Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ritual Tavern

It was a rainy Thursday night last week and the gang met up here in lieu of watching Thursday night TV. Writers' strike means more good eating. Ritual Tavern's fairly new to North Park and it's very close to the house. The restaurant is essentially a classy pub. Warm and rustic interior belies the rather plain and uninviting exterior. There's an exterior view to the kitchen, making it look almost like a pizza place.

I'd have to say that I was "whelmed" by the experience here. Not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed, but just... whelmed. Anyhoo, they very kindly sat T. down when he was the first of 6 to arrive, which is rare for restaurants. We all had beers and it was a very homey, but loud, atmosphere. I started with the Stone Porter Shake, which was the best part of this visit.

Creamy and nicely balanced between beer and vanilla ice cream, this drink is a must-have.

On their specials menu were black mussels from Carlsbad Aquafarms. Cooked in the classic white wine sauce, the mussels were fresh and fantastic. The sauce, however, was boring as fuck. It was white wine, shallots (or maybe onions), and garlic. The shallots and garlic are cooked down and white wine added to the resulting liquid. The wine broth is used to cook the mussels, adding their juices, and voila! Sauce. Zzzzz...

In Philly, Monk's Cafe did the same dish with much better results. Fennel, spices... anything would have given this sauce some personality. Oh, well... same type of rustic tavern with great beers, but much better food at Monk's.

Served with the "must" of moules, crusty artisanal bread. If the sauce ain't good, the bread serves no purpose. The great quality mussels really saved the dish.

T. and R. had better luck with the gumbo, which R. said was spicy and flavorful. Sadly, no pictures, but it was a pretty dish.

D. wasn't a fan of his Niman Ranch burger. He said the meat was too bland and the "artisan buns" too hard for a burger. Their in-house ketchup was really acidic with onion almost dominating the tomato flavor. Ironically, what would have made a difference would have been sugar or corn syrup, like a commercial ketchup, because sweetness would have balanced out the other flavors.

He also had the bread pudding for dessert.

The house bourbon sauce was good, but the pudding itself was a dense and dry clump with an overpowering amount of cinnamon.

Service was rather slow, but they did let us stay for three hours, so they deserve major props for that. We were pleasantly surprised to hear that our first round of drinks fell within happy hour. I'd go again for the beers, that shake, and the atmosphere, but dinner? Eh, maybe.

2 bites:

Alice Q. Foodie said...

That is hilarious - I love your description of the mussels. I've definitely been there. On the plus side, I just had some really good ones at Starlite! You guys would probably like that place.

We also just went to Market, and I was underwhelmed by the service, they practically treated us the same way and we're 37, so don't feel bad! :-)

I hope you can make it to our next Chowhound Chowdown! We had a great time and I think we'll do something again soon.

Meandering Eats said...

Hey Alice!

Thanks for the comment! I noticed Starlite Lounge was on your list of recommended urban bistros. I do enjoy the urban bistro. :)

As for Market, we were definitely oscillating between feeling insulted or laughing hysterically. I also read your recent comment on CH about how the second server was very good. Same with us... our primary guy was distracted and seemed vaguely annoyed (hopefully not with us), but the server who brought our amuse bouche was extremely friendly and knowledgable.

I just read your blog post on the Chowdown. I've joined the SDChow group and can't wait for the next one!

2 bites