Sunday, February 5, 2012

For $8 I expected fresh beets....

It's been a while since I have blogged about anything local, but a recent trip to Pomegranate Restaurant and Gathering Place demands a post! For some time my husband and I had been longing to try this supposed hidden gem out in Troutville and last Friday night presented a ripe opportunity, unfortunately. Reservations for the dining room were easy to obtain and we requested a warm table based on some other reviews commenting on the chilly atmosphere.

After about an hour drive from our home, we arrived at Pomegranate. The building looked kichy with its haphazard Christmas lights on boldly painted exterior. There was a beautiful fountain on the deck of the entrance; it was overall inviting and piqued my interest. We proceeded in hopeful for the evening's fare. The interior is a bold mustard color adorned with lots of local art. I love it when restaurants choose to showcase artists from the region; it gives a slice of the culture and supports artists. The dining room was quite long and very cold. There was no visible heating source and other than the art seemed very stark. We were one of 3 tables at 7 p.m. on a Friday night, not a good sign to start off. There had been a group of people smoking outside at the entrance and obviously they were a part of the much more popular "gathering room," or bar in my vernacular. The music coming from the room was actually a nice jazz sound, but hard to hear over the people.

The service was disjointed. A gentleman came to our table first to bring us water and a wine menu. He seemed very knowledgeable about the wine menu and excited to make a recommendation. Our server was a younger girl and she actually took the wine and appetizer order. Given that there were only 3 tables, we figured service would be quick. We were wrong. The wine took at least 15 minutes to come out and the appetizers took about 30 minutes. We did not order anything crazy preparation-wise. We ordered the beet and goat cheese salad, pork tacos and and the pork ragout. All of these were part of the small plate tapas menu. The title of my post should give an idea of how we fared with the food once it arrived. The beet salad was a portion of arugula with this lumpy purplish-pink stuff on top of it and beets that were obviously out of a can. The mysterious topping on the salad was the goat cheese, walnuts and dressing blended together. It was not tasty and the beets had that metallic, not fresh flavor. We then moved on to the pork tacos. The meat was tender, but completely flavorless. Nothing spectacular, no redeeming salsa or interesting toppings, just pulled pork slapped in a tortilla. The ragout was the best thing we had all night. The pork-same as what was in the tacos, was layered into a rich and hearty stew that had good seasoning. Not amazing, but definitely the best thing we ate at Pomegranate.

The nail in the coffin came with the entree which again took a ridiculously long time to arrive. We ordered the cioppino. This is sort of my husband's and my swing dish. A good cioppino can save a restaurant in my mind, a bad one seals its fate. I love the sumptuous, tangy flavor of a well-prepared fisherman stew. Luscious chunks of fresh seafood swimming in that not-too-thick broth with little potatoes and a hint of zest. We have tried cioppino lots of places, but only found a few that were worthy. This was not. In fact I'm not sure you could even call it cioppino. It was a terrine filled with thick buttery, garlic broth with seafood. There were some very cute little diced yukon gold potatoes, but it had the flavor of a scampi, not a cioppino. There was no tomato anywhere in the concoction and the broth was so thick and viscous that you could not eat more than a few bites. Even the seafood lost its flavor standing up to the sauce. Needless to say, we did not finish it and skipped dessert.

Pomegranate is not an experience we will repeat. It failed on many fronts from service, to room temperature, to food, to price. The building has the potential to be something interesting, but it needs cozying-up, it needs some warmth and it needs some good food served in a timely and friendly manner. And it needs to serve fresh beets!

Pomegranate Restaurant & Gathering Place on Urbanspoon

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