Coming home for Thanksgiving has several benefits. First, you get to see your family. Second, you can eat delicious turkey leftovers, especially the “Thanksgiving Sandwich.” And third, when you’re in town, you can try restaurants you never had a chance to try (and of course, go to your favorite places too). For my, it was Birch and Barley. I have been to ChurchKey, the incredible beer bar upstairs, but I never sampled their culinary delights.
The downstairs of the building, which houses Birch and Barley, plus the overwhelming beer list, has a really fantastic decor. The high ceilings, the wood paneling, flowers along various parts of the wall and the epic row of beer taps, makes sitting in the restaurant a pleasure.
For our starters, I had a little troubling picking. Normally, I would always order the pork belly dish on the menu, but instead opted for the ahi tuna poke tartare. The soy and ginger flavors were paired perfectly with the fish and it was tender and fresh. The topping of crushed wasbi peas, was a perfect contrast and added a great crunch.
My wife opted for the Autumn Waldorf Salad, or at least their interpretation of the famous salad. The salad included endive and a salted baked pear, plus Gorgonzola and dried cranberries. It was like a thanksgiving waldorf.
Because I chose the tartare for the appetizer, I went with meat for the entree. The roasted lamb loin was cooked to a medium rare perfection. The tender meat practically melted in my mouth. The lamb was surrounded by cranberry beans, which are similar to pinto beans, plus some duck sausage and bacon. The dish was well balanced and the meat was as tender as you can imagine. I would have been happy with one more slice.
The other entree that I tried, and, more amazingly, enjoyed was the beet risotto. I normally hate beets, but this dish, i could have eaten all day. It was sort of a take on borscht, as the risotto was cooked with either beet juice or pureed beets. In the center was whipped goat cheese, that appeared to act as the “sour cream” in borscht. It was a wonderfully flavorful dish For dessert, though there is no picture, we ordered a cookies and treat sampler. With this came a cashew snickers bar, oatmeal cream pie, hostess cupcake, pudding pop, smore brownie and mint chocolate chip ice cream. Each was small and the winners were the cupcake, smore and snickers bar.
Overall, Birch and Barley does not falter in anyway. The service was excellent the entire night, and should have needed, the restaurant’s beer expert could have been consulted for our beer selection. The food here is elegant, imaginative, well crafted and most of all, delicious. If you love beer and love food, this is about the best you are going to find.