KroMel's is located right next to the Stoneham Theater, and hubby and I visited on a recent Friday night. No problems walking in and getting a table for 2 at about 8pm. The restaurant is fairly small, and most of the tables were filled.
First, the good parts: very nice, attentive servers, who promptly inform you that they have no liquor license and point you towards the nearest liquor store, if you desire to imbibe. Throughout the meal, the servers were attentive and friendly. I saw wine glasses and marble carafe coolers, so they are being very good about serving the needs of the wine drinking patrons. Since I'm preggers and hubby was pooped, we passed on the trip to the liquor store, so I don't know if there are any associated corkage fees. I was disappointed in their soft drink selection, which was just fountain sodas with the syrup setting on too high (my Sprite was very sweet.) I am always surprised when places with no liquor licenses don't get creative with non alcoholic coolers, teas or lemonades. Perhaps it's just not worth their while, with 2 liquor stores just a stone's throw away from the restaurant.
Decor was nice, and high marks to the servingware: funky colored and clear glass plates which made for a very attractive presentation. Lighting was romantic without needing a flashlight to read the menus. The room was a bit warm, although the recent weather could account for that (from heat on to A/C on within a day of each other, it seems.) An open kitchen allows you to be entertained by the flaming pans.
The menu is creative American, with food of the upscale yuppie persuasion, which is just what we were in the mood for. Prices are a bit high for the 'burbs (apps/salads in the range of $6-$9, dinners generally hovering above $20, desserts were (I think) $6.50), but since the menu was more ambitious than most of the places in the area, it didn't bother me too much. There aren't many restaurants serving this kind of food in the area, so I'm willing to pay for it if I want it.
Unfortunately, the food doesn't quite reach the heights it aspires to. We were sadly disappointed by the bread basket that was delivered. 3 tiny, hard, bread ends buried in a fairly large basket. I thought at first that maybe they were going for some sort of hard toasted, almost crostada-like bread, but a later refill of the basket showed that we were just shortchanged in our first basket, as the second basket had 2 pieces of lovely textured hearty bread in it. It was served with a ramekin of sweet butter, at perfect spreading temperature.
We both began with salads, a warm spinach salad for him and mesclun greens with a house dressing for me. He said his salad was pretty good, mine looked overdressed with an unappetizing-looking brown, creamy vinaigrette, but the flavor was fairly good and the greens clean, dry and not bitter.
He ordered the wild mushroom crusted chicken, I ordered the duck in cherry sauce. His looked fairly unappetizing and dry when it came, so I didn't taste. Not sure what else it came with. Mine was presented well, with about 6 slices of roasted duck served in a pool of dark cherry sauce and topped with a generous amount of partially dehydrated cherries- sort of like cherry prunes. Also on the plate were a little mound of skin-on mashed potatoes, 2 spears of perfectly cooked asparagus and 2 perfectly cooked baby carrots. The flavor of the cherry sauce was good, but lacked the intensity I was looking for. The duck seemed on the bland side. Combined, the two left me with the impression of a dish that just never got off the ground. Hubby's impression of the chicken was the same. It just never got anywhere special. Although both dishes were perfectly edible, neither was worth going out of the way for.
We took a pass on dessert both because we were fairly full and the dinner didn't lead us to expect anything worth paying the price for. I imagine they do a brisk business when the theater has a show, but I'm not planning a return visit anytime soon.
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