Sunday, April 5, 2015

A New Face on an Old Friend

(If this seems like an homage to Janice Okun, it is.  I didn't always agree with her reviews, but I loved reading them.)

This looks a lot more like Christmas than Easter, no?  Yet this was the view today, Easter Sunday 2015, from the back patio of The Public House on the Lake.  This, their opening week - opening with a bang offering brunch on Easter Sunday.   Regardless of wind and weather, the atmosphere inside was warm and cozy.  Fans of the defunct Root Five will be happy to hear that the new owners of TPHOTL have maintained the basic decor and layout of its predecessor.

The service, right from the start, was exemplary.  The companion and I are experienced buffet aficionados, having run the gamut from spreads resembling something one might expect at the chuckwagon, to high-end extravaganzas offering those unpronounceable dishes that make me feel like the peasant that I am.  Nothing puts one off like poor service at a buffet.  Clear the plates, fill the coffee cups.  Very simple.  There were no issues here.  The staff was very eager to please.

On to the main topic:  food and drink.  Our first observation was of a huge and impressive chalkboard menu of craft beers, IPAs and hard ciders.  We reluctantly resisted the urge to indulge in a nontraditional Easter beverage and stuck with coffee.  I know - boring.  But bad coffee can ruin the Easter brunch experience, so I felt obligated to test it here.  This coffee was better than average - not spectacular, but definitely more than adequate.   As we made our way into the main buffet line, we were amused but appreciative of the piles of mixed plate sizes - everything from petite to manly.  The presentation of these plates was oddly charming.  This was a foreshadowing of the offerings to come, I suppose.

Salad lovers would be disappointed.  Only one large bowl of basic green leaf lettuce salad was offered, with one choice of dressing - balsamic vinaigrette.  However, there were quite a few other options for healthy eating.  The yogurt with fruit and granola was delicious.   Anyone who knows me well would be surprised to know that, upon coercion of the companion, I tried and enjoyed the smoked salmon and went back for seconds.  Another healthy option was the offerings of the carving station, with a nice selection of lean turkey, ham and roast beef - all very well prepared.  There was a disappointing lack of condiments offered for the turkey, though.  Gravy is nice, but how about some cranberry mayo or relish?  I am hesitant to offer an opinion on the vegetable medley, but I suppose if you enjoy spinach and yellow squash......  have at it!

On to the other highly enjoyable offerings.  The basic breakfast items were all nicely cooked and seasoned - particularly the scrambled eggs.  Knowing what I do about the egg mixture that most restaurants use for buffets, seasoning is critical, and TPHOTL hits it out of the park.  The companion proclaimed his loaded omelet to be "really, really good".  The pastry table offered a nice selection of muffins and danishes, but ... no bagels, toast or english muffins, so if you're looking to carbo-load on white flour bread products, you're in the wrong place.   Another deviation for me - the grits with shrimp.  I tried this for the shrimp and enjoyed it for both the shrimp and the grits.  Being a northern girl, I can't testify to the authenticity of this dish, but  - again - seasoning is key.  I don't know what was in those grits, but it made them very good indeed.  One downside was the sad offering of Belgian waffles.  One serving tray of cold cut up waffles cannot be considered as an adequate substitute for a waffle station, in my opinion.

The lunch/dinner items were in the range of tasty to divine.   My favorite was the seafood scampi which was an adventure in and of itself.  Scampi with lobster on the first round, scampi with mussels on the second round.  Who knows what was in there before my arrival and after my departure. Anyone who recalls with nostalgia the superb seafood offerings of Root Five will be happy to know that if this seafood scampi is any indication, TPHLTL should more than live up to its predecessor in that regard.

The companion saved his high praise for the cheesecake selection on the dessert table.  In particular, he gushed over the red velvet cheesecake.  Mind you, he comes from a long line of cheesecake lovers, so this might seem trivial to the reader, but it is high praise coming from him.

So there you have it.  In summary, this is a superior brunch for the money ($24.95), may not be for everybody, but definitely bodes well for the success of their regular dinner menu.

4 stars out of 5

Best Dishes:  Seafood Scampi, Omelets
Needs Work:  Belgian Waffles, Green Salad Selection (perhaps a raw vegetable station would be a nice addition.)
Missing: White Bread "stuff", Children's menu.  For future reference, parents:  If you have small children, call ahead and ask.  There were no chicken fingers, hot dogs or macaroni & cheese to be found at this brunch.
Missing but not Missed:  Mayo-based salads.  Who ever thought that picnic salads belonged on a brunch menu anyway?

I am looking forward to many enjoyable meals at this establishment!

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