The meat side of the menu is almost as good. Porterhouse pork chop is a plump, juicy wonder on top of rich shallot mashed potatoes. Beef medallions are glazed with a red wine reduction and served with garlicky mash and still-crisp green beans. Surprisingly for a restaurant devoted to the basics, the burger is not very good. The Italian bistro version topped with mozzarella, tomato, and pesto sounds like a good idea on the menu, but though the beef is well-cooked, the mozzarella is unmelted and rubbery and the tomato speaks more of supermarket in winter than Italy in summer. After the skill shown frying the calamari, the pale slightly soggy fries that accompany the burger are unexpected and unwelcome.
When dessert comes, skip the thin creme brulee and order molten chocolate cake with ice cream. Cake and ice cream arrive in two ramekins at either end of an oblong plate: hot facing cold, chocolate facing vanilla. We’re smiling even before we take the first bite, the flavor surprise following the visual one.
All in all, it’s been a night of nice surprises. As we bundle up to head out, we take another look at those outdoor tables. Maybe a warm sunny winter lunch will bring us out here before spring arrives.
Dan Zedek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.