Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Restaurant Review: Anniversay Dinner at 273 Kitchen

Before I start this review, I will state that I am really getting tired of restaurants naming themselves after their address.  It has stopped being clever.  It is beginning to make restaurant owners look too lazy to come up with a creative name.  I say this even though one of my favorite restaurants in my neighborhood is 360 American Grille.  The trend is over.  Go back to naming your restaurant after your dog, or your favorite movie, or the setting of a book.

Now that I have that off my chest, I promise that the name of the restaurant I am reviewing does not bias me in any way.

When it came time to plan our anniversary dinner (14 years!), SPP and I were stuck trying to decide on a restaurant.  Our anniversary was on a weeknight and we didn't want to be out too late, so he was pretty adamant we stay local.  The problem is I was tired of most of the local restaurants.  Even the special occasion places have been done to death.  I wanted something new.  Did we have to visit one of the restaurants on our crowded little strip once again?

I asked Kevin how far afield he might be willing to go.  Would Harrison be acceptable?  That is merely one town over.  He said it would depend on the restaurant.  I said I had one in mind.  I had been itching to try 273 Kitchen, a recent addition to the village that had been receiving rave reviews online.

It's hard to describe what kind of restaurant 273 is.  It sits on one of the busiest corners in town at the intersection of two main streets.  The space was occupied for decades by a giant pharmacy (now usurped by an even bigger CVS across the street).  When the pharmacy left, it became a Quizno's. (Harrison has way too many delicious Italian delis to ever have the need for a Quizno's, or a Subway or any such place.)  It was briefly a casual cafe and then 273 moved in.  It calls itself Mediterranean, but it's not like any Mediterranean I have ever tried.  It's not Italian or Greek or Middle Eastern or French or Spanish.  It is an odd mix of all or none of them.  The menu changes daily.

When we walked in and sat down, observing the hip decor of reclaimed wood and artfully placed ordinary objects, I said, to Kevin, "This place is so not Harrison."  He knew exactly what I meant.  Harrison is a stodgy, conservative little town, where a resistance to change and to the exotic is commonplace.  (I'm allowed to say that.  Harrison is my hometown.  I grew up there and know from whence I speak.)  The restaurants that tend to stay in business in Harrison are Italian restaurants and pizza places (reflecting the town's main ethnic group I suppose).  When you step into 273, you feel as if you're stepping into a world away from a suburban town's main street corner.

We ordered our wine and toasted our anniversary.  A server overheard us.  A few short minutes later, a server brought complimentary glasses of champagne to our table.

The menu changes daily.  The paper menu was attached with photo corners to what I can only guess is the back of a recycled clipboard.

The restaurant offers 3 courses and dessert.  You can order any number of any of the dishes.  If you order all three, one from each course, it's a $45 price fixe deal and they give you dessert for free.  It was our anniversary, so we took that option.

We had some slices of garlic bread to begin.  It was ordinary garlic toast.  It wasn't anything special, but who doesn't love garlic toast?

I started with sweet potato soup.  I have never tasted anything like this sweet potato soup before.  It had no mealyness at all.  It was smooth and creamy.  The first flavor I noticed when I took a bite was lemon, which is unexpected against sweet potatoes.  The more of the soup I ate, the more flavors I tasted.  There was cream and butter and thyme and something even more savory I couldn't put my finger on.  I was shamelessly scraping the bottom of the bowl with my spoon to make sure I didn't miss a drop of it.

 Kevin's first course was the most typical Mediterranean dish we had that night.  He had a meze platter of pita, hummus, olive spread, and tzatziki.  I could have been a meal in itself.

My second course was braised pork belly served atop fennel puree and finely chopped roasted cauliflower mixed with bits of cracked wheat.  This was the weakest dish I ate.  It was delicious, but after the unusual taste of the soup, I was expecting something unusual to pop out with the vegetables.  Their flavor was far simpler.  The pork belly almost literally melted in my mouth.  

Kevin went for planked quail.  It had an unusual assortment of vegetables including red cabbage and tomatoes.

We both went for the same third course.  This was duck breast with seasonal vegetables, polenta, and a poached egg. 

It was a weird, but fun combination and very well prepared.  The duck was perfectly cooked and the polenta was creamy.  

We ended with a brownie for him (never got a photo) and a brown butter cake for me.  His brownie had a spice mixture in it that I wasn't fond of.  I'm glad I decide to deviate from my chocolate habit and try this extra-buttery cake. 

Portions here are small, but I would be hesitant to call them "small plates".  If you have a petite appetite, one plate might satisfy you nicely, particularly if you order off the Course 3 (more entree type foods) list.  Larger appetites will likely be satisfied with two plates.  We were really stuffed after eating three.  It wasn't just about the size of the dishes.  It was about the richness.  The chef doesn't skimp on butter.   My dishes were a bit on the heavy side.  If I go back, I will probably order two plates instead of three, even though it means I have to pay for dessert.

Did I just say, "If I go back"?  I mean when.  I want to come back here again soon.  Kevin and I are already coming up with excuses to come here for future occasions.  I hope 273 sticks around for a long time - name and all.


EZ said...

What's with pork belly? Seems like it's becoming the new trendy menu item. I was at 2 restaurants in the past week, one in Chicago and one in Boston, that both had pork belly items on the menu.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Pork Belly has been trendy for a while - and with good reason. It's basically bacon that someone was kind enough to not to cut into skinny strips.