Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Service marred an otherwise delicious Silo first brunch

Last Sunday we walked from our Salemtown home down to the newly opened Silo restaurant in Germantown, which bills itself as a "Southern-influenced, neighborhood bistro". On the way we passed several parties headed to the new bistro's main brunch competition: Germantown Cafe, which sits across an intersection from Silo.

We made reservations to avoid what we thought would be a crush for Silo's first brunch. While the turnout was vigorous, there was no crush. There were open tables and bar stools while were there. For the time being, that is a noteworthy contrast to Germantown Cafe. In the future that could change.

The ambiance of the restaurant is comfortably cool with large picture windows, cedar-planked walls, and a large basket weave feature overhead at the center of the dining room. The wooden tables and chairs are invitingly substantial. There is an empty outdoor patio on the 5th Avenue side that looks like it could accommodate bistro tables. The host stand was squeezed in a corner next to the front door when we were there, which caused arriving patrons to line up and hold the door open, letting house flies in. I assume this configuration could eventually let cold drafts in when winter arrives. Silo might want to find a better way to corral waiting patrons.

Water was brought to our table in recycled Bulleit Bourbon bottles, which I thought was a nice touch. However, it seemed a little late getting there with apologies from our server based on this being Silo's first brunch. I believe that we were thoroughly prepared to be patient with first brunch glitches.

I do not believe we were prepared to sit at our table for an hour and a half before our entrees arrived. I know our hungry 8-year-old was not prepared. Our appetizers did arrive sooner, though later than we expected. Our concerns about the service were salved by a tasty heirloom tomato tart and roasted corn soup buoying jalapeno hushpuppies. I never turn down fresh tomato dishes this time of year and the tart did not disappoint fruitside. The tomatoes were plump and firm with no hint of rind or blemish. They were suspended between a flaky, satisfying crust and lively basil leaves. As good as the bulk of the pie was, the crowning edge of the crust was burned. I believe that those final bites of crust should at least be lagniappe if not the perfect ending. But the tart's finish was weak.

The hushpuppies in the corn soup (itself excellent) were not too spicy (for my tastes they were not spicy enough) and they seemed baked rather than deep fried. If the chef deep fried them, they should have been more crunchy in texture.

I found the combination of flavors in the Silo burger, which boasts smoked pimento cheese, onions and pickles, to be perfect. Pimento cheese on a hamburger often strikes me as disjointed and uncoordinated. Silo's edition, more firm than creamy, was an unmatched accompaniment to the beef on the sandwich. I found no need for any other condiments, and the flavors were also well married to the thin pickle slices and slivered red onions. The "proper fries" on the side were limp and uninspired. I could not liven them up with anything. But the burger was really the crucial part of the plate and it was fantastic.

Our daughter had french toast that was light, not too sweet even though it was punctuated by peach preserves. I plan to claim that dish for myself in a future visit.

Despite our frustration with Silo's service, we enjoyed the flavor of the food when it eventually arrived. When I expressed our dissatisfaction to the staff, the chef ordered champagne for the put-out parents and the manager told us our food was on the house. We appreciated the good will, but it was also the least they could do for our inconvenience.

The fare is worthy and we will be back to Silo, because everyone deserves a second chance. Besides there is evidence to suggest our experience may have been the exception. Case in point: we watched diners all around us enjoying their food while we bore the wait on slow boil.

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