People often inquire about what my favorite restaurant is. I really do not have one, but if I have enjoyed fine meals at several places, I will follow a specific chef if he or she opens a new restaurant.
Several weeks ago, chefs Lee Styer of Fond, 1537 S. 11th St., and Joncarl Lachman of Noord, 1046 Tasker St., and Neuf, 943 S. Ninth St., joined culinary forces and opened The Dutch, a breakfast/brunch/lunch restaurant at 1527 S. Fourth St. I have savored a number of fine meals at Fond and Noord and looked forward to sampling a few items from the menu.
You may recall this restaurant was the former location of 4th and Cross. Nothing has been done to the interior. It is a bright cheery space with a counter and general seating. Blue and white are the calming colors offset by spring tulips here and there in a riot of color.
Rivel Brothers coffee ($3) was a bit weak for my taste, but it warmed me up on my first visit, which occurred on a cold, nasty day.
The roasted mushroom omelette with Taleggio ($14) was an ode to France with a bit of Italy inside. The omelette was golden and moist as one would be served in France. The mushrooms were perfectly seasoned and were offset by the creamy burst of Taleggio, sometimes called the Brie of Italy. I actually prefer it. The omelette stayed piping hot throughout lunch. Good roasted potatoes, wheat toast, and a side of thick slice bacon ($6) kept me happy. So did the beet marmalade prepared by Styer. Sounds weird but it was actually tasty.
The Cobb salad ($15) has undergone numerous changes since it was invented at The Brown Derby in Hollywood many years ago. I like it as a composed salad, but this version held true to the classic ingredients. Roast turkey, crisp bacon, blue cheese, salad greens, hard cooked eggs done up in beet juice and green goddess dressing formed the ingredient list. The salad required a bit more dressing, but it is always best to underdress and add more.
Our second visit offered a number of culinary firsts and surprises.
You must try Baby Dutch Savory Pancake ($11). The batter, with the inclusion of milk for a velvety texture, and well-beaten eggs are poured into a cast iron skillet. The large pancake was topped with scallions and tiny bits of bologna, heady with garlic, and allowed to set on top of the stove. The skillet goes into the oven, and what I got was one of the most delicious and unusual versions of a brunch dish I have ever tasted. The mixture is a cross between a creamy quiche and a pancake. A bit of superfine sugar was sprinkled on top. I added a wisp of salt and nixed the syrup. This was perfection on a plate. A side of scrapple ($6) was crisped in a skillet and imparted the salty/peppery flavors that I enjoy most from this Pennsylvania Dutch invention.
Baked goods change daily. A strawberry scone ($3) went well with coffee and would be a flavorful tea-time break. I prefer the British style scone, which is akin to a biscuit. It is flakey and buttery. This one is the way most American bakers make scones. It was crusty on the ouside and crumbly inside.
One of the specials was asparagus on toast ($12). Styer’s creative juices were flowing with this creation. He roasted a handful of local asparagus, topped them with three sunny-side up eggs, added strips of red roasted peppers and topped the dish off with toast points. The combinations of flavors and textures could not have been finer.
Styer noticed us and sent over a dish, which was another first. It was a bread pudding I have never tried. He takes thick cut challah from Essen Bakery, 1437 E. Passyunk Ave., mixes crushed bananas with well-beaten eggs, coats the challah in the mixture, bakes the bread pudding in the oven, and tops them with sliced banana and a quenelle of cinnamon whipped cream. Pure maple syrup mixed with chopped walnuts topped off the bread pudding in a fashion I had never sampled before.
Servers and assistant servers kept everything on an even keel. I found a new brunch place and will return a number of times.
I cannot not stop thinking about the banana/challah bread pudding. Like the great Willie Mays, “it doesn’t get better than that.”
Four tips of the toque to The Dutch. ■
1527 S. Fourth St.
Photo by Tina Garceau