Friday, September 25, 2009

Restaurant Review: The Tortilla Press, Collingswood, NJ

This week was Collingswood restaurant week, which just so happens to be a town adjacent to where we just moved. I had been wanting to try The Tortilla Press for quite awhile, so we decided to take this opportunity to go there with a group of friends.

Now, let me premise this review by saying that this is my first experience dining somewhere with a prix fixe "restaurant week" menu, so I'm guessing my experience may have been different had we went on a Saturday night and ordered from the regular menu.

We had a party of 6, so we made a reservation for 8pm on Monday night. The atmosphere in the restaurant was really great. They have big windows that slide all the way open (floor to ceiling) to give you that outdoors when you're indoors feeling.

While we were waiting to place our order, we were given tortilla chips, with salsa and a black bean dip. The dips were really delicious, but the home made chips were a little lacking. After several tastes, we came to the conclusion that they took stale chips, doused them with oil and threw them back in the oven to make them seem fresh. One of our friends even went as far to say "This might be the worst chip I've ever eaten". Yikes!

Tortilla Press is BYOB, like all restaurants in Collingswood. The menu offers three types of alcohol-less margaritas to which you can add your own tequila. We went for the traditional lime. The lime is fresh squeezed. I don't normally like margaritas but this one was excellent. I think the fresh squeezed lime really made it perfect.

On to the meal!

The menu was $30 and for this amount you got the following: One appetizer, choice of soup or salad, main course, and dessert.

We had our choice of the following:

Chile rellanos in a fresh tomato cilantro broth - two people at our table got this. One of them was my husband so I definitely had to try it. It was really good, but just a little too much cheese for me.

Crab guacamole tostada - no one got this, so I can't vouch for it.

Mini cheese & onion enchilada in a guajillo chile sauce - someone at the table got this and said it was really delicious.

Twin mini cilantro chicken tacos with a mango-jalapeño salsa - two of us got this. You would think when two people get the same thing at a table, it would come out the same exact way. This is not the case at Tortilla Press. While the menu clearly states the taco should be topped with mango-jalapeno salsa, mine came without any salsa. The other person who ordered this did get the salsa. When I asked to have mine topped with the salsa, they took my tacos back to the kitchen and brought it out with the salsa that we got with the chips. I didn't feel like arguing at that point, so I just ate it with the regular salsa. The chicken was really good, and the soft shell tacos were cooked just right. I was told the mango salsa was excellent, too.

Soup or Salad
Mini mexican cobb salad with corn, bacon, black beans, queso fresco & tomato vinaigrette - only one person at our table opted for the salad. He said it was nothing really to write home about, but it was very good.

Cup of fresh, home made butternut squash soup with garlic croutons - the rest of us ordered the soup. After waiting for what seemed like forever in between the appetizer and soup, the waitress came out to inform us that there was no butternut squash soup left. We were very dissapointed because all 5 of us were really looking forward to this soup. She told us we could sub a soup off of their regular menu so we all ended up choosing their black bean soup. Another 10 minutes went by, and out comes our soup, only it wasn't the black bean - it was the butternut squash! Yay! The soup was the perfect blend and the squash wasn't pureed to a pulp like most squash soups. I like how with every bite you actually got some squash to chew on. The croutons were also delicious.

Enfrijoladas... a Mexican classic! Seasoned, spicy chorizo rolls in corn tortillas with queso fresco, black bean sauce, lime pickled onions & mexican crème. Served with fresh sautéed green beans - all of the guys we were dining with got this entree. Again, all three came out different. One was topped with only mexican crème, one with just onions, and one with both. I think this restaurant is in desperate need of someone to do their plating. An entree should never come out of the kitchen looking different than the one before it.

To top it off, one of the enfrijoladas was cold. So cold, that it needed to be sent back to the kitchen. I don't think I've ever been to a restaurant where I've been served a cold meal before, so this was a first.

Fire Grilled Shrimp: Plump and juicy with an ancho chile apple cider reduction. Served with sweet potato gratin and a spicy eggplant, mushroom & zucchini ragout - no one got this, but it was offered, so I thought I'd still list it.

Pan seared scallops: Drizzled with fresh chipotle creamed sweet corn sauce and served with poblano-spinach rice - two people at our table ordered the scallops and they had no problems with them. They said they were excellent.

Pork & Beef Peccadillo: A tender, flavorful stew with almonds, raisins, olives, tomato & cinnamon. Served with cilantro rice - I was the only one who ordered this, and I kind of feel bad for everyone else. This was really delicious. The meat was very tender, and though I was a bit skeptical about the raisins, it was a really a great complement to the other flavors. The rice was really good as well - cooked perfectly.

Pumpkin bread pudding with our cajeta sauce and a dollop of fresh whipped cream - everyone who ordered this said it was really delicious and they would definitely get it again.

Home made Apple cobbler with apples from Schober Orchards. Topped with vanilla ice cream - this was really good. I'm so glad that it's fall again. Desserts like this really make me feel good inside. It was the perfect mix of crunchy and chewy, and the ice cream really rounded out the dessert well. I would go back just to get this dessert again.

They also offered Flan, but no one ordered it at our table.

Overall, our experience here was less than stellar compared to what I've heard about this place. Since we went on a Monday night, I may be willing to give it another try on a weekend, just to compare.

I really want to like this restaurant because the head chef is dedicated to using local farms for all of his food and that's something I can really get behind. Practices like this are better for the environment (it cuts down on shipping costs) and for our local economy. Check out his interview on John and Lisa are Eating in South Jersey. You can also check out the chef's own blog here.

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