Friday, October 14, 2011

Restaurant Rundown #1: Spin A Yarn Steakhouse, post Kitchen Nightmares filming!

I’m not typically one for reviewing restaurants. I like to learn about recipes, from cookbooks or other blogs, and try them out in my own kitchen. But when I found out that an upcoming Kitchen Nightmares was filmed in Fremont I had to check it out, and a visiting friend who was into cooking shows gave me an excuse to go.

The restaurant in question is Spin a Yarn. Note: I don’t think I’ll do anything like give number rankings to anything, since those are pretty arbitrary. Just good honest descriptions here folks. Now to the review. (TLDR summary at the end folks)

I tried to make a reservation, but after I heard the phone pick up, no one answered me for several long moments, so I just gave up and decided to take my chances.

The trip to the location made me realize at least one of the reasons why this place needed Ramsay’s help: Location. While reasonably close to the important Mission Blvd which links two major freeways, being a half mile away from the major intersection down a path that seemed quite industrial doesn’t seem to inviting to passing traffic.

It seems luck was with me, as they were able to seat us right away. That said, this place definitely was benefitting from the buzz generated from the Ramsay visit, as the rather expansive parking lot was packed, and the restaurant was filled with the not unpleasant sounds of tinkling silverware and wineglasses over relatively muted conversation. However, the ambiance I felt didn’t quite hit the mark for me. It was darker than I’d have liked and gave an almost foreboding feeling of the color brown, in a somewhat old fashioned way. And not the good kind of old fashioned.

The tables were neatly laid out and well spaced. And the menu was very concise, in the usual Ramsay fashion. Here it is for your reading pleasure. What immediately struck me is that sauces actually had prices. With relief I noted that the entrees came with a sauce of your choice, but it still was odd to see that section on its own like that. More on that in a bit. I will also say that he service was excellent, and we were continually checked upon not by our designated server but by several other staff passing by.

After some consideration, we ordered our appetizer, the Portabello Mushroom fries. They were nicely battered and had an interesting flavor if a bit soft, but much improved by the acidic mayonnaise dip. Not a bad start to the overall experience.

Now onto the entrees. My friend ordered the lamb chop with a green peppercorn sauce accompanied by roasted root vegetables. I had the scallops with along with the braised Swiss Chard. I selected Chimichurri after turning down the recommendation of hollandaise due to my distrust of that sauce.

Here’s my one recommendation for Spin a Yarn here that will probably be in stark contrast to the teachings of Ramsay. While a trim menu is good, the sauce section should have more text. If it is going to stand out on its own like that, having descriptions of each sauce and their traditional pairings would be an interesting read and helpful to curious clientele.

The food was decent if a bit pricier than I would have liked for the taste. With the emphasis on sauces it seemed to me that the food alone lacked the seasoning that I expect from dining out. The sauces did improve the dishes, and perhaps I should have tried the hollandaise. The sides were quite disappointing. While the texture was fine, both the root vegetables and chard were not seasoned enough, and lukewarm in temperature. My friend enjoyed the lamb considerably, but I’ve had better at what I’m sure was a better price elsewhere in the neighborhood (several years ago).

As one of the few “iconic” Fremont restaurants with a bit of history behind it, I hope that this place can kick things up a notch and really sell it, but I’m not sure all of the ingredients are in place.

And I definitely look forward to seeing the Kitchen Nightmares episode.

TLDR Summary: A dark décor and somewhat pricy menu in a restaurant well off the beaten path, with a fine dining feel without the fine dining taste. With excellent service I wish this place the best, but their trim menu could use better execution in seasoning and timing for the sake of temperature.

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