Tuesday, September 24, 2013

OnTwenty Restaurant Review (or is it Polytechnic Club on 20)- a restaurant review

It's been a while since I've done a restaurant review but I feel like this place needed my review.  So here goes.

To get to OnTwenty, a fine dining restaurant on the 20th floor of the Hartford Steam Boiler, you go to the One State Street parking garage where, to get the ticket to park you need to buzz the attendant and tell him you're going to the restaurant.  He pointed us to the left in the parking garage.  Once on the 2nd floor we wondered where we should enter, there were no cars parked anywhere.  There was a small sign pointing to the lobby but we expected a sign for the restaurant.  So we went up to the third floor and found a few cars so we decided to park there and enter the lobby through two beige/yellow fire doors. The lobby of the office building is lovely.  The two guards at the desk looked at us and asked if we were there for the restaurant and pointed us to an elevator bank.  The elevator did not have an up or down arrow, just numbers, so we blankly stared at it, then at the guards who told us how to work the elevator.  We looked at each other thinking how bizarre this night is starting out.

On the 20th floor the elevators open into a small table acting as a hostess stand and behind it is a swanky looking bar overlooking the Connecticut River and some Hartford buildings.  It felt strange to be in such a 'fine dining' restaurant and have the televisions playing in the bar.  If I worked downtown I'd definitely try to get some colleagues to hit that bar some afternoon.  We were seated and handed a wine list.  It seems like there were more waitstaff and employees than patrons.  The restaurant is small, maybe 20 tables.  The decor is outdated and feels very much like a hotel restaurant- flower curtains and strange artwork, elevator-ish music playing.  The tables are set with true silver which reminded me of my grandfather's flatware which made it feel very old-school fine dining however the bread plates were clear bubbly glass which made it seem like it was trying to be trendy.  The atmosphere seemed confused.  And shockingly some tables has mismatching chairs (one with arms and one without), not in a trendy way but rather in a college library way.  It just seemed bizarre.  Our table had nice matching chairs with lovely fabric on them.

We were handed a wine list and our drink order was placed.  Only after our drink order was placed we were given our food menu.  I'm not exactly sure if this is 'correct'.  Personally I prefer to choose my drink based on what food I'm ordering but what the heck, I wasn't going to make a stink.  This was on20, afterall.  And it's been a while since I've been in a very fine dining restaurant.   Our waiter was prompt and attentive but rather hard to understand.  He asked Dave for his order first which I was strangely offended by.  Is chivalry dead?  Aren't you supposed to take the lady's order first?

The website mentioned that the week we were there was a Farm to Chef week (assuming it meant  September 20th- it's cut off on the website too) with special menu items but we didn't see anything particularly different or specifically mentioning where/what farm items were harvested from.  At any rate, the menu looked very exciting.   I peeked at it a few days earlier online and was thrilled with the choices.  We decided on the Grilled Octopus (Dave) and the Crab en croute (me) for appetizers and I ordered the lamb and Dave ordered the marrow crusted beef.  After our order was taken we were offered an amuse bouche.  I personally LOVE these.  It's so fun- a little teaser of what's to come.  It was a ginger goat cheese tartlet which once we decided to use our forks and not pick it up with our fingers tasted fun and delicious.  Very fresh and a nice way to amuse my bouche.

The plating was beautiful, both plates came out quickly.  Mine was very good but would have tasted better if it were warm, sadly it was tepid, at best.  It was a nice starter reminiscent of a crabcake.  The crab pieces were very small, thin and had a gorgeous, almost faux red color.  It was rolled in something and panko (?) and fried.  Every time I took a bite I was impressed by the crunch to it but wondered how it could be so crunchy but so cool at the same time.  Dave's octopus was really delicious.  The texture was beautiful and the presentation was impressive.  Though it seems a little '90s with the buffalo-type sauce that accompanied it, the tasso ham remoulade  (tasted a bit like bacony house-made mayo) was beautiful and played very nicely with the octopus.

Our waiter took our plates and asked if we wanted another drink.  Our silverware was changed to sharper knives to accompany our meals.  I changed my drink to wine and so did Dave.  Quickly our food was marched out (that's what it seemed like- a very formal presentation) and our wine was immediately served.  It was well organized and lovely to not have to wait for our drinks to begin our main course.  The plating was gorgeous.  I picked up my steak knife and was embarrassed I couldn't cut through my meal.  I ordered the lamb (shoulder) and imagined not even needing a sharp knife.  This knife wouldn't cut through the outer sear.  It was really strange.  The meat had a nice smokiness to it but it didn't taste like the lamb I really love.  I looked over at Dave's and he had a strange expression on his face.  He didn't like his meal.  I asked for a bite and seriously thought for a moment that they switched our meats.  His (supposed) NY Strip was soft and mushy/mealy.  It tasted a little bit more like lamb than beef.  And NEITHER of our meals were warm.  They were cool/tepid.  It tasted like both the meats might have been pre-cooked, not cooked to order.  They were not great.  Certainly not what I was expecting.  I muscled my way through cutting the thumb-sized portion and ate my accompaniments.  The couscous was good, a bit salty but nice to have a punch of flavor.  The beets were delicious and the falafal was flavorful, very crunchy and slightly warm (the only thing warm I was served all night).

We did order dessert.  I would have ordered a coffee but I didn't think of it and the waiter didn't suggest it.  Dave ordered the pineapple upside down cake with pina colada ice cream and I ordered the chocolate dish that seemed very different from how the waiter explained but it was difficult to hear/understand him.  Mine was very good and quite small and I needed two utensils to eat it, a knife would have been great but a spoon and fork worked.  It was three layers of mousse separated with a crispy wafer served with coffee ice cream.  The chocolate thing was quite good.  The coffee ice cream tasted like someone made vanilla ice cream and tossed in a pot of coffee.  I didn't love the ice cream but Dave did.  Dave's dish was fair.  The cake was quite dry (upside down cake should be dripping with ooey gooey sugary crust) and the ice cream was good, though I thought it could have been described in a less '1990's/pina colada' description- and more modern description like 'coconut pineapple ice cream'.

I'm not sure if our parking was validated or just added to the bill.  The tip was already included at about 20% for just us two people which seemed strange.  All in all the meal was fine.  The experience was bizarre and a little disappointing.  I'm not sure who this restaurant is targeting but with all the excellent dining choices in the area this one felt like a let down.  Perhaps it was a bad night but we won't be returning.  There are far better restaurants serving warm food without a $10 parking charge.  Sorry Polytechnic on 20 or on20 or whatever your name is, your reputation is overrated.  Your name seems as confused as your restaurant.  

No comments:

Post a Comment