Monday, April 11, 2011

This Yard House Doesn’t Measure Up

Oh, what tricks the food gods play! Yard House, located in the far back of Dedham’s bustling shopping plaza, Legacy Place, appears to be a perfectly logical spot for an evening of fun, casual dining. A seemingly infinite number of creative beer selections on tap, a voluminous menu from which to choose (over 130 items), and an even more voluminous setting (classic rock blaring on a high end sound system to drone out potential tantrums of our children). An upscale restaurant chain couldn’t be all that bad, could it? The ambience is impressively supersized. Behold, ye of drinking age and unquenchable thirst, the glass-enclosed keg room in which 5,000 gallons of beer resides! Behold the gigantic center island bar featuring an endless number of tap handles and over 250 varieties of beers on tap! Behold the number of thirsty patrons downing the ridiculously large 3-foot tall glasses of said beer! The origin of this mammoth glass is equally impressive: stagecoach drivers in England would down these during the periods when horse-drawn carriages were the method of transportation (so much for eschewing the dangers of drinking and driving back in the day). Abstract artwork adorns the walls, while dozens of flat screens keep interested sports nuts informed. It’s as if the owners of this California-based chain, which spans across 25 cities nationally, are saying to documentary director Morgan Spurlock, “Supersize this.” But excess only takes you so far in this world before ultimately combusting. Although I’d happily combust on Yard House’s beers, which travel through three to five of beer lines stretching overhead from the keg room across to the island bar, maintaining a constant temperature between 34 and 36 degrees. I’d recommend heading to the Blends, which feature creative combinations with stouts, ales, and ciders. My favorite? The Black Velvet, which includes Wayder’s pear cider and Guiness stout. The cider offsets the heaviness of the stout and provides a subtle sweetness to the drink. It’s pure mixology nirvana, and I order it in the 3-foot tall glass ($13.50 for a 2-pint drink). And what better way to down beer than with nicely crisped shoestring fries? I also take a sip of a dining companion’s delicious Java Coffee porter, which contains a strong, terrific burst of espresso flavor and is just rich enough without being too heavy. But that is where the fun ends. Entrees are tepid at best. I, along with another person, order the most popular house favorite on the menu, the (Mac + Cheese)2 ($15.95). It’s a combination of comfort food that should sound sinfully good to consume: chicken breast, smoked applewood bacon, wild mushrooms, cheddar and parmesan with campanelle pasta and white truffle oil. It receives a lukewarm reception – literally. While mine was served hot, the other person who ordered the dish immediately sent his cold plate back. Our waitress, prior to ordering this dish, raved about how delicious it was, going so far as to say she ate it once a week. “It’s a diet buster, but well worth it,” she convincingly stated with a smile. How disappointing, then, to receive such a visually and tastefully bland mess such as this? I glanced over to the other diner, and we both gave the universally understood nod that conveys utter disgust with our dishes. I didn’t detect a trace of any one ingredient in the dish but for the pasta tubes themselves. Another diner’s Bernaise burger (with fried onions) and a lush BBQ chicken salad (with roasted pasilla, pinto beans, cilantro, and fried onions) fared better. A trio sampler, including peach apple cobbler and lemon and chocolate souffl├ęs were decent enough but immediately forgettable. The self-described American fusion menu, on the whole, however, proves to be a costly misnomer. Yard House seems to get the basic dishes right, but when it attempts to fuse the finer things together and create more inspired dishes, the menu moves incrementally by inches, not yards. And why must a seemingly well-oiled machine of a restaurant so clueless as to where it seats a large party with two high-chairs? We were somehow seated in an area bursting with a flurry of server activity, which made for treacherous going as waiters cautiously, almost rudely tiptoed around two restless children. Was the hostess actually thinking that they would remain seated during the meal’s entirety? Service with a smile only takes one so far. Our server was polite enough, and willfully provided recommendations. But it was as if we were experiencing the culinary equivalent of American Idol, whereby a contestant doesn’t connect with the song he or she is singing. Our server’s recommendations were not well-founded, and her level of attentiveness was minimal. Water glasses were left unfilled, and our server disappeared for minutes at a time, particularly after the dessert sampler was placed on the table. Surely, she couldn’t have expected that six grown adults and three children split the trio sampler (three small dishes) without asking if anyone would like to order something else, could she? Many a good beer can be had at Yard House. For anything food-related, however, I’d venture several yards in any other direction of Legacy Place. This restaurant’s food simply doesn’t measure up.