Friday, June 09, 2006

Fan Dining: Plan B

Thursday night I tried to go to dinner at 3 Monkeys (see "Brunch in the Fan") around 7:45, but I was too hungry for the thirty-five minute wait. As we walked down the ramp and on Main Street, my companion and I tried to figure out why 3 Monkeys is such a popular place. Yes, the food is good, and yes, it's still only been open for a couple years , but there are a lot of other (possibly better) options in the Fan. We moseyed toward Joe's Inn for a minute or so until we realized that we could branch out and eat somewhere different. One such option is The White Dog (not to be mistaken for The White Dog Cafe in Philly), which is a couple blocks east of 3 Monkeys on Main. Located in a partially underground corner building, its appearance echoes its reputation as one of the neighborhood's most underrated eateries, despite loyal customers and several awards.

I had been to the White Dog three times during college, and my last visit wasn't too recent, so I was excited to go back. The food is always great, and the atmosphere strikes me every time I walk down the steps into the narrow building. From the entryway, while you peruse the specials on the chalkboard and wait to be seated, you can just see the dimly lit, wooden bar and a row of booths along the right wall. Colorful paintings by a local artist line the wall above the booths, and small candles on the tables give off just enough light to highlight the art. There is a certain sophistication in the restaurant's simplicity, and the food is also casual but impressive.

Our meal began with Valdubon Consecha Ribera Duero, a red Spanish wine that was supposed to have chocolate and fruit flavors. It was slightly sweet and full, and it went well with our appetizer. The "Crispy Fried Spring Rolls," of which there were four, had a nice balance of textures and flavors. They were accompanied by a "sweet and spicy apricot chutney," which reminded me a little of mashed sweet potatoes.

I had a hard time deciding between the salmon, halibut, and pork shank specials (I had already tried the vegetarian special, Vegetables in Phyllo Dough, on a previous visit), but I ended up ordering Seasoned Tuna with Ginger-Sesame Slaw off the menu. The fish was perfectly prepared at a medium temperature and was blackened on the outside from the crust of seasoning. I'm not usually into cole slaw, but The White Dog's version was light with an intense ginger taste, and it was extra crunchy from white sesame seeds. The vegetable of the day was green beans, which rounded out my meal beautifully. I also had the opportunity to taste the "Grilled Flank Steak in a Mongolian Marinade," which was tender and beautifully arranged with creamy mashed potatoes and green beans.

There aren't many restaurants like The White Dog that you can just wander into at dinner hour on any given night. It's a taste of fine dining without the stuffiness and pretention of a fancier establishment: the service is attentive at just the right level, and the food is consistently delicious.

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