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Update -- Two on Hawthorne Lane

foodiesf | Feb 17, 2008 08:24 AM

This is my second visit at Two since the space converted from Hawthorne Lane. We had a solid B experience there last night with four friends, and overall it was a slightly better experience this time around (compared to our first visit). Here's a summary:

Arrival -- Even on a Saturday night, we found parking easily at 7:30pm when we arrived. We were greeted professionally and warmly once inside by both a host and hostess. It was busy but not chaotic, and traffic flow in the bar area was well-managed.

Decor/Ambiance -- The front room, which consists of the bar and bar/dining tables, has a chic, relaxed supper club feeling. Last night front room was busy and had a hip feel to it without being overwhelmingly loud or chaotic. The back room, where the main dining room sits, was only half full. Our guests actually scoped it out before we got there, and asked the host not to sit us back there. "It's depressing in there," was their summary of the rather quiet, mellow, half-full dining room.

Service -- We had drinks at the bar first, and then we moved to a table in the bar area. The bartender was friendly and efficient, and his pours were generous. Once we moved to the table, we ordered two bottles of wine with dinner. The wine presentation was done by a sommelier-type (not sure if he actually carried that title) who was professional but cold and not engaging. He did his job adequately and disappeared. Our server was friendly, knowledgeable and attentive without hovering. When he announced that they were out of the scallops, and two people at our table had already committed to ordering those, he handled their disappointment deftly and made solid alternate recommendations.

Food -- This is the problem, in my opinion, at Two. The food just doesn't measure up to the atmosphere or the expectation, especially considering all the other options in town. Although a few items were outstanding, the food isn't overly interesting or consistent. The tuna tartare ($12) on crisp seaweed was fresh and delicious, with the perfect amount of hot spice mixed in. The bacon and egg raviolo ($10.5) was a highlight -- a delicious mix of rich egg yolk, salty bacon, spinach, and a perfect pasta pillow...drizzled in brown butter. The beet salad ($11) was equally good, and also beautifully presented. The steamed mussels ($12) were a big disappointment, however. The broth was bland and tasteless. The chorizo had virtually no flavor and added nothing whatsoever to the mussels. It's hard to find bland chorizo, but somehow Two did it! For dinner, everyone agreed that the seared salmon ($22) with sweet potato puree was outstanding. The fish was very fresh, it had a rich, buttery texture, and the outside was crisp and beautifully browned. The skillet-roasted chicken ($19), however, was overcooked and dry. It was served with over-salted quinoa, and the entire dish formed an unenticing brown/gray/yellow mess. The New York strip ($38) was ordered medium-rare, and it was cooked and seasoned perfectly. An lightly creamy mushroom ragout topped the steak and really helped elevate the dish because the steak by itself did not have a lot of flavor (despite the seasoning) and was a bit tough. It was simply a mediocre cut of meat, which in my opinion is unacceptable given the price. Although dishes were of varying interest and taste, all came out at the right temperature, all were cooked appropriately, and all were attractively plated.

Beverage -- The wine list is adequate to good..but nothing special. Our table preferred spicy, earthy Rhone-style reds and we had some good options to choose from. Their motto is 50 under 50 -- 50 wines under $50 a bottle. If you're a pinot fan, however, you might be disappointed. There were few pinot options. Our table felt that the list was too heavy on white wine and could have used a few more interesting red wine options. But we recognize our bias here.

Departure -- We were greeted warmly by the host who thanked us and wished us a good evening. He asked if we had coats or needed a cab, which was nice. In general, as we walked to the car, we were content but not overly enthused. "Well, that was good" was one person's remark. Another said, "My fish was outstanding." But the host of the evening, who booked the reservation, issued an quasi-apology. "It's too bad," he said, "because I've heard some good things about that place."

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