Last night I went with some friends to the Orchard. They are still BYOB, which was a nice break on our wallets. We picked up a bottle of Sancerre and a bottle of Pinot Noir and decided to share a bunch of dishes between the 4 of us. One thing I have to point out is that the menu seems to change daily, and was definitely different from their website. For example, we were all excited to try the langoustine risotto, but were told it was being revamped at the time and had been taken off the menu.
We started with 2 flatbreads: the steak tartare and the trumpet mushroom w/ polenta. Both were excellent, and accompanied by interesting flavors. The dollop of steak tartare was sitting on a thin slice of potato, which I believe was fresh off the fryer. It was garnished with arugula and parmagiano shavings. The royal trumpet mushrooms were sliced and sauteed before used as a topping on a bed of polenta. Each flatbread had 6 small squares of goodness.
We then shared four first courses. The shrimp in the crispy rock shrimp salad was perfectly battered and fried, and had almost a sweet taste. The salad was lightly dressed - frisee, raddichio, some other yummy leaves I can't name. Some mandarin orange slices as well. The grilled filet mignon wrap was served on leaflets of butter lettuce, and combined japanese and south american flavors well with the chimichurri sauce and spicy mayo. The 4 pieces were small but still very tender, and the one - two bites you get are full of flavor. The yellowfin tartare came in a "make your own" style, with a scoop of tuna, some guac and creme fraiche. You pile as you want on top of fried tostones. I have to agree with other chowhounds, that this dish is exceptional, in a sea of average "tasted one, tasted them all" tuna tartares. Our last app was the foie gras; how can you mess up foie gras? :) I really liked the accompaniments of buttered toast and the sweet fruit coulis. The combination was a twist to the traditional.
We then shared the spaghettini with tiger shrimp, chorizo and panko bread crumbs. Our waiter warned us that some people are surprised when this dish comes out b/c it has no sauce. We told him that was fine. The spaghettini was tossed in olive oil, fresh herbs and some sort of citrus. It was light and fresh, I think there might've been some mint involved? The lightness complemented the shrimp, chorizo and fried panko crumbs perfectly. We also tried the cavatelli, which was heavier, in a tomato cream sauce, but had interesting additions, like chopped avocado, which surprisingly blended quite well. My only complaint would be that the crispy pancetta was like one big slice of bacon in the middle, i would've preferred it to be crumbled over all of the dish. The texture of the cavatelli was chewy and satisfying.
For dessert we had the creamsicle panna cotta and churros with dark chocolate and butterscotch dipping sauce, both very good.
I know this review sounds a bit like those blogs where everything sounds perfect. I promise you I am a discerning citizen, and have gone to plenty of restaurants in the past year where I've felt the food was mediocre and could've been better for the money. I don't think the food at The Orchard was impeccable, but it was a creative refreshing new change in the sea of trendy restaurants, and I felt like a lot of the combinations were uncommon but well thought out and really worked. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone, especially before the liquor license takes effect. I can't speak to all the dishes, but everyone in my party was very satisfied with what we had. 2 flatbreads, 4 apps, 2 pasta entrees and 2 desserts cost us a little under $50 each.