Sunday, May 10, 2009

Medina Destination: Miss Molly's Tea Room

When it came time to decide how we would be celebrating my mother's 60th birthday, it didn't take long to come to the conclusion that something special was in order. We had to consider the restaurant carefully because one of our party members has food sensitivity issues. So, putting all of those requirements together, we decided to make the trip over to Medina, OH and have lunch at Miss Molly's Team Room and Gift Shop. We had reservations for Saturday at 1 p.m. and I heartily recommend that you don't just "drop in" without them. The place was PACKED. And it stayed that way the entire time we were there. I'm not sure how busy the restaurant is during the week, but on weekends, I can assure they are not lacking for patrons.

Miss Molly's is just west of the downtown Medina square. Here is the sign as you drive up:

And a shot of their storefront window:

Remembering from a previous visit how dimly lit the restaurant is, I decided to take my regular camera with me instead of relying on the camera in my cellphone. I was worried at first because I didn't want surrounding patrons to get annoyed by the camera flash. As it turns out, I had little to worry about because it became quite clear that there was a lot of picture taking going on around me. The difference? Other people were taking pictures of their friends. I was here to take pictures of the food. My dining companions and I laughed when I pointed this fact out.

First, a few ambiance shots:

And a ceiling light:

And finally, the table setting at our table:

Of course, you can't go to Miss Molly's without having the preferred beverage of choice, tea! They have a long list of both bagged and loose teas. I decided on a Cinnamon and Orange Ceylon tea. After a few minutes this came out to our table:

Very quaint, indeed! I can see why patrons think that Miss Molly's is an indulgence from days long gone by. In fact, my other dining companions were a little puzzled by the contraption sitting on top of the empty teacup. It is a two-piece metal strainer. The strainer part they got. The piece sitting underneath the strainer (which you really can't see very well in the above photo) was what got them scratching their heads. It is actually a metal cup that you place the "used" strainer in once you've poured your tea.

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get a picture of the actual tea, but I have to tell you that this was a brilliant cup of tea. The cinnamon, orange, and clove notes were exactly what I hoped for. And in an odd sort of twist, the tea almost tasted sweetened (I generally don't sweeten my tea). In fact, had someone poured me a cup of this, I would've assumed they had added just a touch of sugar to it. Two of my dining companions ordered the blackberry tea and were equally as pleased with their choices.

As a starter, I decided to go with the daily soup special, a crab bisque. This came out at the same time as the hot tea and with all the pots and cups and beverage glasses now on the table, it took me a minute to rearrange everything so it would all fit. Here is a shot of the bisque:

This was mediocre. I was hoping for a nice creamy soup with lots of crab flavor and that wonderful unctuous "bisque" mouth feel. What I got was something a little more gloopy that looked like it had been thickened with just a bit too much roux. A little bit of acid, perhaps some lemon juice or a nice sherry vinegar, would've really helped to brighten up the flavor a bit as well.

Unfortunately, things didn't improve when I finally received my main meal, the chicken divan:

From what I read on the menu, I had assumed that the chicken would come out as a whole breast. In actuality, the diced chicken breast is mixed with broccoli in a cheese curry sauce, topped with the buttered breadcrumbs and baked as a mini-casserole. To the right is the cucumber salad and at the front of the plate are the slices of bread from a French batard that the menu advertised. Not being from the era where chicken divan was at its most popular (somewhere between the 50's and 60's according to what my dining companions speculated), I've not had the pleasure of eating this dish with any regularity. Thus, I really have nothing on which to compare it. But as a casserole, I found this just 'okay'. The layer of oil that had separated out at the bottom of the dish wasn't all that appetizing either.

The cucumber salad, on the other hand, was a bit more promising. Thinly sliced cucumbers and onions had been marinated in what tasted like a sour cream, vinegar, and sugar mixture. This had just a wee bit of heat to it, so I'm guessing there was probably a small amount of cayenne pepper in the mix, too. This tasted fine, but due to the liquidity of the dressing, it was a bit messy to eat.

Finally, there were the slices of bread from the French batard:

Now, I've made many a batard or two in my days and unfortunately, I couldn't verify that it was an actual batard because I never saw the loaf from which it was cut. This was a whole grain bread that had been studded with several kinds of seeds. On the positive side, the bread was incredibly fresh and not the least bit stale. The initial nose test didn't reveal the presence of any type of pre-ferment (think of how sourdough bread smells). What surprised me after tasting the bread was the noticeable lack of flavor; it seems the baker didn't use enough salt. Just to verify that my assessment was reliable, I gave two of my companions a bit of my bread to taste. I then asked them for their opinions having not told them what I thought. Both of them responded that the bread had no flavor. Disappointing, to say the least.

Finally, having never tried strawberry and pretzel salad before, my one dining companion (and the birthday girl) let me try a bite of hers:

Honestly, other than the tea, this was probably the best thing I had today. This is a fairly straightforward "salad" consisting of crushed pretzels on the bottom, a sweetened cream cheese layer above that, strawberries in gelatin above that, and finished with whipped cream and walnuts on top. It definitely played well to the notion of a balanced dish: sweet, salty, creamy, crunchy.

I'd also like to put in a couple of thoughts on the service we received today. Everyone was friendly and helpful and our server brought our food out just as we ordered it. However, service was extremely slow and while I realize that the house was packed the entire time we were dining, our server's absence was noticed on several occasions. Especially towards the end of the meal when we were trying to get the check so that we could leave. So, if you decide to go during a peak time, plan on being there at least 90 minutes to two hours.

At the gift shop in front of the restaurant, there are lots of tea-related items for sale, including the tea pots and cups used in the restaurant. If this type of dining experience is your cup of tea (come on, you knew I was going to do it at some point in the review!), then you'll probably find the gift shop a place you'll want to peruse after your meal.

Overall, this is a quaint restaurant with a very unique identity. My dining companions enjoyed their food more than I did, so I can't say that the food is overwhelmingly good or bad. I just wouldn't be surprised if you get two different culinary experiences on two separate visits. Be sure to get one of their fresh-brewed teas though as it is consistently delicious and definitely a strong point.

1 comment:

Becky said...

Personally, I enjoyed the company in my party the most...but do love Molly's Tea Room, crowed and all!