Taste: Reviews: Phoenixville Rising
Deery is passionate about fresh seafood, and it shows. A split tail from a one-and-a-half-pound lobster curls neatly around the base of a vertically positioned claw in a chilled appetizer, ready for dipping into emphatic lemon aioli flavored with house-made preserved lemons. Another chef might place a few haricots verts around the perimeter of the plate and consider it done; here, the green beans are tied into neat bundles with fresh chives. Seared sea scallops wrapped with fresh bay leaves rest on tiny French lentils — just a shade undercooked — enriched with reduced veal stock. Large pearls of vivid orange salmon roe adorn Scottish salmon on toasted brioche that hides yet another layer of texture, a cache of braised celery. Butter, white truffle oil and seafood stock converge in a French-style nage surrounding the salmon.
Local ingredients are used as often as possible. White corn soup is nothing more than butter-sautéed kernels pureed with milk, strained, and poured warm at the table around cornmeal-dusted fried cherrystone clams, an inspired textural contrast. (Another version of the soup omitted the clams and went in a sweeter direction, using vanilla butter and fresh basil.) Frisée salad — arranged, rather than tossed — incorporates soft, feathery greens (mine could have used more dressing), a hard-cooked egg (because the two-man line can’t realistically poach an egg perfectly at the height of dinner service), a single strip of bacon, and utterly greaseless fried potatoes cut into large dice. The rabbit appears in a two-way presentation that combines a seared tenderloin portion with legs braised confit-style in olive oil flavored with juniper berries.
Some meat dishes just missed the mark by being slightly over- or undercooked. Crisp sweetbreads lost their creamy center; the ultra-rareness of the Muscovy duck breast and the lamb loin rendered them chewy. But the steak frites is superb, a tender grilled hanger steak moistened with reduced veal stock and gilded with herbed butter that gains added flavor depth from garlic and anchovy. The fries are crisp and generously portioned.
Three cheeses from Hendricks Farm and Dairy in Telford — two goat varieties and one cow’s-milk cheese — were well-made, but too similar. The excellent coffee is from the Coffee Roasting Company in nearby Kimberton.
Deery and sous-chef Scott Ewing are as hands-on with dessert as they are with the rest of the meal. They prepare the pâté de choux pastry for the profiteroles, and roll puff pastry very flat to ensure that the raspberry napoleon is a crisp fruit sandwich, with orderly rows of whole red and golden raspberries in the center and a squiggle of pastry cream clinging to one of the pastry squares. Poached pineapple and an architectural macadamia nut tuile cookie are well-suited to the house-made coconut sorbet. Crème anglaise infused with fresh tarragon makes a provocative partner for the bittersweet chocolate soufflé, but the intense cocoa flavor blots out every trace of the sweet herb if the cream is poured into the soufflé center. You can experience the desired effect by eating the crème anglaise and the soufflé separately, spoonful by alternating spoonful.
AVERAGE COST OF DINNER PER PERSON (with tax and tip, without alcohol): $49
FOOD: Seasonal New American
WINE LIST: BYOB
GET: Mussels with Pernod butter; chilled lobster with haricots verts and preserved lemon aioli; porcini-dusted halibut with parsley emulsion; Scottish salmon with truffle nage; rabbit confit; steak frites.
DON’T GET: Roasted figs with lavender flowers, unless you can tolerate a dessert that smells like a sachet.