First impressions are kind of important, and at Audrey Claire their first impression matched the unseasonably lukewarm November weather. Reservations are a must for dinner, reminded with a confirmatory call at 4pm in the midst of my Thanksgiving hangover recovery nap, and we arrived early at 650pm for our 7pm reservation. However by 710pm we were still not yet seated, waiting on another table to order and finish their desserts. Thankfully, Food & Friends across the street on 20th and Spruce offered some relief from the bustling full house corner restaurant and I picked up two bottles of Kriek, a Belgium cherry beer, for the table.
By 720pm, we were seated comfortably near the back of the restaurant and left to ponder over the menu. Service was prompt and the restaurant was dressed in straw snowflakes and painted in pleasant pastel colors. However, the open kitchen in addition to a small packed space made conversation and the discussion of the menu difficult.
I had spied a beet salad on several tables on my way in and started with the popular choice. The beets came accompanied with mashed pumpkin and warm goat cheese ($8). The sweet crimson beets stood out against the creamy amber pumpkin and blend well with the topping of white goat cheese. The dish was a visual feast and got approving nods from my sister across the table. I also tried some of her grilled tiger shrimp and roasted sweet potatoes with baby arugula ($13) and although the shrimp was fresh it was disappointingly lackluster in flavor.
The main course was crispy shallot crusted lemon sole with crispy sage and caper butter ($21). The nicely browned shallots were accented by a sharp zesty lemon flavor that really highlighted the fish. My only complaint would be that they overdid it with the olive oil. The fish was practically swimming in it and sat rather heavily in my stomach by the end of the meal.
This however did not deter me from dessert. I contemplated between a classic, a warm chocolate cake, and a more unusual choice, a lemon olive oil cake. Curiosity won out and the petite dish came dressed with fresh strawberries and cream. The moment my spoon hit the cake, the first thing I noticed was how thick it was and its light green texture reminded me of the rich coconut based pastries of my hometown Singapore. The olive oil was evident but I wished the lemon would have come further into the foreground instead of playing a faint supporting role that barely registered on my tongue. By the time I was done, it just added to the already heavy sinking feeling in my stomach. At least with all the olive oil I have eaten tonight my hair will be shiner.
I was not impressed but let’s still remain friends.