Ahh, Restaurant Week, my favorite time of the year to try new-to-me restaurants. I’ve been trying to branch out a bit more and get out of my comfort zone, so I scrapped all my plans for tonight and made the spontaneous decision to go to Bigham Tavern to celebrate the Summer 2015 PRW session… all by my lonesome. It’s a little awkward to sit in a full-service restaurant by yourself when all the tables around you are filled with families, dates, and friends, but honestly it wasn’t that bad. Plus, with the cadence of the meal, I barely had time to get bored.
I chose Bigham Tavern for my summer session meal because I’d never been there and I’d heard good things, and also because of their menu – everything on their menu sounded good. Plus, four courses for $20.15 is a pretty good deal; I couldn’t pass it up.
The first course consisted of both pork belly and white bean soup and a salad with poached pears and goat cheese. The full description of the salad read, “pancetta, poached pears, shallots, goat cheese, and a balsamic reduction on iceberg,” but I noticed neither pancetta nor shallots, and there was mystery couscous (I think) on the side. I’m not complaining; the salad was delicious, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. The pork belly and white bean soup, though, tasted just like the ham and bean soup my grandma used to make, only fattier (pork belly). Not bad for a first course.
The second course was my favorite. While sitting there waiting for my food, I heard other diners order the restaurant week menu and pick only one of the three parts of the second course; they didn’t understand that the one item consisted of three parts. The second course in its entirety is listed as “Tri-Pork Crisp Appetizer,” and contained pulled pork three ways – Mexican, American, and Asian (from left to right, below).
I love pulled pork, so I really liked this appetizer course. Each part of the dish had its own flavor profile that made it stand apart from the others. A few minor notes, though – the Mexican and Asian parts, served on a tortilla and a wonton, respectively, were very difficult to eat. It didn’t seem right to use a fork for something on a tortilla chip, but after one bite, the chip broke and pulled pork and tomatoes went flying into my lap. While they all tasted delicious, they were awkward to eat. The American wasn’t quite so awkward simply because it was served with pork rinds, and they were easy to stab with a fork. I also have a little bit of a beef (haha) with the Asian crisp – after one bite, my eyes were watering and I finally realized that there was a big glob of wasabi right smack in the middle of the wonton. I love spicy food, and I was prepared for a little heat, but I wasn’t really ready for a big hunk of wasabi; I thought it would be spread out more. Luckily, I saved the American crisp for last, so the coleslaw cooled my mouth off after Wasabigate.
The third course was the entree course, and on the menu was a smoked pork loin over julienned vegetables and potatoes.
This dish was a lot smaller than I’d expected, but to be honest, it was a good size – I was starting to get really full at this point. I loved the pork loin – I could taste the smoke in every bite, and though it was fattier than I prefer, it was good. The potatoes were delicious as well – they tasted almost like cheesy hashbrown potatoes, but not quite. Same essence. The vegetables, though, didn’t really seem to be done. The carrots were so tough and raw, I had to saw through them with my knife to get them into bite-sized pieces. The zucchini was cooked just fine; it’s almost as though the kitchen threw both the carrots and the zucchini into the pan at the same time even though the zucchini was much thinner and would cook faster, and then just finished the dish once the zucchini was cooked. “Screw the carrots!” I imagine the cooks said as they laughed maniacally and sauteed the zucchini. “Down with beta carotene!”
I will say this, though – the fried shallots on top of the pork loin? Made the entire dish.
Finally, the evening was winding down, I was losing valuable sunlight with which to photograph, and it was time for the main event – dessert. Here’s where I confess that the description of the dessert is what really drew me to Bigham Tavern – bacon chocolate chipotle ice cream.
Sigh. I don’t know, maybe my hopes were too high, or maybe my judgment was clouded by another bacon ice cream I’d had in the past… but this wasn’t nearly what I was expecting. For starters, it was halfway melted by the time it got out to me, so it was more like chilled soup with a dollop of ice cream. The chocolate sauce served alongside it didn’t really add anything to the dish; neither did the herb that was placed atop it. As for the bacon flavor, if I hadn’t seen the bacon on top and felt the crisp of it within the ice cream, I would have hardly known it was there… but that’s probably because the chipotle was overpowering. I could barely make out that it was chocolate ice cream, that’s how strong the chipotle was – it tasted like chipotle ice cream with some cocoa powder and some bacon bits. It sounds like it should all work out, and I was really rooting for it, but there was just way too much chipotle taste to this ice cream.
While I can definitely say it was worth my time and money to head to Bigham Tavern for their Restaurant Week special, I can’t say that it was one of the better meals I’ve had for PRW. If I were to give it a grade on an old-fashioned A-F scale, I’d give it a C+. It was mostly a solid meal, and the service wasn’t bad (though my server seemed to check on me every 3 minutes or so… which I suppose is better than never checking at all), but there were too many inconsistencies to make it one of my favorites. Still worth a shot, though, and who knows, maybe they were having an “off” night tonight. If you dig spicy foods, I’d say to check it out.