Vetri

vetri-onion

Mario Batali dubbed it the best Italian restaurant on the East Coast. Alan Richman said it was the best Italian restaurant in the US. Gourmet included it in their top 50 in the country. Craig LeBan gave it 4 bells and called it “our very best”. Needless to say, Vetri doesn’t need a publication like this one to confirm it’s greatness. It’s great. But it is also very, very expensive. The only dining option, every day, is the $135 fixed-price tasting menu. If you want to pair wines with each course, that’s another $90. Unless you’re a bonafide blue blood Main Liner, this isn’t a casual night out.

So, the real question here is not whether it is great, but whether it is worth it. $135, of course, affects everyone differently. But, based on one experience, the opinion here is that, if you can swing it, it is worth going at least once, because this is one of the most unique and special dining experiences in the area.

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Bar Savona, Gulph Mills

bar-savona-pizza

For years, Savona – the Italian fine dining destination restaurant between Conshy and King of Prussia – has been on my restaurant wish list. The prices, however, have stood in the way of a visit. $40 for an entree? In Manhattan, maybe, but not Gulph Mills. So, when they announced a renovation that would introduce a new dining experience, BAR Savona, which would offer a more casual atmosphere, relaxed prices, and rustic, simple Italian fare, (alongside the existing fine dining) the opportunity to finally dine at this longtime Main Line fav seemed imminent (so long as you consider 18 months imminent). A recent visit was a mixed bag; the food is good, but the atmosphere is inconsistent with the restaurant’s promise of a more casual experience.

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Blue Pear Bistro, West Chester

275 Brintons Bridge Road
West Chester, PA 19382
610.399.9812

Review: 3 silver spoons out of 5

Overview: The more casual sister of the acclaimed Dilworthtown Inn, the restaurant features an eclectic, seasonal bistro menu with great bar snacks, a superb wine list and a relaxed atmosphere.

Food: Having already enjoyed the Dilworthtown Inn, we were intrigued by the menu and concept of the Blue Pear Bistro. The menu, consisting of small and medium sized plates (though, all but one of our medium plates were typical entrée portions), contains modern bistro fare, where classics like steak frites are offered alongside eclectic selections such as skate wing and French toast napoleon. We started the meal with cocktails and bar snacks. Though the strawberry mojito was much too strong, my drink, called Fig Thyme, was absolutely delicious – the earthy, fragrant thyme was the perfect complement to the sweetness of the figs. For our snacks, we chose the deviled eggs and white truffle popcorn. While the deviled eggs were quite good, it was the popcorn that took center stage – none of us could stop eating it!  It was warm and crisp and covered with just the right amount of salt and truffle oil; for me, it was one of the highlights of the meal.

Appetizers consisted of shigoku oysters, fried calamari and jalapeño rings, and the bacon and egg salad.  The oysters were lovely: sweet, creamy, and mildly briny. They were especially delicious when topped with the accompanying mignonette and a refreshing ginger concoction that was reminiscent of a good granita.  The bacon and egg salad was also very good, though the egg was coated in a greasy batter that didn’t stick to the egg. Luckily, when removed, the egg turned out to be well cooked with a proper runny yolk.  Though the fried jalapeño rings were enjoyable and offered just the right amount of heat, the calamari itself was rubbery and rather tasteless.

For my entrée, I had the barbecue beef short ribs with creamy grits and watercress salad. The short ribs were cooked very well – they were melt-in-your-mouth tender – and well-seasoned. However, the barbecue sauce was overwhelming and took away from the flavor of the meat. The creamy grits were true to their description and full of rich, buttery flavor. Although I enjoyed them at first, by the end I almost felt as though I was eating mouthfuls of whipped butter. One of my dining partners tried the skate wing with citrus beurre blanc, a special of the evening, and was very pleased with it. The meat itself was tender and delicately flavored and went very well with the tangy sweetness of the citrus sauce. Another member of the group had the seared scallops with English and sugar snap peas and a subtle but rich lobster saffron sauce.  The scallops were tender, perfectly cooked, and lightly caramelized. The scallop dish was the smallest of the entrees – seemingly the only one that actually lived up to the “medium plates” label.

Though the meal so far had been very enjoyable, dessert was rather disappointing. Despite an enticing menu, including French toast napoleon, lemon-maple sorbet, and profiteroles, both desserts that we ordered were underwhelming at best. The French toast napoleon was cloyingly sweet, and I could only eat a few bites of it. Not even the accompanying lemon-maple sorbet and tart blueberries could offset the sweetness.  The other dessert, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and crispy carrots, was far too spicy.

Service: Having already experienced the fantastic service at Dilworthtown Inn, I had high hopes for the Blue Pear. However, the service was adequate at best. When asked about the flavor of dishes on the menu, our robotic waitress had to check with the kitchen, making it very clear that she had never tasted them. Worse yet, on a number of occasions she cleared plates off the table when people were still eating! Initially, she took the popcorn as someone was reaching in for another handful (we were too stunned to say anything), and later proceeded to do the same with my appetizer and another person’s entrée.

Ambiance: Housed in a renovated 18th century general store, Blue Pear is warm and inviting, with a number of different styled sections – a porch, bar area, lounge, and regular dining room. This cozy feeling is enhanced when people are sipping wine on the porch and/or talking and enjoying snacks at the bar.

Value: Prices for the small and medium plates range from about $7.00 – $24.50, with bar snacks and side dishes ranging from about $2.50 – $6.50.

Details:
# of times we’ve eaten there: 1
Reservations: Yes, by telephone
Hours: Monday – Saturday 4:00pm – midnight (bar service begins at 4:00pm, dinner at 5:00pm)
Bar: Yes
Cards: Yes
Website: http://www.bluepearbistro.com/

Pietro’s Prime, West Chester

125 Market Street
484-760-6100

Quick Take: Pietro’s Prime, an upscale steak house operated by the owners of longtime Chester County market Giunta’s, is now open in the former Murray’s Deli space in West Chester.

Went to Pietro’s for lunch, and it was ok. The space itself is gorgeous (though they owe much of this to Murray’s), with the bar now where the old deli was and the old bar room converted into a dining area. The food was good, but not great, especially considering the prices. They have an interesting selection of different sandwiches and light entrees including several different steak sandwiches and burgers, shrimp, crab cakes, etc. The service was pleasant but not without flaws, an issue due to the intended atmosphere and prices. All in all, it seems that the owners of Pietro’s have skills better suited to creating a welcoming, casual neighborhood restaurant, but instead are trying to create a fine dining destination… that falls a little short.

For more, check out what WC Dish has to say or view the menu, now available on WC Dish (PDF).

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