There are some restaurants that are the same as photo filters. The filter has the ability to make you think that beauty exists, the images often convey a place of exuberance and facade of decadence. But as we all know there is a real image behind every filter, oftentimes it can be a close correlation between reality and the filtered world or they can be as far as the east is from the west.
Avenue Kitchen in the Glen Eagle Shopping Square in West Chester, Pennsylvania wore a bit of a filter on my visit to them for an early dinner. Now before I proceed I come from a background where I was trained to start every potentially constructive comment with an affirmation. So let me start with a favorable comment. The ambience in Avenue Kitchen was what I like to call a cutie patootie, it was bright, it was airy, it was inviting, it was upbeat, it was a place I wanted to sit my caboose down and I get excited about the grub in which I was about to partake. The waiter assigned to the table was great, he was everything a waitstaff should be, attentive, but not pushy, patient and not slowly annoyed, happy but not incessantly so, I honestly could not have asked for a better waiter.
The menu was chocked full of amazing choices, and with each item I felt the salivation begin and my fervor surge. So first up on the table were the crab beignets. I chose these crab beignets, because I was intrigued on how this restaurant was going to take the lightness of a beignet, the sweetness of the dough, the powdered sugar acting as a backdrop, and form it into a crab beignet. When a chef opts to recreate a culinary delicacy which seems so simple when executed perfectly, what they are endeavoring to do is to pay homage to its origin all the while leveling it up a bit with their own personal spin. It is in this endeavor that not only individualism is essential, but sublime, and the taste of the product be in the realm of magnificent.
When the beignet was brought to the table I found my countenance display confusion; understanding that you eat with your eyes first, what I saw was not a beignet, it was not in the shape of beignet, it was not the color of beignet, it was obviously not light as a beignet. Taking my first bite, my tongue’s memory alerted me immediately and it clearly reminded me that what I was eating was a fritter more importantly a crab fritter or a glorified hushpuppy. There was no sweetness, there was no light doughnut consistency, but it was a deep fried ball that was crunchy on the outside, and I must admit good crab in the middle, with a small amount of breading for what I assume was to act as a binder. With each dip into the aioli sauce I felt compelled to take another bite, it was large and it was an in charge appetizer, and although deep fried it did not hide the crab meat, in my opinion that was the challenge that the chef won.
While I am being transparent about Avenue Kitchen it wasn’t the taste of the crab beignet that tripped me up, it was the name. When reading the menu my mental rolodex began to recall the taste of a beignet and what I received was in total conflict and although I had a strong penchant toward it, my consciousness was left feeling disoriented. In this particular case Avenue Kitchen there is certainly an easy fix to this edible problem and the answer is….change the name.
Next up was the short rib grilled cheese. There is something special about a grilled cheese, a grilled cheese has super powers, it has the capability to draw your mind back to a simpler time in your life, it has the wherewithal to rapidly take you down memory lane where you remember grilled cheese on a special day. So when someone orders grilled cheese what they are really saying is, in this moment I want to feel nostalgic, but when I get short rib on it, I want it to be known that I am a grown up who wants to heighten their experiences.
The short rib grilled cheese came out with a nice helping of perfectly seasoned and sized fries on the side. At first sight the short rib didn’t look like short rib, but resembled a shredded corn beef, but I digress. At first taste, I tasted a buttery bread, delicious stringy cheese, but no short rib. I took another bite right where I could clearly see the short rib and still I tasted nothing. On my third bite, because I am not a quitter, I recognized that the short rib was tender, but it was flavorless, it was bland, it was boring, it was simply humdrum. When a chef opts to place short rib on a classic grilled cheese what you have conveyed to the patron is that you are prepared to come with the heat, you are qualified to deliver intense flavor, that you have taken this portion of beef and contrived it into an undeniable flavor bomb that will not only give you comfort, but it is wrapped up in intensity. But you fell short to the degree that it felt wasteful for you and for me.
Avenue Kitchen the culinary experience is what I can only describe as lackadaisical, there were points where I saw your potential, but even in that you couldn’t identify it properly, there were times when I saw your goal which was to elevate, but execution fell by the wayside. The experience reminded me of that slogan…close but no cigar.
Avenue Kitchen, it is not likely that I will return for a second run at this, but I am blogger who believes life is all about progression and you can get better, what I would recommend is following through on your goals to the end, remembering that good is the enemy of best and that greatness comes from those who can take feedback. Good Luck on your future food endeavors🍴