When: Saturday, February 7th 2009
Where: The Nest (Fredericksburg, Texas)
What I Had: Salads: Organic Field Green Salad w/ House Herbal Vinaigrette Entrees: Roasted New Zealand Rack of Lamb w/ a pecan pesto and stone ground mustard Demi-glace and Turnip Mash Potatoes. Shrimp Bisque. 9oz Black Angus Steak w/ Bordaelaise sauce. Pan Seared Scallops w/ a chipotle lime hollandaise and sauteed spinach. Dessert: Profiteroles a pastry puff filled with homemade coffee ice cream, creme anglais, chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
I had high expectations for The Nest. After reading about it for a week, and noting the high reviews it got from Das Garten Haus (the bed and breakfast across the street from The Nest), Texas Monthly and Elle Decor, I was ready to eat. Das Garten Haus was incredible, by the way. It has a wonderful host and amazing breakfast, with a cozy and quaint atmosphere. If you are foodie then you would love their breakfast with fresh eggs (from the chickens out back) to the fresh baked pear in cream sauce. The breakfast was something you would probably pay 15 bucks for at a nice restaurant. So kudos there.
Back to The Nest. The restaurant is a renovated home from the old days of Fredericksburg. I am a big fan of turning old homes into chic businesses, so that was a bonus here. The restaurant itself was really small. I believe there were only three dining "rooms" and the waiting area. The first thing we noted was the screaming and wild kids in one of the rooms and we prayed we wouldn't be seated in that room. The second thing we noticed was the lack of a hostess. Now, being in the food industry myself, I can tear restaurants apart in a critique. I, however, prefer to look at the good qualities of an establishment until the bad overwhelms them. So i was able to overlook the slow greeting and admire the uniqueness of the old home. I also picked up on the fact the they were shorthanded this particular night, so I was really able to scale back on my expectations from the service. Before I go into my thoughts on the food, let me say this: I understand when a place is shorthanded. Service is slower, seating times are longer, everything is a bit slower paced. I get that. What I don't like or get is when the employees, who arguably are having a bad day due to lack of co-workers, take out that anger in the form of rudeness to patrons.
So after we are seated and we get our menus, we have 3 different servers come up to us and tell us things. One mentions the specials, another explains the specials in detail, and the last takes our order. 15 minutes into our dinner we get some bread. At this point the others at my table are ready to write the place off due to the slow service, I still want to persevere because the menu was the whole reason I wanted to try the place. The bread was the standard carb to hold you over until you get your meal. After we had ordered, our salads come out promptly. This is where the story turns downhill. My wife had only ordered the bisque soup, which is an appetizer, so no salad comes with it. They however bring four salads, and when Claire politely tries to let them know she shouldn't get a salad she gets this snide remark in return: "You don't want your salad?!? Everyone gets a salad". Now while this may sound like a logical question to my wife's' refusal, it sounds a bit harsh when asked in the tone of an angry, bitter server who has had too much rejection throughout her life. We all decided to shut our mouths and take our salads, and later on we have a good laugh about it. That single line "you don't want your salad?!?" turns into the butt of many jokes for the rest of the weekend. However, this was also the point when the service hurt the restaurant in a big way. Fine, be slow, but don't ever treat your customer like it is a privilege to eat at your restaurant. It's the other way around. You are privileged to have customers that enjoy your food and spread the word about your establishment.
Luckily the salad is delicious. It's one of those things were simple is better. Composed of greens, cucumber, feta, and a herbal vinaigrette. Although rude servers were working the cooks were spot on for the rest of the night and obviously the food at The Nest is what warrants the critical acclaim. My rack of lamb was superb. It was tender, juicy, well cooked and the crust and demi-glace added a nice flavor. It was different compared the the normal mint jelly accompaniment that is found with many a lamb. The turnip mash potatoes that accompanied every ones entrees were light and tasty. After tasting all four entrees I have to say I would have a hard time deciding between the four items if I had to pick over again. The Scallops, once again, were cooked perfectly and also had a unique twist with the Chipotle Lime Hollaindaise sauce. The steak was a nice (although not cooked to my taste) classic steak. I will say though, that the Bisque was the most surprising item on the table. It was chock full of cream, flavor, and heat.
For $6.00 it was by far the best value for flavor and fulfillment. I gave my wife a hard time for having soup when she could have had scallops, steak, or lamb, but I will have to now publicly apologize for that since her choice resulted in a superb bowl of bisque.
Other than the lamb, what I was really gunning for was the dessert. I had to pass up on Lavender Ice Cream, Chocolate Walnut Tart, and Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream in order to get the Profiteroles we had. I can't go back on my decision, although I could go back and have more dessert. Hrrm. Anyway, the Pastry Puffs filled with Coffee Ice Cream ended up being a great cap to a delicious meal. Anything with pastry, ice cream, and smothered in chocolate sauce is bound to be good. It was. Our cousin Howie noted that the coffee ice cream wasn't overly powerful like some coffee ice creams are. Instead it was creamy with just a slight hint of espresso flavor. My only critique was that the puff part was more flat and bready, less light and puffy. Of course my complaint wasn't enough to stop a spoon war between my wife and I over the last bite.
I was most impressed with the flavors on each plate and how well they all went together. The elements combined were robust, yet didn't leave you heavy and weighed down. I think I would visit again, the only problem is that I am now scared of the service. It's funny how fast poor service can ruin delicious, well composed food. Food = A, Service = C.
Can't miss: Broad selection of appealing entrees and desserts. Well composed, tasty dishes. Location directly across from Das Garten Haus.
Could do Without: Rude, slow service. Tables that are on uneven floors.