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Restaurants & Bars 4

Geranio dinner

Jiminy Cricket | Sep 13, 2004 06:12 PM

My parents were in town this weekend and since they were itching to eat at a bistro, my first thought was Old Town. My second thought was, of course, to flip to the Chowhound board to see if there were any reviews of such places. Sadly, I was unable to turn up much, except a short post that stated that Eve's was the place to go.

So, after looking over the Eve menu, I decided to give them a call. Sadly, the only time they had left was 9:45, which was a wee bit on the late side. Nevertheless, when asked they were kind enough to suggest two other local places- La Bergerie and Geranio. Since my parents had already dined at La Bergerie (whose food they found quite good, even if they felt that the atmosphere was a bit stuffy), we decided to give Geranio a go, even though it was a trattoria rather than a bistro. The fact that the Post reviewer actually mentioned the chef's name sealed it for us.

Arriving at the restaurant, we were greeted by Chef Clayton's wife who, according to the back of the menu, regularly plays the role of hostess. We were seated quickly and our waiter promptly appeared and asked us if we would like drinks. Although he grimaced faintly when we told him we just wanted water (I don't think he was even consciously aware of it himself), within moments our glasses were full and we had settled in to enjoy the pleasant ambiance and peruse our menus.

The menu was typical of this type of restaurant. A handful of appetizers, four or five salads, a half dozen pastas, and seven or eight entrees. All were standards with a bit of flair, something that characterized the entire meal.

As a starter, I settled on the "duck salad," which was a bit more substantial than I was expecting and wasn't really a salad at all. It consisted of a bunch of frisee topped with shredded duck confit, which was then topped with thin slices of caramelized pear. Crowning the entire dish was a modest sized piece of foie gras- not a skimpy piece, but a modest one. The combination was fantastic. Definitely one of the best appetizers I've had in a while.

My parents decided to go with tomato salads- perhaps because their own backyard crop was a bit small this year, owing to a nighttime visitor with a taste for young plants. My mother had a tomato-mozzarella-basil salad, which was very good. The mozzarella was clearly made by hand, as it had that perfect fresh mozzarella texture. My father had a yellow tomato and goat cheese salad and, while the tomatoes weren't all that yellow, the combat ion was quite tasty. It's a recipe I'll keep in mind for making at home. Yet, while the tomato salads were both good, all of us agreed that the "duck salad" was the best of the three.

By this point we had decided to order a bit of wine. We settled on a bottle of the house sauvignon blanc, primarily because I have a taste for it. The description in the wine list indicated that it had hints of pear in it. This was perhaps the one disappointment of the evening. While the wine was moderately priced ($26), it did not live up to expectation. It was much dryer than most sauvignon blancs that I've had and the fruit flavors were non existent. It was almost like a chardonnay that hadn't been aged in oak caskets. While I tend to dislike sauvignon blancs that have overpowering fruit flavors, I usually feel a bit disappointed when the wine lacks any.

Fortunately, our entrees were as good as the appetizers and any lingering disappointment we had quickly evaporated. I had decided to have the seared sea scallops and my decision turned out to be an excellent one. The sea scallops were perfectly cooked, seared on the outside, yet still tender on the inside. The four large scallops rested on a potato pancake, which swum in a rich beurre blanc sauce, or something approximating it. It was that potato pancake that had convinced me to order the dish, because I was a bit curious as to what it was going to be. Was it going to be like a latke? Or something unexpected.

It turned out to be the latter- essentially it was a pancake, but made with potato flour. As a result, it had a light and fluffy texture, but the flavor of potatoes. Paired with the scallops and the sauce it was fantastic.

My parents enjoyed their dishes as well. My father had the lobster risotto, which was beautifully prepared. The risotto was perfectly cooked, butter with a hint of lobster in it. On top of the risotto rested a whole shelled lobster, which, just as the scallops and the potato pancake, paired beautifully with its accompanying starch. The delicate flavor of the lobster meshed with the butteryness of the risotto to make a great dish.

My mother's entrée was equally prepared. She had decided to have the seared tuna, but as she doesn't particularly like raw fish, she had asked that it be "medium." Now normally I would consider "medium" tuna to be a travesty, but such was not the case this time. The center of the tuna was still very pink, which meant that the fish was still moist enough to be enjoyable. Rather than being paired with a starch, her tuna was accompanied by a mix of grilled vegetables and by a slice of eggplant stuffed with goat cheese.

The dessert list was a bit on the shallow side- a tiramisu, a chocolate fondant, a crème brulee, some sorbet, and an apple tart. Nevertheless, what we did have lived up to the rest of the meal. My father settled on the chocolate fondant, which was a warm chocolate cake with crème anglaise. The twist here was that on top of it rested a slice of warm caramelized orange, which provided a nice contrast. I chose the apple tart, which was nothing more than a personal tart with apples on top. The twist here was in the sauce- a rosemary caramel sauce. Generally I steer clear of caramel sauces, as I tend to find that they taste "burnt" to me. This one was fine, though, and the rosemary provided a very interesting contrast to the apples.

One sign of a good meal in my family is that after a while the conversation turns to other enjoyable meals that we've had. Given that we spent a fair amount of time that evening reminiscing about some of our favorites, I can safely say that we enjoyed the experience. Chef Clayton (who spent a bit of time wandering around the restaurant later in the evening, chatting with the patrons) did an excellent job that evening of creating dishes that were comfortingly familiar to us, yet all of which displayed more than a little bit of flair.

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