Radnor Racquet Club’s Pond Restaurant plays it too safe
Warm shades of saffron and cinnamon in the decor signal a new dining direction at the Radnor Racquet Club, where Pond Restaurant and Bistro Cassis have replaced the previously pastel Passerelle and Bravo Bistro. New chef-proprietor Abde Dahrouch has shifted the cooking style from New American to
Warm shades of saffron and cinnamon in the decor signal a new dining direction at the Radnor Racquet Club, where Pond Restaurant and Bistro Cassis have replaced the previously pastel Passerelle and Bravo Bistro. New chef-proprietor Abde Dahrouch has shifted the cooking style from New American to French-Mediterranean, and if the ragout of burgundy snails and rack of lamb with white beans seem very familiar, it’s because we’ve seen them before at Taquet in Wayne, where Dahrouch most recently was chef de cuisine, executing the wishes and dishes of absentee executive chef Jean-François Taquet. The French-Mediterranean menu at Pond is so similar to Taquet’s correct, conservative style that I found myself wishing Dahrouch would lighten his sauces, season with a bolder hand, and show us something different.
Pond occupies the formal, white-tablecloth room that was Passerelle, suited to special occasions or serious business. Across the foyer, Cassis draws a younger, dressed-down crowd to its busy bar. There are separate menus for each space, but customers are given both. Which means you can roll into the bistro wearing Juicy Couture warm-ups and order Pond’s seared foie gras, a very generous slice of luxury liver dressed with sweet-tart reduced balsamic vinegar, crowned with crisp shoestring-cut fried onions. Or you can don pearls and dig into the bistro’s lamb stew under the main room’s stately Moorish chandeliers.
The food was uneven on my visits. I loved the sesame-scented tuna tartare, patted into a rosy disc that glistened like a jewel, and the silky house-cured Norwegian salmon with blini. I was less enthralled with the Caesar salad, served on a parmesan crisp as thick as a pizza crust, and the unattractively gray mushroom soup. Syrah-glazed short ribs with thick pappardelle, though tasty, felt oppressive on a hot day. Smoky bacon lent a heavy-handed flavor to the sautéed mushrooms alongside a very good filet mignon with roasted fingerling potatoes.
The strongest attraction is the lower-level outdoor terrace that faces a man-made pond where white swans glide gracefully. It’s a setting that encourages falling in love, even though my feelings about the restaurant remain strictly platonic.