Bread service in American restaurants is different than elsewhere in the world. Here, the bread basket entices famished diners to butter up and chow down before ordering anything else.
But in Paris, your server will cut a few slices from a baguette and bring them, unadorned, with your meal. The premise is that you’ll use the bread to sop up sauce from your main course. I don’t know if America’s over-portioned patrons would like that.
Lately some restaurants have started charging for bread service. In most cases, a few dollars will bring you an artisan creation with dips and compound butters to match. It’s worth the small investment.
It should be that way at Poitin, too, a new restaurant in Sawyer Yards. Here, a House Sourdough is $6, accompanied by cultured sorrel butter. Order it, and a beautiful warm round will arrive. But tear into it, and you’ll find something akin to plain white bread, with butter so salty it can hardly be eaten.
This was one of a few surprises at Poitin that night. The restaurant isn’t a total dud, but there was enough awkwardness to put me on the fence about recommending it.
The menu is divided into small and large plates. If you want to commit to an entrée, you can choose from several protein and sides offerings in the $25-40 range.
More intriguing are the small plates. I started with Cornmeal Dusted Okra with Cajun-dill buttermilk sauce. Now, frying a whole okra is risky business. Fresh okra is firm, and a few minutes in hot oil can’t change that. So, a thick, pasty and flavorless batter encased an ornery vegetable. Not much more to say about that.
Choosing a cocktail to go along was easy. When I saw the Key Lime Pie Martini, I had to have it. It took forever, but when my personable server brought it, he praised Poitin’s “house made whipped cream.” Umm, it was frothy egg whites, but an A for effort and it did taste like a key lime pie. I wish the glass held more than three sips.
I almost loved Elote, the Mexican grilled corn dish. All the ingredients — queso fresco, bacon, cilantro — were there. So was corn, straight from the cob (fibers abounded, so that’s how I know). Grilling gave the kernels a slight toughness, but the dish itself had great flavor.
Things got even better with the 72-Hour Texas Short Rib. Four chunks of meat were charred outside but delightfully tender within. A sauce of peanut butter, eggplant and kimchi sounded odd, but worked spicy magic with the beef.
But at these prices, I expected more of a “wow” factor at Poitin. The décor is like an upscale chain — not overdone, but not special either. Chain link fencing on the ceiling is questionable, though light shimmering through a wall of wine bottle bottoms lends drama. Poitin seems a bit paint by numbers now, but hopefully its personality will blossom with time.