Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Dandelion Review

This is for a series of posts for Stephen Starr restaurants including:
Alma de Cuba, Barclay Prime, Butcher and Singer, Continental Midtown & Martini Bar, The Dandelion, El Rey, El Vez, Jones, Parc, Pizzeria Stella, Route 6 [1], Route 6 [2], & Square Burger.

One of the GF and my favorite Stephen Starr restaurants is The Dandelion - the very definition of a gastropub. It leaves pretension outside while providing great food and drink. Chef Robert Aikens was at the helm when we first visited a few years back and since then, CIA-trained Joe Minnich has taken over. The GF and I came here recently with a friend to celebrate her birthday and it's clear The Dandelion is in great hands!

The decor is part of the charm here -  most of the rooms are adorned with man's best friend, but it's the different motifs that catch your eye. Be prepared to move from a pub to a British tea room. 
Quaint and cute.

The servers here will start you off with still or sparkling water, which is complimentary no less!

Pimm's Cup [$10]
Pimm's #1, fresh cucumber, orange, lemon, strawberry

The Dandelion is where the GF was first introduced to Pimm's. And it's also the reason why our bar is well-stocked with it. This tipple is sweet, light, and refreshing. Dangerous drinking - if dangerous means you want to knock back about 6 of these. The GF and her friend settled for 4 - between the two of them.

Dark & Stormy [$10]
Gosling's dark rum, ginger, lime, ginger ale 

I went with another traditional drink - the ginger provided great brightness on the finish, with the subtly sweet undertones of the dark rum and the tartness of the lime providing the backbone. Nice. 

Iron Lady [$12]
Old Overholt rye, Thatcher's apple ginger, Agnostura bitters, orange peel, Luxardo cherry

For my second drink of the night, I went with the rye-based nod to Thatcher. The smooth essence of a Manhattan was brightened by the apple ginger liquer. And once you've had Luxardo, you'll never go back to the bright red standard Maraschino's again.

Bread Service

But on the food! The bread service was varied and delicious. In addition to some house-made sourdough, a honey stout bread embodied with the essence of Victory Storm King stole the show for me. Served with a pat of room temp butter (yes!) and Maldon sea salt, the slightly bitter and somewhat sweet notes prevented me from saving adequate room for all the food that was to come.

Welsh Rarebit [$4.25]
Whole grain mustard, cheddar, buttermilk toast

We started off with Welsh rarebit - essentially British toast with cheese spread. The mustard came through nicely amidst the melted cheddar. The sharpness really made each bite. The buttermilk toast was well-crisped on the crust, with the inside maintaining a fluffy texture. 

House-made Ricotta [$10.25]
Extra virgin olive oil, dried herbs, toasted sourdough 

Anytime there's house-made ricotta, it's a must-order for me. This was creamy, yet light with the lemon and herbs providing some freshness. Carbo-loading was the definition of this night, with additional sourdough being offered here. 

Crab Risotto [$15]
Zucchini, charred leeks, lemon gremolata, saffron, chilies 

The server knew we were eyeing the crab risotto as well and compliments of the Chef, we received this dish. The creamy, succulent crab risotto is made with fresh crab stock. The grains maintained an al dente bite and the lemon gremolata provided some brightness. But the real star here? Surprisingly not the jumbo lump crab, but the Fresno chilies which provided a nice kick on the tip of the tongue.

Beer-Battered Fish & Chips [$19.75]
Line-caught cod, tartar sauce, triple cooked chips

The GF and our friend went with this old fern-bar standby. If you're looking for a well-executed fish and chips in Philly, look no further than The Dandelion. A huge filet of cod is encapsulated by a crispy batter that was surprisingly light. The triple cooked chips had some crisp on the outside and a substantial creaminess within. You can't go wrong with this order. 

House Blend Aged Beef Burger [$16.50]
Vermont sharp cheddar, Brooklyn brine pickles, apple smoked bacon, Churchill sauce 

When I heard that The Dandelion's burger won Philly Magazine's Best Gastropub Burger last year, I knew I had to give it a go. The bun was the perfect vessel for a perfectly cooked medium-rare burger, with the aged essence providing the desired beefy funk. The juicy beef was locked in with a well-seasoned crust and the bacon provided additional heft to each bite. The artisanal pickles thankfully weren't overly brined and provided some crunch to offer some texture. When you come to The Dandelion for happy hour, don't just come for the drinks. Do get the burger.

Macaroni & Cheese [$12]
Braised ham hock, Quickes English cheddar

You didn't think we stopped there, did you? If mac and cheese is on the menu, it's a safe bet I'm going to check it out. The cloth-bound, aged cheddar provided some oomph to each creamy bite, with the ham hocks adding richness. I can also attest to the fact that this was just as good the next day.

Sticky Toffee Pudding [$8]
Vanilla ice cream

And of course, since we were celebrating the GF's birthday, we had to get something sweet. This traditional dessert was gluttonous and rich in every way. The caramel tuile provided some texture and the vanilla bean ice cream was a sweet, cooling element to the dish.

So if you're looking for a great date night or simply a fun-filled night with great drinks and food, head to Rittenhouse and through the doors of The Dandelion. The dishes and cocktails are well-executed and if it's possible, the service is even better.

FTC Disclaimer: A portion of this meal was provided by the restaurant. My opinions are unbiased and mine alone. 

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