Thursday, March 4, 2010

Springs Cafe by Wolfgang Puck

Az and I went to check out the Springs Preserve yesterday, in part because she had never been there, but mostly because the Springs cafe was on my list of restaurants to blog about. The cafe is currently run by the instructor of my "Skills 2" course in culinary school, Chef Sherlock, who is a talented chef but notorious for getting himself in sticky situations that make it imperative for him to move around quite a bit. He was the youngest sous chef in the history of the Plaza Hotel in New York and has competed in crazy culinary competitions that require incredible knowledge of numerous and complicated techniques. You wouldn't know this from the menu at the Springs Cafe, however, because it is made up of simple and solid Puck-style food.

After musing over the menu a little too long, which either frustrated or amused the cashier, we decided on sharing the falafel pita ($10) and the Greek salad ($11). I realized afterwards that we ordered two very similar dishes to what I had for lunch the day before at The Fat Greek. This excited me because I love making cross comparisons when meals are fresh in my mind.

Let's start with the falafel. The falafel at the Spings Cafe is served in a homemade pita with field greens, tzatziki, a tahini drizzle, and a side of fries, differing slighlty from the falafel plate of the Fat Greek which was served with hummus, a little chopped salad and toasted pita bread. Since you can also order the falafel in a pita at the Fat Greek, we'll break it down into two of the basic components that came with each, the pita bread and the falafel. The pita at the Springs Cafe was much better because it was soft and had a little of the chewiness that can only result from freshly baked bread. The pita at the Fat Greek is also good, but I'm certain it isn't made in house and it is a little denser. I like the falafel better at the Springs Cafe as well, as it wasn't as dry and had more flavor than the falafel at the Fat Greek. In fact, it was almost creamy in texture, which worked really well in the sandwich, but made me wonder if it was prepared authentically. I'm not used to having falafel be that creamy so either this is how falafel is supposed to be done, or this is Mr. Puck's interesting take on falafel. There's also the possibility that the fryer oil was too hot so the outside was done before the inside had the chance to cook through all the way. I'll give Wolfgang, or Sherlock, the benefit of the doubt since it was really delicious, though it still didn't compare to Maoz falafel in Amsterdam that I mentioned in the last review. That falafel was just as difficult to eat but was heavenly and you could pick from a plethora of sauces and fillings that just put it over the top. Today's Falafel Winner: Springs Cafe

Now moving on to the salad. The salad at the Springs cafe had all the right components but fell short in a few areas. The first area was the crouton, which was awful. It was rock hard and tasted like it was made from one of the unsuccessful baguettes that were so abundant in culinary school. Did Sherlock have someone from Cordon Bleu bring over the bakery leftovers so he could make these croutons? I think it's a definite possibility. Another area the salad fell short in was flavor. It seemed to me that if they had dried the lettuce more thoroughly the dressing could have clung to the individual leaves better, giving the salad the punch it needed. Instead you were left with the flavor of the feta, which was added with too heavy a hand if you ask me. Some people like that, however, so I won't hold the use of feta against the cook. In contrast the Greek Salad at the Fat Greek was flavorful and served with warm pita. It also cost two dollars less and you had the addition of delicious gyro meat, making it all the more succesful. Today's Salad Winner: The Fat Greek.

We also brought home an overstuffed slow roasted beef sandwich served on pretzel bread ($12) for Ian, who was stuck at home attaching dog food labels to plastic vacuum bags all day. I can't fairly comment on this dish since it was soggy by the time I got it home, much to Ian's dismay, but I will say that we would both probably order it again since all the components were delicious.

Today's Food Rating: 6.5
Ambiance: 7 (spacious and clean with nice views of the Preserve)

Tip: Go when the weather is nice and sit out on the patio to enjoy the view.

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