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Two out of Three Ain't Bad: Phoenix Café foray into fine dining needs refining 

The lamb chops at phoenix. When the Phoenix first opened, it was immediately recognized as a gastronomic oasis in the Old Mill office area. Weekdays

click to enlarge The lamb chops at phoenix.
  • The lamb chops at phoenix.
The lamb chops at phoenix. When the Phoenix first opened, it was immediately recognized as a gastronomic oasis in the Old Mill office area. Weekdays bustle as the restaurant serves solid breakfasts and lunches to desk jockeys. Recently, this little out-of-the-way spot started serving dinners, hoping its daytime success would cross over to the nighttime meal.

 
With this in mind I set out sample the new menu. My dining partners and I arrived at 6:30 on a Saturday night. I was glad to see the large houseplants had been moved, as palm fronds tickling the back of your neck is nice in some instances, but not during dinner.

There were three specials and three house soups. The menu offered beef, seafood, poultry and pork prepared in a variety of semi-international ways. I opted for the Medallions of Pork served with a sauce "au poive" (a misspelling of the French word for pepper or peppercorn sauce, which should have read "au poivre"). My dining companions both went for specials - one chose the lamb chops with a Dijon demi-glace, and the other opted for the filet of salmon with a Mediterranean tomato-based sauce. We took a gander at the wine list. Finding nothing but below average house wine by the glass, we stuck with water.


To start, we sampled the French onion soup and the chopped salad. The soup was just a bit too salty. And while flavorful the chopped salad could have been more chopped and the blue cheese crumbles arrived in large chunks, a departure from the texture of a true chopped salad.

When the entrees arrived they had one thing in common-they were very saucy. The lamb was perfectly medium rare, but was plated in a big puddle of a mustard-based sauce that didn't really fit the description of demi-glace. The pork was a perfect pink (as I ordered it) and arrived tender and flavorful. Unfortunately, it was swimming in a sea of very salty (rather than peppery) brandy peppercorn sauce. The salmon and accompanying ravioli were topped with a lot of tomato-based sauce. And the ravioli were stuffed with ingredients similar to the sauce. In other words, most of the flavors became redundant.

All the entrees came with broccoli, baby carrots and snap pees, which were well cooked and crispy, but nothing to write home about. The mashed potatoes that accompanied both the lamb and the pork were bland. But given the over abundance of salt in the sauces, I was relieved.

Although the desserts sounded tempting, once I saw the chef come out into the dining room holding a can of Ready-Whip, we all opted out.

It's a shame when a restaurant that does something reasonably well, expands into an area in which it is less adept. The Phoenix Cafés breakfast and lunch is a good, satisfying product at a fair price point for the area. Dinner at an average of $20.00 per entrée, however, is a disappointment.

The Phoenix Café (Dinner) - $$-$$$
384 SW Upper Terrace (in the Old Mill) 317-9661. Mon 10am - 4pm, Tues - Fri 10am - 4pm, Sat 9am - 9pm, Sun 9am - 3pm 

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