Posted by Tegan O'Neill
I had heard great things about Maestro's but had not been there before because of the lofty prices. When the entrees start to creep into the $30 realm, I have to be certain that the restaurant under consideration is one I really want to try.
When my partner Sarah and I found out about their "Super Sunday " special, I finally felt that it was time to give it a try. In honor of the Super Bowl, Maestro's was offering small entree portions for $5. That's right, $5. It was an opportunity too good to pass up.
In retrospect, reviewing Maestro's during this particular promotion was probably not the most well-informed decision. Admittedly, when I scampered into the restaurant to make the reservation, I did not put two and two together; I did not realize that "Super Sunday" meant Super Bowl Sunday. As I ranted about the meal, a friend pointed out to me afterwards that Maestro's was catering to a large crowd that day but more specifically, a large crowd that had its mind on the big game later that day — not on the food. Also, I think it is important to note in this review that the "Super Sunday" menu was not the same as the normal Maestro's menu.
The first dish to disappoint was the beef brisket. Brisket has the potential to be lip-smacking, mouth-watering good. For me, the word brisket conjures up a taste sensation of juicy, slightly tangy and slightly sweet meat. This taste sensation was worlds apart, leagues below. The meat was cooked perfectly fine but it lacked flavor. The boiled potatoes and the carrots plopped next to the brisket seamed like a lazy afterthought. Any flavor inherent in those two products of the earth had all the life sucked out of them. The night was still young, though; I still had hope.
The braised chicken and dumplings, however, turned out to be truly hopeless. I think any fast food joint on the highway could have done a better job. The salty chicken and its slippery skin sat in a swamp of what must have been gravy.
What made each entree all the more disappointing was that my expectations for each were grossly inflated by the beautiful descriptions printed on the menu. Take, for example the butternut squash lasagna: "layers of ricotta, roasted butternut squash puree, fresh mozzarella, béchamel sauce, fire roasted tomato sauce." Sounds lovely and it probably would have been if only I could taste any of the stated ingredients. All I could taste was cheese, but not ricotta or mozzarella - just the generic taste of cheese. The lasagna could have benefited from a more generous serving of tomato sauce, seeing as the acidity of the tomato was the only thing that gave the dish the slightest dimension.
The description of the gnocchi was cruelly misleading too: "parsley cheese gnocchi, sage brown butter, butternut squash, walnuts, chevre and Grana Padano." I got a fleeting glimpse of sage but other than that, nothing about the gnocchi left me pining for more. Even the itsy bitsy pieces of butternut squash were devoid of flavor. Butternut squash is one of my favorite ingredients, but even so, it does not shine brightly when left untouched. It needs a helping hand to bring out its favorable qualities.
Compared to the lamb stew, though, the gnocchi suddenly did not seem too bad. Where as the main fault of the other dishes was that they lacked flavor, the lamb stew, which was served in a puff pastry, had a distinctively disagreeable taste and texture. I tasted lamb but hardly anything else. The puff pastry had lost any flakiness or butteriness that it once may have had and instead just served to sop up the thick brown gravy.
Last, and tying for least: the fish and chips. The fish was fried out of its mind. The breading was so tough that stabbing it with a fork was hardly sufficient to get a handle on it. Beneath the gravel of breading was the thinnest layer of fish. I could hardly see it never mind taste it. The tartar sauce had some zing to it. Finally, something that actually reminded me that I did indeed have taste buds — I was getting worried! Even the coleslaw was curiously stripped of flavorful dimension. Coleslaw can be so good when it is rich with mayo and has a little bit of punch to it; this had none. The chips were 99 percent fried matter and 1 percent potato.
I want to loop back to something I did like about the meal: the bread. It was like your run-of-the-mill bread but better. According to our waitress it was technically a cornbread but, to me, it seemed more like a hybrid made by adding cornmeal to regular white bread. The gritty crystals of cornmeal gave the light and fluffy bread a delightful texture contrast. The bread was even better with butter and the butter was even better with the Hawaiian sea salt, which sparkled on top of the slab.
Maestro's started off the meal on a positive note and ended with one too. Before we could get the check and hit the road, we were offered a large metal bowl of chocolate from which we were instructed to each take a piece using the provided tongs. I pity the poor soul who only samples a small piece of this confection. The dark chocolate was topped with a medley of almonds, walnuts, orange, and cranberries. All the flavors melted into one tangy and sweet, rich and bitter swirl that did a decent job of masking the reality of the meal.