Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review of Owen & Engine: This “Engine’s” Firing on All Cylinders

Restaurant: Owen & Engine (“O&E”)
Locale: Chicago, Illinois (Logan Square / Bucktown Neighborhood)
Restaurant Established: 2010 
Style:  British Gastropub
Notables: Comfortable décor and ambiance.

Overall: Great time. Cozy ambiance and décor, truly a “British Gastropub”.  Food was outstanding from appetizer to dessert. Service was stellar although it did decline a tad as the evening progressed. Perhaps we were spoiled with the extra attentiveness at the outset before the crowd at O&E grew bigger. And now to the beer. I was intrigued when I perused the menu and found the black saison offering from New Holland Brewing Company. I love saisons and a black one at that; this would be a first since I was feeling adventurous. New Holland Brewing Company’s “Four Witches” Black Saison came in at a 7.3% ABV. The menu described it as having “Roasted Almond, Fresh Anise, White Pepper” (anise is the licorice plant in case you didn’t know).

New Holland Brewing Company’s “Four Witches” Black Saison 7.3% ABV

I thought this would be a hybrid that would knock my socks off but it failed to deliver. It just lacked the classic peppery /spicy saison notes and effervescence. I didn’t get the almond or white pepper as advertised. Eventually hints of anise crept up on me and on the back of the palate. The beer really should be marketed as a “milk stout” with a hint of anise. Even so I thought it was just very average. 

For our appetizer we started off with a selection from the “Small Plates” section of O&E’s menu: the Cornish Pasty with Piccalilli, Chutney, and Arugula Salad. Stuffed into this flaky pie crust was a stew concoction of some veg and rabbit meat. Circled around this on the plate were the sides of piccalilli, chutney and arugula salad.  While these sides were tasty by themselves, when combined with the rest of the dish it was a symphony of flavors and it all just came together very nicely.

Cornish Pasty

The waiter recommended a different beer for my meal sensing that I wasn’t thrilled with the first (though me saying “I'm not getting the saison in this [“Four Witches”] beer” probably teed him up). So with my meal of Fish & Chips he recommended Green Flash Brewing Co.’s “Rayon Vert” Belgian-Style Pale Ale. The beer was just ‘ok.’ As you can see (below) it had quite a head on it but the flavor or lack thereof was not what I would expect from a Belgian style ale. Granted, this was after having one beer and an appetizer and my palate may have been compromised so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and jot this beer down for a future B&B “B” only review.

Green Flash Brewing Co.’s “Rayon Vert” Belgian-Style Pale Ale ABV 7.0%

“On to the on-tray…BooWAHWAH!!  As a comic in all seriousness…” -Bobby Bittman.  Or as a blogger in all seriousness, the entrée was an outstanding version of Fish & Chips, the oh so British staple. The Chips (aka French Fries in the States) were delicious seasoned and properly crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. The side of very liquidy peas caught me off guard at first but once I tasted them I thought these are some of the tastiest peas I’ve ever had. There was also a side of tartar sauce (“Let the fools have their tartar sauce.” –M.B.) (Yinzer prefers HEINZ vinegar), and a thing of mayo for Chip dipping.  Last but not least, the Fish which was crispy, moist and flaky…delicious. I was a bit disturbed to find the skin on the bottom but the fork cut right through it and there was no “fishiness” and I believe the skin actually added flavor.

Fish & Chips

For dessert we went with the Sweet Potato pie. Or I should say Sweet Potato pie with Barber’s cheddar crust, lemon marshmallow and buttermilk anglaise. And boy was it delicious. The contrast of butter, sweet and creamy and a bit of sour combined to make one package of pie-goodness.  Kudos.

Sweet Potato Pie
Acquisition: Dinner for two including 4 beers, 1 appetizer, 2 entrees and 1 dessert ~$85 (not including tip)

Windfall: The burger with grilled onions which you gotta try, too. It’s quite good.