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Marly's
108 Bridge Street
Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
(610) 933-7471
www.marlysbyob.com

"It's so noisy in here."

"What?"

"I said it's noisy in here."

"Who's nosy?"

"Not nosy... N-O-I-S-Y!"

"W-H-A-T?"

Well, you get the idea.... Marly's is noisy. Irritatingly and excruciatingly noisy. The restaurant is an acoustical nightmare: low ceiling, hardwood floors, and walls of brick, stone & wood. With not even draperies or tablecloths to soften the clamorous clang & clatter, sounds reverberate among the hard surfaces like a busted chainsaw. When the place is going full tilt, the decibel level is enough to send the eardrums into meltdown.

The proprietors are currently looking into some form of noise abatement& and well they should... because, in every other respect, this establishment has a great deal going for it. The service is pleasant & personable; and while the cuisine could still benefit from a bit of fine tuning, Chef Michael Favacchia's American-Continental bistro fare generally acquits itself with suitable respectability.

Among the starters, the marinated heirloom tomato salad ($8.00) - embellished with generous wedges of ricotta salata cheese, zesty pesto vinaigrette, and tiara of micro greens - is picture-perfect.

Conversely, while the grilled romaine hearts ($8.00) are quite delicious, they are also something of an eyesore. For starters, a third of the size would have been more than sufficient. In addition, the pancetta-honey vinaigrette and smattering of caramelized onions, added a dark & brooding note to the entire presentation. How the same kitchen can turn out two extraordinarily visually divergent dishes is an anomaly, indeed.

The Jersey tomato-basil bruschetta ($9.00) is another artistic stunner. The various components are arranged as a Napoleon with tiers of tomato, sliced grilled hanger steak, micro greens, and shaved Parmesan. The only drawback to this otherwise exemplary starter is the fact that it was obviously prepared well in advance and chilled... allowing the at-one-time crisp bruschetta to become soggy.

While appetizers do seem to have a number of ups and downs, entrées, in my opinion, are infinitely more indicative of what this kitchen is capable of. The southwestern-rubbed sirloin ($25.00, for example, presented diners with tender, succulent slices set on a bed of scrumptiously addictive au gratin potatoes and topping of an edamame bean & corn relish. The only minor quibble: The southwestern rub needed a good deal more southwestern spice.

The sliced loin of lamb ($26.00), a dinner special, was dusted with porcini mushrooms and also set on a bed of au gratin potatoes. In this case, however, they are complemented by a rich sweet potato purée and halves of roasted Brussels sprouts. An excellent blending of tastes and textures.

Even the often-maligned chicken breast ($18.00) is inordinately tender, companioned by oven-roasted tomatoes, cremini mushrooms, and finished with a first-rate Fontina cheese and lemon butter-herb sauce. And, for seafood lovers, the panko-crusted jumbo lump crab cakes teamed with a chipotle aïoli and ponzu sauce is also an excellent option.

All desserts are made off campus, with the exception of the incredible peanut butter-chocolate chip bread pudding buttressed by a dollop of vanilla ice cream ($7.00)... and it is worth the price of admission.

The only downer& there is no espresso. And for a restaurant that serves what amounts to upscale bistro fare, espresso is something of a sine qua non. Hopefully, the proprietors are on the case.

In the meantime, until something is done to mitigate the noise factor, your best bet is the porch area as you first enter, which is (comparatively) less boisterous, or, in warmer weather, the patio area at the rear. Avoid, at all costs, the main dining room, which, when filled, is a "din of iniquity" (pun intended).

The Artful Diner
November 2008

The Artful 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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