Every once in a while I come upon a restaurant I regret having to review because I'd rather keep its charms all to myself so that its cozy and intimate atmosphere will stay that way.
That once in a while came 'round recently when I was charmed by Easton's Which Brew.
Just a few blocks west of the State Theatre on the city's main drag, Which Brew is a small pub with one of the biggest personalities I've found in the world of eateries. An evening here defies the standard of mathematical equations, because the food plus the ambience plus the service add up to a total experience greater than the sum of those parts.
This pub specializes in microbrewed beer along with 10 taps that change weekly, 40 bottled varieties are available. In that context, the name becomes easily apparent: With all these choices, ''which brew'' do you choose?
But the playful spirit that so clearly guides this establishment transformed the ''which'' of decision making to the ''witch'' of black magic and sorcery for the pub's creative, entertaining and fun theme. So year round the storefront window at Which Brew is filled with black netting strung with tiny orange lights that's configured as spider webs upon close examination.
Inside, the tongue-in-cheek decor features dead flowers, skeleton night lights, bar lights with witch globes and spooky odds and ends. A string of tiny purple lights hangs from brick wainscoting in the dining room, and a chandelier that looks like a treasure from the Addams family garage sale illuminates a bewitching dining spot in the front window.
Rooted in standard bar fare sandwiches, salads, pizza and appetizers the Which Brew menu kicks everything up a couple of notches, and quite successfully, too. Sauces, dressings and desserts are made in house with top-notch, fresh ingredients that reflect urbane tastes.
The chicken sandwich, for example, features a garlic stuffed breast with melted Brie cheese, romaine lettuce and salsa; the beef selection offers up slices of herb-encrusted roast meat with Brie, lettuce, salsa and chipotle mayonnaise on a freshly baked roll.
Served atop mixed greens with a balsamic reduction and herbed olive oil, a trendy salad of fresh mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, roasted peppers and plum tomatoes weaves a spell of temptation as seductive as that of the deep-fried bat wings (made-from-scratch chicken wings and drumsticks in sesame ginger sauce with bleu cheese made on the premises, too).
Most seductive for me, however, were the ''pommes frights'' the Which Brew take on the European version of the french fry. If ever there was a reward for succumbing to temptation, these thin and tantalizingly golden pieces of fried potato would be it. The large plate was heaped high, and I will unashamedly admit that we ate the plate clean, dipping the fries into their tasty accompanying mayonnaise made with Weyerbacher's Blithering Idiot Barleywine.
From the evening's specials, creamy carrot and ginger soup begged to be sampled, and thankfully so. This excellent potage was rich in color and flavor, offering subtle overtones of ginger along with the texture of fresh carrots.
The ''ahi cup,'' another winner from the specials list, featured lightly seared tuna over Spanish rice with lettuce, tomato, salsa and wasabi dressing in a tortilla cup. Despite the seasoned rice, the salsa and wasabi dressing, this dish was more about the character of taste than an exercise in the heat of spice, since the flavors were obviously balanced with great control.
Pizza never had it so good as when it came from the Which Brew kitchen. At my visit, the Mediterranean version once again from the evening's specials was a knockout. Built upon the pub's own thin, spent grain (a byproduct of the brewing process) crust, this pie featured mozzarella and feta cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes and grilled vegetables, including eggplant and artichoke hearts.
By this time, Which Brew had cast its spell of great expectations on me, and its culinary magic was too enticing to pass up a chance at savoring its sorcery with sweets. I passed over lemon tart and flourless chocolate cake in favor of Mexican vanilla cheesecake, which was just as good as I hoped it would be.
Dinner for two, including tax, tip and nonalcoholic beverages, totaled $42.
Susan Gottshall is a freelance restaurant reviewer for Go Guide. Gottshall, who tells it like it is, attempts to remain anonymous during restaurant visits. All meals are paid for by The Morning Call.
Linda O'Connell, Assistant
Managing Editor, Features
610-820-6562Copyright © 2015, CT Now