With a desire to age better than its predecessors, Blush has opened its doors for Summer. The Bryn Mawr nook in which Blush now resides has been home to headaches and ill omens for careless restaurateurs and careful veteran chefs alike. Despite the looming history of failures, the location is much too stupendous to remain vacant. Enter chef and first-time owner Nicholas Farina. Farina honed his skills at the NYC's The Grand Tier (Metropolitan Opera House) before becoming chef de cuisine at Solaris Grille in Chestnut Hill. Though Blush is Farina's first restaurant, elements of his last kitchen have been drafted over to the new -- both menus are refined American cuisine (familiar items with a forgein twist). If Solaris could win over the younger rollers of Chestnut Hill, Farina must hope to woo the swanks of the Main Line with a similar formula.
With its Bourdeaux-hued tapestries and massive wine selection, Faina aims to create a more demure atmosphere for dining and sipping. While the restaurant claims to be casual-friendly, the chandeliers and comely maple tables suggest upscale dining. I expect they'll be catering to more than a couple private parties this Summer. But hey, if you want to don your sport shorts and sit on the second-floor Veranda (what a gorgeous view!), feel right at...um...home.
Though the indoor space was cool, the recent sweltering heat begged for outdoor seating. Blush can seat several parties outdoors, so do yourself and your company a favor and ask for the "Veranda" in advance. With the wind blowing and the sun gleaming, the food is almost secondary...almost.
Upon a quick one-over, the appetizers read appealingly, with their bold and bright ingredients: PEI Mussels, Sweet Potato Ravioli, "Cigar" (fried won-ton) wraps of Lobster, Marscapone Cheese, and Scallions. A few daily soups and substantial salads filled out the first course choices.
Intrigued by the prospect of a lip-curling dessert menu, all diners present opted to save room by going straight to the entrees. Though my eyes hovered over the Pineapple and Tequilla Glazed Duck for several tense moments, the evening rays reminded me of lazy dinners at the shore. At the shore, you eat fish. Plancha Seared Grouper, with an enticing poblano shrimp griddle cake side, seemed a premium choice.
After a belly-readying wait (a euphemism, but the climate eroded impatience), my Grouper arrived plump atop an artful pat of griddle cake and surrounded by grill-marked carrots and asparagus spears. Attractive plates are a plus -- each plate was visually appetizing -- but one bite into the undercooked carrots undermined that appeal. The grilled veggies were more of a garnish than a side. The slab of grouper was rich with seasoning, but the cut was too thick for pepper to save it. Grouper is not a typically flavorful fish, so some splashes of lemon would have been well worth the effort. The griddle cake was paired with a creamy shrimp sauce, so that abetted the desperate fish. The poblano shrimp cake really saved the plate. Its flavors fully impacted; first buttery cornbread, then lightly spicy shrimp.
The Pan Seared Scallops with sundried tomato mashed potato(es) offered the opposite problem -- the main component was delicious, with its slightly sweet balsamic reduction, but the main side, the mashed potatoes, were served at room temperature. It seems the kitchen staff has yet to gel completely, leading to some timing errors and subpar peices. If Farina is aiming for upscale dining, he will need to tighten these loose screws or he will find himself as another Bryn Mawr vagrant.
The dessert menu was fine (pretty typical fair, i.e. Apple Tart, Tiramisu, Chocolate Mousse cake..), but not as lip-lickingly awesome as we'd hoped. Two diners opted for solely for coffee, and one for gelato (vanilla and chocolate). Without a clear winner on the dessert menu (all $7), I opted for the taste of three desserts ($7). A tiny cuplet of chocolate ice cream arrived alongside a chocolate mousse tartlet and a lemon meringue tartlet. The ice cream was a cool but quickly melting dark chocolate. The chocolate mousse tartlet suffered from a very bland shell, but the lemon "chiffon" tartlet was a cool lemon curd with just the right bite. My recommendation, skip the rest and GO LEMON!
While not much at this new Main Line wine and dine warrants excitement, Blush does offer a satisfying menu with enough appeal, for me, to warrant a second try. The wine and spirits offered also argue in the restaurant's favor. Great cocktails, decent beer selection, and a detailed and wide array of wine and champagn. Get yourself a seat on the Veranda, a Caribbean cocktail, and prosper as you swallow one of those Lobster Cigars.
Location and contact:
24 North Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010