Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mountain Branch--Excellent Wednesday Night Fare

I post this with ambivalence. Therefore I'll begin with a disclaimer: The last two times I recommended restaurants to people, I regretted it. One was Roy's, the other Amicci's. So, for what it's worth, here's my review of our charming experience at a local upscale feed trough.

Paul took me to Mountain Branch in Fallston on Wednesday night. Being a frugal guy, he remembered their marquis about the Wednesday night prix fix menu for $19.99 a person. He dressed in business casual, I in a get-up similar to the one that left me, quite involuntarily, on my classroom floor recently. Believe me, traversing the flagstone entryway at this restaurant was enough to make me hold my breath and Paul's strong arm at the same time. I even started misquoting scripture in my head, something about "even your enemies will become your footwear

We were seated almost immediately at a lovely table near the window, overlooking the terrace filled with a bevy of chatty women who appeared to be celebrating a special occasion, as they passed a small book around for autographs. They were a giggling gaggle, but thankfully (for my hubby's sake) the window blocked the sound of their jocularity. The scene, framed by the window, reminded me of my favorite Renoir painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party, sans men.

On Wednesday nights, Mountain Branch also has a 15-4-15 wine list. Choose one of any of the 15 bottles for $15. We tried Blue Fish riesling (the only part of the meal I didn't care for). It tasted flat and tangy. With it was served a warm , crusty mini-loaf of bread, pre-buttered, nothing memorable. Normally Paul and I decide from the bread alone how the rest of the food will deliver; to our joy, the meal improved with each course.

From the prix fix menu, Paul chose a salad of lettuce wedges and bleu cheese, and the filet of beef. The meat was tender and deliciously seasoned, though he thought it was slightly more done than he requested. I chose the baby spinach salad with roasted strawberries, pecans, and bleu cheese. (Yes, I went over into my Weekly Points Allowance, which means I need extra time in the gym, but it was worth it.) Next time I would ask they not roast the strawberries; the texture was mushy and I just don't like warm fruit except in dessert. My mahi mahi, accompanied by angel hair zucchini, looked beautiful on the plate and pronounced an exceptionally satisfying gastric delight from the first bite to the last. (Don't I sound like I've been writing food reviews for a hoity-toity magazine or something? This is too much fun.)

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, Mountain Branch's famous Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding was set before us. Oh. My. Word. No bread pudding I've ever tasted even comes close. The pudding itself was warm with a topping of (I think?) lemon sauce and a dollop of real whipped cream that was perfect--very light and not too sweet. It just melts in your mouth. (Pictures here are not actual. MB's presentation of the pudding is far superior.)
I forced myself to quit after just half the dessert, which Paul gladly pounced on as I pushed the plate away. (He doesn't like raisins, but they were easy to get rid of.) The decaf coffee was nothing special.
But the mahi and bread pudding would definitely bring me back. Heck, I would save half a day's caloric allotment to go to Mountain Branch for only the bread pudding. Good thing it's not "right around the corner" like Dunkin Donuts or I'd have to call in extra accountability troops.

So if you and your best friend would like a meal for $20 each plus drink and tip, try Mountain Branch on Wednesday. If you like the weather, ask to sit on the terrace. Otherwise, sit by the window and enjoy the indoor/outdoor ambience in the air conditioning. But whenever you go, save me a bite--just one bite with whipped cream--of their famous Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding.


Anonymous said...

I enjoy that restaurant, mostly for the atmosphere over the food. (And the other two you menioned too: Roys and Amiccis, how can you go wrong recommending THOSE!) My favorite is their Sunday brunches, actually! Yum! But then I'm a huge fan of breakfast food!

zz said...

When my parents and our family went to Roy's, I had talked up the great food and service. That particular night, the food didn't all come out at the same time, my dad had to send his back to be heated, and my mom's was a small portion for the price. We took Sal and Sandy B to Amicci's on a double date. They wanted Little Italy and I highly recommended Amicci's. It was a a pouring rainy night and we were led to the most remote table in a corner of the room in the very back and not so much as a votive candle lit up the menu. SAndy had trouble reading it.
The chairs were squished too close to the next table and for the money I think Amicci's could use white tablecloths for dinner service. The food might have tasted better to me that night if I weren't so embarrassed that all these other little things together made me uncomfortable for having recommended it. I said something to a server in the bathroom about suggeting candles to the mgr. "They're cheap," she said, "a lot of people have mentioned it dark. I'll say something again, but they're cheap." I'm thinking how much could some votives and candles set you back?