Art & Soul & Leprechauns (oh my?)

Senior Me is in town for meetings and we met for dinner at Art and Soul (415 New Jersey), bypassing the green-clad, already-drunk-at-6:30 p.m revelers at the Dubliner and Irish Times. Top o’ the early evening to ye.  A&S is former Oprah chef Art Smith’s relatively new place, and it still has that new-restaurant sheen. I didn’t see much art, other than a huge painting of Obama, and I’m not sure there is much soul in the decor, which is modern and sleek and hip, sort of Jackie’s-meets-The Source.

But the food has both art and soul, for sure. We split an order of “Pantry Hoecakes” — who knew that a blue cheese and carmelized-apple salad atop a cornbread pancake would work as an appetizer?  We also split a side of “macaroni casserole,” which arrived in a rustic iron pan atop a wood square, looked great, nice and gooey, and tasted good but nothing extraordinary, pretty much just a good mac’n’cheese. Not sure about the “casserole” part.

Senior Me had the scallops, as he is wont to do, and they disappeared quickly; he said they were great and so was the squash puree, but the sauteed chard was kind of stringy. The collard greens that accompanied my pork shank were a bit stringy too, but hey, collard greens, not quite as good as the General Store but very good, and the whole dish — pork falling off the bone and swimming in black eyed pea stew with bacon — double pork! — was fabulous. It all looked great too, very nice presentation.  Definitely a high-end restaurant, with prices to match — would be nice if there were more than one glass of wine available for less than $10, for example — but we enjoyed it.  Was practically empty when we arrived, and the quiet made for easy conversation; it was maybe 2/3 full when we left, and getting pretty loud, but still nothing along the lines of Rasika or Beck or any number of other ear-splitting restaurants. If I go back, I would skip the side dishes entirely; I bet some of the appetizers are more worthy of my attention. And portions are large, so if I’m going back at some point, I will fast for most of the day.

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