Taste: Reviews: Phoenixville Rising
The mussels were finished, but we were having trouble letting go. Every time our server tried to clear the table, three hands would swoop toward the bowl, determined to mop every drop of buttery broth infused with Pernod.
Chef Andrew Deery’s uncommonly delicious take on a common appetizer was the first tip-off that Majolica might stand apart from the rank-and-file of pleasant, uncomplicated BYOBs. Then the carefully composed, seasonally oriented main courses confirmed it: Deery’s entrées are frankly beautiful, graced with elegant sauces such as the parsley emulsion that made a pretty pastel backdrop for porcini-dusted halibut. And there were thoughtful extras — a citrus-y salmon tartare on house-made potato chips, and a Valencia orange sorbet intermezzo, boldly enhanced with shredded basil and a splash of olive oil. It’s a pleasure to report that Majolica is one of the best new restaurants to open this year.
Fine-dining flourishes are second nature to Deery, who has worked at Savona, the Kimberton Inn and Passerelle, but they are new to Phoenixville, a town best known for making iron and steel as well as the fanciful glazed pottery called majolica. Those industries, honored by a mural at Main and Bridge streets, faded many years ago. Now the local economy is driven by a very different force: affluent Chester County newcomers who have settled near the tech and pharmaceutical campuses where they work. The transition can already be seen on Bridge Street, where dowdy shop fronts in the town center are slowly giving way to restaurants, brewpubs, espresso bars, antiques stores and condominiums. Deery and his wife, Sarah Johnson, who manages the dining room with a friendly, professional touch, are confident that their hometown can become a dining destination, as West Chester, Media and Collingswood have.
Majolica is its first destination restaurant. Copper-topped tables and walls painted in a green hue reminiscent of majolica pottery reinforce the Arts and Crafts aesthetic of the casual-chic 40-seat dining room, on the site of the former Phoenix Tavern. Couples at or near retirement age, cheerfully bearing multiple bottles of wine, mix easily with customers closer in age to Deery and Johnson, who are 34 and 28, respectively.