Sunday, April 29, 2012

Frog n Snail

Frog n Snail is a beautiful, comfortable restaurant with roomy, gorgeous wood tables and terrific lighting that creates a simultaneously romantic, fun and practical ambience.  The staff were enthusiastic and friendly, and there were some delicious bites of food too.  So I hope that the missteps and bland dishes that stand out more in my mind right now were just new-restaurant kinks that will be worked out.

The best dish might have been the simplest: mussels cooked in a creamless, intensely citric and garlicky broth finished with absinthe and plenty of butter were the kind of dish you plan to share with companions, then subconsciously forget until they’re all gone.  Almost as good, the lyonnaise salad proved that in the deft hand of a chef who understand how to use it judiciously, black truffle oil can lend great complexity to a balanced, acidic dressing. Lardons, a runny poached egg on top and terrific French fries underneath make this a salad you might skip if you’re prepping, as a fair number of the beefy, skin-tight-shirt-wearing Frog n Snail clientele may have been, to participate in the Friday night shower show at Spin a couple of blocks away.

Unfortunately, my first bite of the night was a disastrous one.  The sweet pea risotto was woefully crunchy and chalky, having been either substantially undercooked or cooked too far in advance, allowed to dry out, and reheated improperly.  Restaurant risotto is often inferior to home cooked risotto on account of it being impractical for a restaurant cook on a busy weekend night to stir constantly while patiently adding liquid a little at time for 25 minutes, but there are techniques that manage this challenge while producing results far better than Frog n Snail’s.

The rest of the meal sat mostly in the middle of the mussels high and the risotto low.  A namesake dish of crisp, beautifully cooked frogs legs and minerally snails in a green peppercorn sauce showed excellent technique, but it was underseasoned and the frogs legs themselves were in especially desperate need of salt.  The broth in the French onion soup seemed too light in color and flavor, though some terrific, sweet spring peas lifted it, so maybe a certain light spring-ness was what the kitchen was going for with this traditionally rich, dark dish.  Two fish preparations – barramundi and trout – were good, though each seemed unfocused, with at least one too many ingredients.

For now Frog n Snail is byob, but a bartender said that will be changing soon with a cocktail list that he assured me would include “a lot of really awesome martinis”.  That, combined with the mixed bag of dishes, a well-meaning, hard working server who had no idea how to explain the word barigoule on the menu, and Spin shower show days that have long passed, left me doubtful that this will prove to be more than a very occasional spot for me.