It was my first visit to Towne Hall and I had no idea what to expect. On the edge of a strip mall of sorts, the last thing I expected to find was design I would incorporate into my own home and beautiful artistic cooking and plating. But the place is about beauty. A beautiful hostess in black showed me the way to the table, where a beautiful waitress arrived to offer me a beverage. The décor included beautiful white leather tufted curved booths with high backs and metal studs. There’s a semi open kitchen with visible wood burning oven. A generous sized bar is fronted by a cozy lounge area in. Overall it’s a large space that doesn’t seem vacuous or industrial, but warm and airy. Giant pillars lend a majestic but not stuffy feel to the place, and they are impressive, but this is really about the food, isn’t it?
I started out with the salmon tartare from the appetizer menu. I confess it was my very first tartare, but the sushi lover in me took a stand and ordered it. A large portion of zesty, citrusy salmon atop a bed of avocado that was very close to guacamole shaped into a rectangle atop apple shavings with an olive oil drizzle and bizarre olive-not olive-maybe pepper garnish was placed before me on a white plate. It was pleasing to the eye, but the eye had nothing on my palate. It was so delicious I had to force myself to stop eating it because it was so big and rich and wanted room for the meal, and I still had a bite or two more after that. There was a fried plantain creatively placed in the center of the tartare and I used it as a cracker, and it added a sweetness that was actually playful. It is, as they say, a winner. Sadly, my compatriot who ordered the appetizer sliders (3 cute burgers) because of the described foie gras topping, was disappointed. Said she: There’s no foie gras in here. This same member of our party later said ‘there’s no alcohol in this gin and tonic’. Woe was she. But not for long.
Main courses arrived. Another order of sliders went 1 for 3 in terms of foie gras appearance. My pizza was totally delightful, with prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella, with a center of arugula (I forewent my usual ‘salad does not belong on pizza’ frame of mind and I’m glad I did) all drizzled with balsamic glaze. There was a hit of salt in most bites, from the sprinkled parm on top that really made the flavors really come to life. Without that salty pop it would have been just pizza. But with it it was wow. The crust was thin and crispy, and the sauce of sun dried tomatoes was not really noticeable, but I appreiciated that. I had been fearful the sun dried taste would overpower the whole thing. What a worrywart. Overall rating: A+.
The star of the main courses, an A+++, went the member of our party who was 0 for 2 in the satisfaction department. She ordered the beef bourgignon, and though was initially bummed to see no vegetable other than potato (in a julienne potato stick style atop the meat), the tenderness and flavor of the beef was just too irresistible to find fault with the dish in any way. I know because when she insisted I try it, I jumped at the chance. The beef was soft and melty, and it was instant comfort to be eating it. It was really special.
On to dessert, which was included with the main courses (along with a soup or salad which we resisted in the spirit of avoidance of gluttony), and was a small triangle of blueberry cheesecake. The waitress told us it was their best dessert as she placed the third plate of it down, and I can see how that might be the case. It was divinity on a plate. The crust tasted of shortbread and I would elaborate further on the exquisite sensation of eating it except I did so with such velocity and pleasure its all kind of a blur. There was not a crumb of leftover to be found anywhere. Just order it and see for yourself.
The latte was equally delicious. Not too strong, not too milky, just the right amount of foam. I never wanted that coffee to end, and the atmosphere (and company) were so great, I never wanted to leave. When we realized we were indeed the last table there I was happy to have not received a single dirty look or ‘hurry along now’ attitude from our waitress or anybody on staff, who were all friendly and courteous.
The food service professional (OK, waitress) in me has to mention one criticism. A waitress delivered a drink to the table and placed it down saying ‘gin and something’. It smacked of unprofessionalism and wasn’t as cute as she hoped it would be. Waiters should always know what it is they are serving, as a client might not be confident or happy ingesting and paying for a random ‘something’. End rant. The waiters at Towne Hall can be confident and happy about this: they will be serving me again.
50 Brunswick Blvd.