Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunday Brunch at Teresa's Next Door

Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Teresa’s Café – a casual, Italian/American BYO located in the heart of the Main Line community of Wayne, PA – was among my semi-regular stops for casual business lunches. In the subsequent years, I’d more or less forgotten about the place, as my regular dining orbit now more naturally revolves around Philadelphia itself. However, the name had resurfaced of late in the context of its new sibling, Teresa’s Next Door (TND), a Belgian style bar and bistro. The original Teresa’s remains a BYO for wine but patrons now have the ability to stop in next door for a beer, cocktail or for alternate and late night meal options. With a friend in for a Sunday visit, we called TND to confirm that they’re open for lunch and then headed on over.

In concept, Teresa’s Next Door is clearly Wayne’s answer to Philadelphia’s Belgian stalwarts like Monk’s Café and Eulogy. The bottled beer list is biblical in proportion, focusing primarily on Belgians but with a good peppering of local and international brews. With over twenty choices, the on-tap offerings actually outnumber those available at most Philly spots. What’s lacking, though, is the warm, dark, cozy, slightly euro vibe of places like Monk’s. For TND is clearly an offspring of the tidy, blue-blood community in which it sits. The room is spacious if narrow, stark, bright, very clean and smoke free – not your typical gastropub environment. Eight booths, nine or ten two-top tables and a long bar provide seating options for about seventy guests. The dinner menu includes the stalwarts of the Belgian beer bar genre – mussels, burgers and charcuterie platters – but also dabbles in French bistro fare (steak frites). It loses its focus however, perhaps in answer to anticipated requests from the local crowd, with the inclusion of a smattering of Mexican-American dishes.

As it turned out, we had landed at TND for their inaugural Sunday brunch. Given that it was also our first visit, I’m going to limit my scope here to a one-dish review. I was initially drawn to both the omelet (Serrano ham, goat cheese and fresh herbs served with fruit) and the Pennsyltucky (scrapple, eggs over easy, fingerling home fries and toast). However, feeling the need for a caloric infusion after a decent bike ride earlier in the day, I settled on:

Teddy’s Eggs, 8 oz. sirloin, two poached eggs over brioche toast with spicy lemon hollandaise
A serious portion of heart-stoppers special, this consisted of two thinly sliced strips of griddle seared sirloin served open-face on a sliced brioche bun, each topped with a poached egg and a generous dollop of lemony, slightly salty hollandaise. Whole fingerling potatoes, cooked home fry style, were the only side. The selection of a good brioche bun and à la minute preparation of the hollandaise served to raise this dish above the level of just satisfactory. The eggs were tender, though I would have preferred a bit of run to the yolks which were cooked to firmness. The potatoes would have benefited from being sliced lengthwise, before their stint on the griddle, to encourage development of caramelization and crispness. And the plate could have used a visual lift from a sprig of something green. On the plus side, the steak was cooked a perfect medium (temperature preferences were not requested), a good choice by the chef for this cut and presentation. On the down side, the beef suffered from intermittent spots of livery flavor, most likely brought on by oxidation introduced via the thin slicing and preparation methods of the steak.

Lest I forget, beer is clearly the raison d’être of the place. I’m a sucker for hand-pumped suds and also have a soft spot for local brewers, so, starting the “Teddy” theme of the day, I opted for a pint of Victory Brewing Company’s Uncle Teddy’s Bitter. A classic English style bitter, this is a light to medium bodied ale with a smooth texture and, contrary to its name, only a gentle hint of bitterness. A new American hop monster it’s not. I think the body and texture of the beer might actually be improved by the more assertive textures delivered by a regular tap system. The gentle textures resulting from the low, natural carbonation in a hand-pulled cask left this otherwise good session beer feeling a bit flat on its feet. To accompany my steak and eggs, I selected a bottle of Atomium Premier Grand Cru, a Belgian strong ale I had yet to try but which has been popping up of late on beer lists all over town. Brewed with six different grains, it delivered a spicy, somewhat floral nose with a creamy, slightly off-dry palate which matched well to the contrast between the animal flavors of the steak and the citrusy, eggy zip of the hollandaise.

Most of my admittedly minor gripes should be easy fixes as the kitchen at TND becomes more practiced with the dishes on their brunch menu. For their first Sunday, it was not a bad effort. I’ll be headed back for an evening run at the mussels and, of course, more beer.

Teresa’s Next Door
126 N. Wayne Avenue
Wayne, PA 19087
Teresa's Next Door in Wayne


Anonymous said...

Nothing "Teddy" about it but the grapefruit, endive and avocado salad with citrus vinaigrette and mint was a good choice for a lighter meal.

Taylor said...

Nice. My boyfriend will appreciate the beer selection when I drag him out to Wayne before Chanticleer closes for the season.

David McDuff said...

Hey Taylor,
Would you believe I've ridden my bike up either side of the hill past Chanticleer at least once a week for years but I've never stopped in for a looksee? Thanks for the idea. And not to worry, they do serve cocktails at TND.

Anonymous said...

You should definitely stop in for dinner....I've been there several times and have enjoyed everything about this selection, food, and atmosphere.

Taylor said...

David - Do stop in Chanticleer - it's my second favorite garden in the United States. That's saying a lot. I think they close for the season sometime in October. Late summer is my favorite time to go there, so it's not too late. I think you can take in a picnic and wine on Friday evenings - at least you used to be able to.

David McDuff said...

Anon 1,
I must say that salad did look pretty tasty.

Anon 2,
Not to worry. As mentioned at the end of my post, I'll definitely head back for dinner sometime soon.

I may try to check it out this weekend if they're open. Thanks again.

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