EPICURIOUS REVIEW: The Belvedere Inn – Preparation Perfection Puts this a Cut Above
Editor’s Note: Lancaster Guardian conducts food review expeditions without the prior knowledge of the subject restaurant. No consideration or compensation is or will be accepted for reviews.
By Trey Garrison
It was the signature grilled Caesar salad at the Belvedere Inn on Queen Street that piqued my interest as a starting point for our restaurant reviews.
Not a lot of restaurants do it, and of those who do, they don’t often do it well. It’s like crème brulèe – even the slightest miscalculation can ruin an otherwise excellent preparation.
With a grilled Caesar, the grill has to be just the right heat to seer and char the romaine, without losing the crispness. Believe me, I sacrificed many head of romaine trying in vain trying to get it just so.
So my companions and I set out to the posh Belvedere Inn on a recent weekend to try their contemporary American cuisine. On the corner of Queen Street and East Lemon is the gorgeous Victorian Italianate city mansion which dates back to 1869 and which has been home to the elegant Belvedere Inn since 1998.
We started the night with the sweet potato tacos, steamed mussels, Asian beef sliders, lamb chops and the grilled Caesar. The mussels were perfectly prepared and had a nice heat at the finish, while the Asian beef sliders were passable but unremarkable. Of the sweet potato tacos – the less said the better. They just didn’t work. The lamb chops, however, had just the right sear on the outside and a salty herb crusting that brought out maximum potential of the meat.
Far and away the star of the appetizer round, however, was the grilled Caesar. The heart and leaves still had crunch while the slight burn from an extra hot grill gave it that smoke you want. In hindsight I wish we’d ordered smoked salmon added, but the tart and salty house-made Caesar dressing was more than up to the task alone.
For dinner we had the four-hour braised short ribs, and the tomato madeira herb demi it was cooked in made me want to a cup of it on the side with some sopping bread. It was that good. Kinda skipped the green beans but the three-cheese macaroni gratin gave the dish at once an elevated feel and a comfort food satisfaction.
One of my companions had the chicken piccata, which – let’s be honest, when you go out for elegant dining chicken isn’t usually a first choice. It was so-so, good but nothing to write home about – and didn’t really rise to the same level as the other entrees we had.
The wild game two ways – a frenched venison chop with rabbit sausage, whiskey and mustard pan gravy, pumpkin and feta bread pudding, baby top carrots – whoa nelly. Not only was it everything promised, but every bite seemed to compliment the next. If we weren’t in a fall harvest mood before this, we were after. I ended up trading half of my short ribs for a quarter of my companion’s dish, and it was a trade I’d make any day and twice on Sunday.
The pumpkin risotto, with its Cippolini onions, rainbow carrots, brussels, black garlic, Parmesan cheese in a light cream sauce, would probably be a star on any other menu. It had just the right bite, and the kind of warm creaminess that cold October days demand, but alas its own in-house competitors stole the spotlight. Still, worth it if you’re in a risotto mood. And who isn’t?
There wasn’t much room for dessert, so I chose the crème brulèe since it’s one of those things that if they can get it right, you can usually trust the rest of the dessert menu is also good, and it didn’t disappoint. The vanilla came through strong and the caramelized sugar atop was freshly scorched. I had a taste of my companions’ desserts but it wouldn’t be fair to rate them since I was on the verge of too full.
Between all that and some of their signature drinks, this is definitely a pricey option but worth the cost. Highly recommended for dates, upscale adult gatherings and family, and while there are off-menu child options, you’ll probably enjoy it more if you get a babysitter for the youngest in your brood. Make reservations because of the whole social table distancing nonsense. Table service was top-notch.
We haven’t developed a formal rating system yet, but let’s call it a 9/10, would dine again.