R.O.S.E. Public House opened on Broughton Street several weeks ago with little fanfare. The only “buzz” I had heard about this new spot remarked on its location, under the marquee next to Bistro45 and the Marshall House. In a town of so few secrets, I was intrigued to review such an anomalous locale.
Now, in truth, this is a composition of two separate experiences at R.O.S.E. Public House, once as a single diner at the bar and the other with a dining partner at a table. The service aspect of my experiences could not have been more different: my bar service was lackluster at best, while my dining room server was pleasant, genuine, and fun.
First impressions: “Wow this space is much bigger than I expected,” and “The bar-top is uncomfortably tall.”
My, I am left to assume, nameless bartender came over and asked what I’d like to drink. “A nice, crisp, white wine please,” I responded. Seeing her puzzlement, I queried as to whether there was a Sauvignon Blanc ($7) on offer to which she happily nodded yes. The glass was poured behind the bar and placed in front of me with no detail or explanation. Awkward start. This is one of my biggest pet peeves as a diner. When I entrust you to choose my wine or cocktail, please tell me what it is you have selected for me! If I enjoy it, I would like to sing its praises to others, and if not, I know to order something different next time–simple as that. Our dining room server also lacked in wine knowledge and etiquette: she was unaware of the bottle we ordered even though it was the only Viognier (Miner Viognier at an amazing $45) on the list and simply did not know the proper procedure for opening the wine. Luckily for her, a smile and enthusiasm are a surefire way to make me overlook the fine print of fine dining.
Moving on, I peruse the menu and my surroundings. The menu seems to echo the restaurant’s décor, an interesting hodge-podge of items with no overall theme. Italian dishes, classic southern fare, tropical upholstery, faux stone walls – okay, sure!
Piggybacks ($12) are selected as an appetizer. Billed as horseradish stuffed shrimp, wrapped in bacon and served with a sweet Thai chili sauce, this appetizer contains some of my very favorite things all in one dish. Perhaps I had mentally set the bar too high in my head, because this dish simply didn’t work. My dining partner and I couldn’t seem to find any horseradish, flavor or otherwise, and the bacon and Thai chili sauce completely overpowered the shrimp. Disappointing at best.
On to the salad course! A few short minutes later, the Signature Salad ($8) arrives. A very large portion of mixed greens is finished with champagne-strawberry vinaigrette, sliced strawberries, goat cheese, candied walnuts and a splash of balsamic reduction. While the salad was good, if slightly overdressed, this salad just simply isn’t special. When an independent restaurant offers a “signature” menu item that is available in some slight variation across every chain eatery in America, it’s time to change the recipe, the name or both.
Each dining experience is complimented by an awkwardly long gap between starters and main courses, unexpected in a relatively empty restaurant. The massive 14-ounce pork chop with bourbon pecan glaze ($22) and equally large sides of mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus I consume on my first visit is presented rather haphazardly on a white plate. The first bite exposes an overcooked chop paired with a very odd “bourbon pecan glaze.” I struggle to identify the flavors dancing around my palette. The mashed potatoes are fine, a little runny. The asparagus is also fine, with no real seasoning present. Successive samples of the monstrous chop fail to change my mind and instead only serve to exacerbate my disappointment. My dining partner and I selected the Mushroom Torta ($18) and a Snapper special of the evening ($20). The Torta is stunning: a beautiful puff pastry that is delightfully flaky and buttery encasing mushrooms in a creamy, sherry-based sauce, served over a bed of asparagus. I am jealous of my guest’s dinner. My snapper is somewhat on the fishy side and overpowered by the incredible amount of flavors present in the vegetable medley and accompanying mashed potatoes. Vegetarian seems to be the way to go here!
The most exciting dessert on offer, a Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, is made at nearby Lulu’s Chocolate Bar. Having already enjoyed that (delicious) dish at its actual birthplace, I skip dessert each time.
R.O.S.E. Public House is a fine example of all things mediocre. On average, my meals ranged from $40-$50 a person without gratuity. While no single part of my dining experiences was abominable, not a single portion was truly great – the food, atmosphere and service were all just “fine.” And in a city really coming into its culinary potential, there is no greater curse than mediocrity.
Eat It and Like It? Not really. Eat it and…“meh.”
Written by Scott Waldrup
R.O.S.E. Public House
125 East Broughton Street
Savannah, GA 31401
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