Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pub & Kitchen

Whenever any restaurant gets "rave" reviews, it's almost impossible for it to live up to my expectations. I'll admit that it's my own fault for letting those expectations run away with others' often overly generous goodwill. That said, any restaurant that can meet and/or exceed those expectations certainly ends up receiving very high marks in my book.

After several friends brought up how much fun they had at Pub & Kitchen, which is only a five-minute walk from my apartment above Twenty Manning Grill, I decided I had to check it out. I'd walked past it numerous times, and I was glad that I finally had the opportunity to try the food.

While it would've been nice to sit outside on a lovely spring day, zoning restrictions apparently prevent parties larger than four to sit around a table on the sidewalk. (At least that's what we were told.) Instead, we ended up getting a great table for five in the rustic backroom--a space that gets lots of light and offers tons of pub ambiance. And somewhere you can see yourself sitting for a few hours catching up with friends over the events of the day or week.

To start, I ordered the five-cheese cheese plate, which came with cheeses from Australia, Spain, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, as well as several additional condiments. Our favorites were most definitely the blue cheese from Australia, and the soft cheese from Spain. Both offered a good balance of intense flavor and creamy consistency. The other three unfortunately left us wanting, as they didn't challenge our taste buds at all. And it seemed like we could've easily picked them up at the local grocery store.

Even though I'd been going on ad nauseum about wanting escargots off the menu, I was thwarted--as P&K had most likely switched to their spring menu. Instead, I decided to indulge in the black pudding--a combination of pig's blood, pork fat, and spices.  The presentation was simple, with the dish arriving at the table in a small ramekin with an egg on top. The consistency was grainy without being crumbly--a little like moist meatloaf--and the flavor was strong without being too salty, which complemented the soft egg yolk. I was pleased.

Going with four friends, I got to sample, admire, and critique a few other plates as well. The deviled eggs were quite good, and possibly Erich's favorite dish. There was just a little something added that took the dish beyond its staple status. In contrast, we found the chicken liver mousse surprisingly bland, with the sherry aspic not adding very much to the dish whatsoever, flavor- or texture-wise. Thankfully, the side of peas made up for some of the starter shortcomings, being loaded with bacon and all. I'm a bit of a pea hater, but the combination of crunchy sugar snap peas and crispy bacon is kind of irresistable.

After reading a number of food blogs, Maki went for the Churchill burger, which P&K is apparently known for--a custom blend of dry-aged beef from Creekstone Farm. Yet, after much fanfare, the burger didn't produce any sort of overwhelming reaction. It was good, but nothing to necessarily write home about. Jaime went with the pulled pork sandwich, which a close friend had told me was excellent. The dish was actually one of the specials for the evening, having been rotated off the menu but constantly requested back by regular patrons, according to our server. Although the meat was nice and moist, the barbecue sauce lacked salt, which left the flavor muted.

At the same time, we found Erich's beef carpaccio a lot more grey than pink, which is odd considering that the dish is supposed to be close to raw. On the other hand, Peter's fish and chips looked perfectly crispy and flaky, though the plate didn't necessarily seem to blow him away either.

Despite being underwhelmed by the food, I found the atmosphere perfect for catching up with friends. The service was polite and speedy, but didn't make us feel any bit rushed. As with any good pub, I could definitely see us relaxing here again over wine and beers.

With so many friends mentioning P&K in recent weeks, I had to say I at least tried it. And well, now I at least tried it.

Pub & Kitchen
1946 Lombard Street
Between 20th & Uber Streets

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