This week’s pick ended up surprising me quite a bit.
I took advantage of my parents’ presence in town by going somewhere a little more upscale than usual. My parents and I had been to Rooney’s Restaurant once before, when I was dropped off for my first year. We couldn’t remember any specifics, but remembered liking it, so there was no question about dropping in for a second visit.
First thing’s first: Rooney’s is a stylish place. It has a comfortable, sophisticated setting with a vintage flair, garnished with ornate elements. And, sticking with this elevated atmosphere, the menu offers a variety of exciting dishes featuring many unique and classy ingredients.
Sadly, it’s not the most accessible menu. The dishes aren’t labeled for allergens, so I had to ask the waiter about that. The staff did their best to accommodate. I had two separate people walk me through the menu to point out good dairy-free and wheat-free options, and the waiter explained that any sides or garnishes that I was unable to eat could be swapped for something else.
I decided on sea scallops and its two sides: sweet and sour brussel sprouts and sweet potato white miso puree. Unfortunately, the puree must have had one of my fun allergens in it because it was left off. I wish the waiter had told me that when I ordered — I would have swapped it for something else.
Without the puree, this dish consisted of a pile of brussel sprouts and four scallops, which did not make for a satisfying dinner portion. It was strange that the volume of brussel sprouts far surpassed that of the scallops. As much as I love brussel sprouts, this dish is priced for scallops to be the star, so I didn’t feel that I was getting my money’s worth.
I was underwhelmed with the flavors. The brussel sprouts were tender and had a lovely buttery texture, but they were lacking pizzazz. I got sweetness, but none of that sourness the “sweet and sour” sauce promised. I wanted more flavor from the dressing, and more of a roasty quality to the texture.
The scallops were similar insofar as the cooking was good, but the flavor was a flop. The scallops were tender and moist on the inside, but I wanted more of a crust on them. They appeared to have a nice, harsh sear, but the texture was all soft. The natural flavor of the scallop was beautiful, but I wish that there was more going on. More spice, or kick, or something to lift the scallopy flavor. They were fine, but that doesn’t cut it with this ambiance and price.
My dad started off with the escargot. He said that it was prepared slightly differently from traditional methods, and that those changes detracted from the dish. He was missing the strong garlic flavor that escargot typically has. He added that the sauce was loose and watery, and it did not coat the escargot as it should.
For his entree, my dad ordered the mixed grill plate of various meats, which I got to taste. I found the homemade sausage well-seasoned, herbaceous, earthy, and charred, but a bit too dry in the center. Similarly, the quail was a bit dry for me, and I found it plain and lacking in seasoning, once again. The beef tenderloin was the most successful element of this. It was cooked well and tender. Once again, however, the light seasoning was pleasant enough, but didn’t wow me.
My mom’s appetizer, steamed mussels, were a big hit — hallelujah! She said the mussels were tender, and the creamy white wine leek broth was silky and flavorful. But her entree, which I tasted, was another slight disappointment. This pan-seared Atlantic halibut was bland — a touch overcooked and dry. The “caramelized” brussel sprouts did not live up to that title. They were nearly raw, tough, fibrous, bland, bitter, and all-around bad.
I was shocked by how generally unimpressed I was with Rooney’s food. Things were under-seasoned and overcooked. The elegant decor and unique menu set my expectations high, which only made these shortcomings harder to overlook.