For some reason, restaurants in big cities seem to be held to higher standards than those in the suburbs. I find that almost insulting. Why would a diner who pays exponentially more to live in a better area, be left to dine in inadequate accommodations?
Maybe it’s just been the status quo for too long, and people have become complacent. Or maybe it's that mediocre is what passes out here. But I don’t believe that to be true.
I apologize up front for taking my anger and disdain for mediocrity out on . But I really hoped for better. Don’t get me wrong. The Paddock was good. But it could have been great.
The space itself is wonderful. I enjoyed the aesthetic, as well as the service and most of the food. But it's little things and shortcuts taken that truly separate the studs from the duds.
My friend and I were greeted by a friendly hostess and seated at a booth near the window with a partial view of Lancaster Avenue. Our server approached with a smile, filling our waters and telling us of the night’s specials: a Sesame Crusted Tuna for $18 and a Blackened Cajun Chicken for $16.
I had seen them being served to a nearby table, and though they looked good, the thought of sesame crusted tuna makes me feel like I’ve gone through a time warp and ended up in 1998, and then made a wrong turn into a New Jersey diner where they were serving blackened chicken.
We looked over the menu. None of it sounded nearly as antiquated as the night’s specials. There were appetizers, soups, salads, fries, sandwiches, burgers and entrees to choose from.
We decided on an order of the Cheese Steak Spring Rolls ($9.50), Calamari ($9), and Shrimp Lejon ($12) from the appetizers, a Lobster Grilled Cheese ($13), add fries ($2), from the sandwiches, and the Grilled Stuffed Chicken Breast ($18) from the entrees.
Our waitress took our order, left, and was back in a moment to inform me that they were out of the stuffed chicken. I went with my second choice, the Grilled Chicken and Penne ($16), instead.
Waiting for our food to arrive, I took in the music-less, horse themed atmosphere. Dark wood and track lighting made for a nice feeling. There were booths lining both the window where I was seated, and the wall adjacent the bar. Tables filled in the center of the room, brightening up the mahogany with lime green upholstered chairs. Our table was large enough to have fit a party of six and set with a candle, silverware rolled in simple black linens, salt and pepper shakers, and a sugar caddy.
Our first course arrived: calamari, cheesesteak spring rolls, and shrimp.
The Calamari was tasty. Crispy and fried, then tossed in a spicy Thai chili sauce and hot peppers. It was good. I really enjoyed it. But knowing in my heart that just moments before landing in my calamari, those peppers with stems still attached were fished from the tall glass jar in which they were swimming, makes me sad. The least the kitchen could do is cut the stems off of the peppers and pretend they were fresh.
The Calamari was supposed to be served with a side of garlic aioli. But a slight sauce mix-up left the plate bare. The aioli was eventually discovered, situated on the shrimp plate. The shrimp’s horseradish sauce? Next to the spicy ketchup on the cheesesteak spring roll plate. I know – it’s a lot to handle for a few plastic cups of sauce.
Speaking of Cheesesteak Spring Rolls, they were delicious. The two spring rolls were sliced in half and served topped with crispy onions. The spring rolls themselves were great - crispy and flaky on the outside, meaty and cheesy on the inside and the spicy ketchup was just right. The “crispy onions” were not crispy at all. They were more stale and unseasoned than anything else and did nothing but detract from the dish.
I’m going to stop here to make a plea, that chefs stop the terrible habit of serving things atop a sad little piece of lettuce. It’s not garnish. It’s not to be eaten. And it does nothing for presentation. So please, for all things green and leafy, unless its a salad, leave the lettuce off the plate.
On to the Shrimp Lejon. The shrimp was stuffed with horseradish and wrapped in bacon. The plate was garnished with four stalks of perfectly cooked, yet unseasoned asparagus. Though the shrimp were well cleaned, the bacon was overcooked. After eating the first one, my guest and I realized that they had, in fact, been deep-fried, reducing what should have been a juicy and tasty appetizer to a fried crustacean wrapped in overcooked pork.
I’ll begin with the Grilled Chicken and Penne pasta. It was pretty well done and enjoyable enough to have taken home the remainder. The penne was cooked correctly, tossed with chicken, spinach, mushrooms and what were supposed to be sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil. The tomatoes instead were fresh, but I didn’t mind. I prefer fresh vegetables any day. The dish was served with two slices of garlic bread – just enough to sop up the oil from underneath the pasta. Not too much oil, I’ll add. Just right.
Though the fries and pickle were great, the undeniable let-down of the night was the Lobster Grilled Cheese; Maine lobster, brie and mozzarella, fresh basil and Russian dressing served with a side of Tomato Bisque, for dipping.
My heart goes out to the farmer that took the time, energy and love to grow the tomatoes that ended up in our “bisque.” It was nearly thick enough to hold a spoon upright. Dip-able yes, but terribly acidic and tomato pasty. Somehow, the lobster, grilled cheese, and bisque had essentially the same flavor, possibly from the acidity of the Russian dressing.
The flavor of the overcooked Main lobster was lost in the thick bread and Russian dressing. And there’s no way that this sandwich was grilled. It was baked, and baked past its prime, drying it out to the point of no return.
No matter how pretty the space, or how friendly and attentive the staff, an un-inspired kitchen is a letdown in any restaurant. Some fresh ingredients and new techniques would bring The Paddock into the light in which I’m sure they would prefer to be seen.
Name of Restaurant: The Paddock at Devon
Location: 629 W Lancaster Ave. Wayne, PA 19807
Phone Number: 610-687-3533
Basic menu pricing: $4 - $25
Do they take credit cards? Yes.
Additional Information: Restaurant, Bar & Private Events
Tuesday – Thursday: 11am - 1am
Friday – Saturday: 11am - 2am
Sunday: 10am - 12am