The General Sutter Inn
14 East Main Street
When my wife and I decided to spend an afternoon in Lititz,
Pennsylvania -- and knew that we would undoubtedly
be in need of physical sustenance at the conclusion of our sojourn -- we
consulted various Internet sites to sort out the gastronomic possibilities.
Prominently featured was the General
Sutter Inn, gushingly portrayed by the "Phantom Diner" of Central PA magazine: "The
inn itself, located right on the town square, has been around since 1764. It
has gone through several reincarnations and is now -- and this might surprise
old-time regional locals -- a hotbed of haute
cuisine... I know, hard to believe, But, trust me (bolding and italics mine),
finding this place (or rediscovering it) is like finding a gem in a pile of
broken glass. You don't expect it, but it shines nonetheless." Etc., etc., ad infinitum... ad nauseam.
TRUST ME... as someone who has dined at the aforementioned
establishment -- and lived to tell the tale -- I must confess that even if this
mysterious muncher isn't terribly adept at the fine art of restaurant
criticism, I must award him/her high marks for literary embellishment. I
mention this bit of peristaltic prolegomenon to make it absolutely clear that
any correlation between PD's glowing remarks and our actual dining experience
must be considered purely coincidental.
So let me preface my remarks about the cuisine by stating
that if my wife had paid a visit to the ladies'restroom prior to dinner
instead of after, she undoubtedly would have prevailed upon me to seek an
immediate change of venue (I should add that the men's restroom wasn't all that
spiffy either). And while the state of the facilities is not necessarily an
indication of the quality of the food, when an area of a hotel/restaurant open
to diners and guests is in such a deplorably filthy condition, one can only
speculate as to what unmitigated horrors may lurk behind the closed doors of
But the bill of fare itself raises a red flag... It is
entirely too ambitious and convoluted for its own good. Evidently the chef
never met a comestible he didn't like: from escargot to frog's legs to boar and
rabbit sausages to buffalo tenderloin to elk medallions. There is simply too
much happening here... on the menu and, as it turned out, on the plate as well.
We sampled a special appetizer, grilled shrimp wrapped in
pancetta embellished with mango vinaigrette ($9.00). The pancetta was quite
excellent, but the crustaceans were slightly gritty and failed to deliver that
decisive "crunchiness" characteristic of specimens in a pristine state of
health. The mango vinaigrette was simply an ill-conceived Epicurean oddity that
added nothing to the overall presentation.
Entrées tend to be copious of countenance but lacking in
finesse. The "Pennsylvania Trout Presention" ($17.00), for example, was a
beautiful specimen, moist and flaky, but the fish's delicate natural attributes
were completely obviated by an overbearing scallop-tomato beurre blanc and mountain of rosemary-infused mashed potatoes. The
pan-seared wild salmon filet ($18.50) was also perfectly prepared but drowned
beneath a slightly congealed tomato-herb bullion sauce and set on an incredibly
bland-leading-the-bland seabed of black and white orzo.
With the exception of the aforementioned shrimp, the quality
of ingredients doesn't seem to be a major issue; how these various components
do or do not meld together into a seamless gastronomic gestalt, on the other
hand, tends to be problematic. The General
Sutter needs to decorticate and fine-tune its overly enterprising menu -- at
this juncture, the kitchen is simply not up to the arduous task of turning out haute cuisine on a consistently consequential
level -- and turn its attention to those important little details that make for
a truly fine dining experience... like the complimentary salad, for example,
which is nothing but a nondescript tangle of generic greenery and standard
issue dressings, or the service, which is neither polished nor professional.
Should a pilgrimage to this charming, historical community be
in the offing, a visit to the General
Sutter Inn should not necessarily be dismissed out of hand. The bar area is
quite cozy and there is a lovely patio where you may dine al fresco during the warm weather. If you do decide to pay a call
here, my advice would be to assiduously avoid the more esoteric items and stick
with the straightforward (and less expensive) "Tavern Menu" (ale-battered fish
& chips, tenderloin steak wrap, crab cake sandwich, half-pound burger,
etc.), which provides an infinitely greater possibility for dining satisfaction.
The Artful Diner
Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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