Saturday, April 5, 2008

Hit or Miss the Carr's

I like Carr’s. I like that it’s located just across the alleyway from Central Market – it gives it a local down-home feel. And in fact, Carr’s does use local suppliers. I like that, too. I like that its corner store that has interesting eats and bonsai trees in the window. I like that one has to walk down to the basement, and then is transported into a hip dining area that is warm and inviting, with their gold color-washed walls and their fantastic wine cellar. And I like their food. Most of the time.

I’ve had the pleasure of eating at Carr’s several times now. The first time was when I had just moved here. My husband was giving me a walking tour of downtown Lancaster. We roamed through Central Market, ambled down Queen St., and Carr’s had set up an outdoor café in the alley. We stopped in for a quick bite to eat and I had one of the best salmon salads I’ve had in a very, very long time. Moist, yet flaky, good balance of flavors, and I knew I had found a place that I would visit again.

On another occasion, I had a lunch meeting at Carr’s and went comfort with his meatloaf. It was a masterful display of how home cooking could be so wonderfully sophisticated. Delicious medallions of meatloaf were settled on great slices of hearty bread and served with a gravy that just pulls it all together harmoniously. I had visions of being at home with the family around the dining room table…while using the best China, donning the latest Spring fashion of Dolce & Gabbana and laughing heartily at my brother’s jokes. And my mom never even served meat loaf, so just imagine what the experience is like if your mom did!

Just recently, we visited again. The service was virtually impeccable. Efficient and friendly, the server was a true resource in assisting us on making the right menu choices. I started with the Grapefruit Martini, an item on their Seasonal Sippers drinks menu. As part of Carr’s inventiveness, they make their signature liquors for their seasonal drinks on the premises for their themed drinks menu. I like that, too. The martini, though, wasn’t as balanced as I would have liked. The base flavor was good and refreshing, but there was too much of an alcohol punch.
For the entrée, I decided to go with the Grilled Dover Sole and Shrimp ($30). The presentation was beautiful. The caramel color of the browned butter, lemon, and caper sauce looked incredibly appetizing with the combination of squash, asparagus, and other fall vegetables. All this topped with two fillets of the sole nicely grilled and some shrimp on the side. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this dish nearly as much as my eyes were hoping. The sole had a delicately grilled flavor to it that was fantastic. The shrimp was perfectly grilled so that it was moist and flavorful. So what was the problem? The sauce was so overwhelmed with a citrusy lemon flavor that all you could taste was the tartness that goes with it. When you eat capers, it’s generally such a pungent flavor that it has the risk of dominating over the other flavors. The fact that the lemon dominated the capers? Pucker up. I kept hoping, bite after bite, that maybe I just got too much of a squirt of lemon in that one spot. But alas, it was completely lemon-fied. The shame of it all was that I knew there were all these other flavors that were just fighting to come out and play, but they just couldn’t.

My husband ordered the Grilled Medallions of Beef with Macaroni and Goat Cheese ($21). The fillet mignon was tender, juicy, and almost melted in your mouth. It was so good, that I attempted to commandeer the dish, but the hubby wasn’t having any of that. The macaroni and goat cheese was a subtle upgrade of your comfort dish, and the subtlety was just enough to give it some flair without overwhelming it with the gaminess that is usually associated with goat cheese.

So what if I didn’t like the dish I had at my latest endeavor to Carr’s. At the end of the day? I still like Carr’s.

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