Chester, just a few minutes from our house, and close to Jag’s Restaurant where we ate recently. We were invited this evening by M-Brett (the “M” is silent, and is not, in fact, part of his name — it’s a long-standing in-joke between Brett and me (he refers to me as “G-Drew”)), our friend from the Iron Horse Inn who is now a manager at MESH.
We arrived at the restaurant around 7:40 and were warmly greeted and given our evaluation forms (since it’s a preview, they’re gathering data). When weÂ poked our heads intoÂ the bar, we found our friends Bruce, Trish, and Brian thereÂ sponging free food and drinks off Paul, another friend who is a bartender there.
After spending a moment or two at the bar, we were shown to our table. Our drinks arrived and we were taken on a tour of the large restaurant by M-Brett. The space, which is new construction, has a giant square bar featuring an enormous black wall that looks like a chalkboard to the left when you enter. Moving right, you enter the large open dining room and immediately see the 1500+ bottle glass-encased wine cellar. It’s stunning, and a focal point in the restaurant. In front of the wine cellar is a communal table. The concept behind this table is that guests without reservations can be seated immediately at this table along with other walk-in guests. Moving further away from the main entrance, there is a small private dining room on the right, several booths and tables (we sat at a table in this area) all leading back to two banquet rooms (labelled “Sweet” and “Savory“) that can be opened into one large roomÂ to accomodateÂ big parties.
The decor of the restaurant is relentlessly modern and appealing, though there are a few small missteps — the hardwood floor in the main dining room is slippery for women in heels, there is an Andy Worhol-esque painting of Paul & Pam that’s positively frightening, and the artwork in the restrooms is inappropriate and inconsistent with the upscale feel of the place. We identified these items to M-Brett at his request, and we were relieved to know that he was already aware of all of them.
After our tour, we settled in and began the meal with a nice Amuse Bouche of pea mousse and bacon onÂ brioche. Interestingly, talking with Chef Pam later, she indicated that many of the servers and young kitchen staff had never heard of an Amuse Bouche and had a difficult time grasping the idea of it. of pea mousse and bacon onÂ brioche. Interestingly, talking with Chef Pam later, she indicated that many of the servers and young kitchen staff had never heard of an and had a difficult time grasping the idea of it. and had a difficult time grasping the idea of it. of pea mousse and bacon onÂ brioche. Interestingly, talking with Chef Pam later, she indicated that many of the servers and young kitchen staff had never heard of an and had a difficult time grasping the idea of it.
We ordered a few appetizers — the Foie Gras, a Crab Trifecta, and Goat Cheese Tortellini. The Foie Gras preparation isÂ apparently is at the chef’s discretion (and should change from time to time), and tonight was served two ways — seared atop fruit compote and demi glace and a thick slice of foie gras roulade. The seared foie was delightful and paired beautifully with the compote and demi. The roulade was a bit underseasoned and needed a better job of veining, but was still tasty.
The Crab Trifecta was, as you might expect, crab served three ways. On one end of the long rectangular plate, the crab risotto was a bit light on crab flavor but nicely textured, the strips of warmed crab leg in the center of the dish were delicious, as were the two small crab cakes at the other end, especially when dipped into the mustard sauce painted on the plate.
The Goat Cheese Tortellini was five small tortellini stuffed with a goat cheese mixture and served with a light tomato sauce with mushrooms. The flavors of this rich dish were right on, and the rather small serving was just right without being overpowering.
Our entrees were a Veal and Lobster Duo for me and a Maple-glazed Pork Porterhouse for Wendy. Wendy’s Pork Porterhouse was very tasty and quite thick. The maple flavor was well-managed, contributing to the savory nature of the dish without overpowering the pork. I believe it was served atop sweet potato puree, but am not sure!
The Veal and Lobster Duo was a long rectangular plate with Veal (cooked to a perfect Medium Rare) on the left, on top of Spring Peas with Mushrooms and two halves of a small lobster tail atop corn on the right. The flavors of the dish were quite good, though the Spring Peas were a bit undercooked. M-Brett selected wines for us — a nice red for Wendy and two half-pours for me (one white and one red) that I promptly forgot. (Perhaps Wendy, who has a great palete and memory of wines, or M-Brett will remind me so I can update this article).
After dinner, M-Brett took us back to greet Chefs Paul & Pam. Chef Paul took us on a tour of the expansive, well-planned kitchen. It’s very impressive and well laid out. We talked with them for a bit before heading back out to the table for desserts ofÂ Nutty Nutty Caramel Cake for Wendy and Milkshake and Brownie Bites for me. The milkshake was raspberry ice cream blended with a shot of Starbuck’s coffee liquour along with three bites of rich chocolate brownies. Wendy’s cake wasÂ caramel and nuts on top of a shortcake-like cake.
The evening ended with another short conversation with Pam & Paul at the communal table before we headed for home.