I had meaning to visit Frog N Snail for quite a while now, I could not pass up the opportunity to taste the food of Dale Levitski, runner up on Top Chef three and also responsible for the food at Sprout. I had passed by a few times and it had looked a bit quiet, but once I entered this time I realised that was because the place is much bigger than you think. The resturant seating is in the back and that was where the action was. There is a bar area at the front and by the time we left this was quite full too. It was a really good space inside and very welcoming, we even got to meet Dale, who despite being busy was happy to take a few moments to welcome us and other diners as he moved around between the kitchen and dining area.
I am not a great man for the salads, so the Lyonnaise salad at Frog N Snail is pure genius for a guy like me, described on the menu as “frisee, pomme frites, lardon, poached egg, and black truffle vinaigrette” I was first attracted by the lardon (or bacon to me) and the poached egg, then it ‘clicked’ that the pomme frites were in fact chips or fries as you call them in America and I was sold. I did not even question that the ‘frisee’ part was going to be a whole big pile of green stuff, I just ordered it. In some ways it is clever to hide those fries under all the green stuff, it is a little playful, just like when you were a kid and you tried to hide the brussel sprouts or other less favoured greens under your fork or that left over slice of bread. Here Dale does the reverse, a double salad take and really one that I appreciated, so much so that I actually did eat most of that green stuff. On top of that, the poached egg was great, the lardons were crispy and salty, bits of tomato, and there were even some wafer thin slices of radish in there too, all in all an excellent salad to start off with.
For the main course I had the Beef Stroganoff, described on the menu as “braised short rib, mushrooms, homemade pappardelle noodles, tarragon, Madeira cream, and petite Boston filet au poivre $25″. The word amazing can be overused, not by me, but I have seen it worn out many times in blogs and reviews, but I really have to use it a few times in describing this dish. I have not had such an excellent first bite of a dish, that I can remember for a while. I cannot recall one that would beat the first forkful of braised short rib that I dug out of the Beef Stroganoff at Frog N Snail. The only thing that could come close would be the next bite when I stuck a piece of the the incredibly well peppered Filet steak that sat on top of the dish into my mouth. The braised short rib was rich, tender, and had a deep, deep, beef flavour that penetrated into my mouth and escaped through whatever means it could find up into the taste processing area of my brain. It was something else altogether. The slice of peppered steak I then took on was the end piece of the fillet which had the most pepper seared crust. It was seared and yet medium rare to perfection just a thin slice away. It too was a great bite of meat.
I really liked everything about this dish, not just the meat component, the wide noodles were perfect and the tarragon-Madeira cream sauce was exceptional, the mushrooms juicy and flavourful, the parsley and the sour cream giving alternate sour tang and earthy crunch in different bites.
In Dale’s Top Chef Biog it says that “He has created something he calls “flavor math,” where the right number of spices can bring the perfect flavor and taste.” I would like a copy of the ‘equation’ that he used to create the flavour profiles in the beef stroganof. Of course it may not be math, it could just be a combination of good ingredients, a touch of magic, and some food love.
Frog N Snail is a midwestern bistro style restaurant on Broadway open for dinner evenings Tuesday to Sunday and for brunch also at the weekends