Thursday, August 21, 2014


Polo Dobkin has  reinvented the old Dressler space, gussying it up with an botanical motif and naming it after an obscure European herb, Meadowsweet.  The herb was used historically in the brewing of mead  and as a traditional homeopathic treatment for soothing stomachs- and what are restaurants about but quenching thirst and filling a hungry belly.  Meadowsweet as a restaurant makes just as much sense as its nomenclature.

The room is bright and airy toward the front, with a greenhouse feel from the herbs growing above the entrance, which they use as much as possible in both their food and drink.  The bar is handsomely set up, piles of fresh citrus and bouquets of those herbs ready to work into your cocktail.  Toward the back, the room is dimmer, still paved with aging tile work from the original, which is chipped in places unapologetically.  Instead of an impression of shoddy disrepair, these little quirks give the room  a worn-in, relaxed feel.   The music put me right at home aw well, and is impossible to disregard: the playlist is full of catchy dance tunes and nostalgic retro pop such that I could hardly stay put in my seat.  It was all my tablemate could do to keep my mouth full so as to prevent me singing, but if you're like me, you'll be loving every minute of it.  He most decidedly did not.  So he was even more grateful that the food came out quickly and we ordered well, because the focus shifted swiftly from the tunes to the cuisine (until Under Pressure came on and I chimed in again with Freddy and David, much to his dismay).

We began with a Snack of roasted baby carrots, wallowing in a thick blob of labne, a touch of honey enhancing their natural sweetness.  Other snacks were a peekytoe crabcake, which I could see being snacky, but it's hard for me to qualify St. Louis ribs as a snack: and both their $17 price tag and sizable portion-size both confirmed my opinion, unless you're sharing.  True carnivores might appreciate that much meat, but for me it might fall more aptly into another category.

On the greener side, a  salad of crispy baby artichokes was stunning- a simple conglomeration of ingredients perfectly balanced and profoundly savory- creamy garlic and parmesan amping up the richness over the buttery fried hearts and peppery arugula.  Quite a perfect salad, just straddling freshness and decadence.  For a restaurant named after a weedy herb, and so ardently seasonal, those were the only two really produce-centric options.  Everything else was focused more conventionally around a protein or starch, although the flavor profiles often nodded toward the field: a Scottish salmon filet bedded itself in corn, favas and
 chanterelles, and my deftly seared filets of branzino perched atop a somewhat scanty amount of tenderly steamed summer squash nestling in another plush daub of labneh, its smooth tang contrasting with the mild vegetables and crisp skin of the fish.  Much to my tablemate's dismay, the roasted chicken was served off the bone, and was disproportionately white meat, but a flavorful and chickeny white meat it was, thankfully skin-on, and there were also bits of dark meat along the wing and in small roulades that propped up the ample breast above a saute of leafy escarole and
 firm plugs of gnocchi.  A pan-sauce of flavorful drippings was umamified with bits of maitake and pancetta, assuaging for any disappointment for the skewed proportion of white-to-dark meat, and was hard to keep my spoon away from.

There are no side dishes to note, so one must make due with the accoutrements of the entrees as accompaniments for mains, but this gave us just enough room to share one dessert ... although choosing just one wasn't the easiest decision of the night.  Not normally tempted by chocolate options, the semifreddo was plying me with its horchata, cajeta and Rice Krispies, a white peach pain perdu with verbena ice cream and blueberries... each of the desserts had their inarguable appeal.  We settled on a Lemon Thyme panna cotta with grilled apricots atop and more diced fresh beneath, the thickly creamy custard flecked with candied bits of perhaps a few too few pistachios, but it was a lovely and delicate terminus to our meal.  I knew the coffee that accompanied was Stumptown from the moment I sensed its aroma, and its thick chocolately smoothness made me forget the intrigue of the semifreddo, but I won't soon forget the pleasures of Meadowsweet.



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