The Journal Gazette
 
 
Saturday, March 12, 2016 10:09 pm

Occasional, evolving dinners a true blessing

Ryan DuVall | Restaurant critic

Ever-changing menus are a blessing and a curse.

There is always something new to try and they promote seasonality. But when you find something you love, you never know when you will get to taste it again.

Old Crown Coffee Roasters’ dinner menu changes every week. The coffee shop/bar/restaurant offers dinner only three days each week, and I was cursed because there were two dishes and a dessert that I would love to have again soon.

But there was a blessing for me. I have found a new place that I love and will be frequenting.

When Old Crown first went into the restaurant game, I was not overly impressed.

Back then, it served lunch with some specials that could be had in the evening. And it didn’t have the talented chef Jeremy Selvio at the helm.

Selvio easily made the best risotto I have had in Fort Wayne. Not only was it the best, it was a vegetarian risotto, which is much harder to pull off.

It had the perfect consistency with an almost velvety texture and was nicely seasoned.

Selvio makes the vegetable stock from scratch and adds European butter to give it that rich, creamy texture. The rice was joined by asparagus, red peppers and meaty little crimini mushrooms and was finished with some shaved Parmesan and a pinch of parsley.

Another dish worth going back for – if it is offered again – was the seafood pasta. Linguine was tossed with three ounces of Maine lobster tail, jumbo shrimp and peas with a decadent garlic-shallot cream sauce. The seafood was all perfectly cooked and the luxurious sauce paired well with the peas to create sort of a carbonara-like dish.

And if that wasn’t enough to get me excited, my server said, "You should try his seafood risotto next time he makes it. It is amazing."

Let’s just say I will be checking Old Crown’s website regularly with an eye out for that dish.

The memorable dessert sounded like something any coffee shop would have and did not sound memorable. But Selvio’s Blueberry Coffee Cake was not your ordinary coffee cake.

The cake was so moist it was like bread pudding. It also had a ton of plump, juicy berries and plenty of crunchy toasted walnuts in its sweet, brown sugar crumble top. More of the sugary part of that topping was spread on the bottom of the cake to form a delicious, crispy crust.

The Chocolate Chiffon Mousse was also a winner. It had a rich chocolate flavor but a light texture, so it was not a heavy meal-ender.

Selvio offers only one appetizer weekly and mine had mixed results.

The Grilled Buffalo Shrimp was a star. It wasn’t a cheap bar snack; it was four huge tail-on prawns enrobed in a spicy red sauce resting atop a super moist homemade polenta cake with celery straws and a creamy bleu cheese mousse. It was superb with the mousse and sweet cake offsetting the heat nicely. The only thing I would change would be cutting the celery strips shorter so they weren’t so clumsy.

The Duck Fat Roasted Tricolor Potatoes would have been a great side but didn’t really work as an appetizer. The potatoes were cooked nicely and there was a lot of shaved Parmesan, but the duck fat didn’t separate them from regular roasted potatoes in terms of flavor. The curried ketchup and garlic aioli were tasty, however.

The rather simple organic mixed greens salad exceeded expectations. The creamy Boars Head blue cheese and its perfect balsamic vinaigrette made it a must-have with any dinner. And if the appetizer doesn’t sound appealing, you will be more than happy with the doughy, moist complimentary bread that, of course, Selvio makes himself. It is a fermented bread, he said, and he uses a starter to create it.

The two beef entrées I tried were good but paled in comparison to the risotto and pasta.

The Beef Shank Osso Bucco was thinner than a normal osso bucco and more like a steak, but it was fork tender and had the flavorful braising liquid of red wine, stock and herbs as its gravy. It was topped with sautéed broccolini and accompanied by a yummy bacon-sweet potato mash.

The hockey puck-shaped Grilled Meatloaf was served on its end so it looked like it might roll off the plate. The meat was plenty moist and had pretty standard meatloaf characteristics. The Asian chili glaze was good but may have been a bit too aggressive.

The parsnip and turnip duchess potato that came with it, though pretty, was rather bland and its texture was too light and airy, so I could not slather it on the loaf like I always do with mashed potatoes. The sweet potatoes would have been a better choice.

The base of the oddly named Southern Style Chicken & Slickers had the same creamy texture as the risotto and it, too, was made with homemade chicken stock. It had a generous amount of stewed chicken, carrots and peas and hand-cut, rolled-out dumplings that looked like giant noodles. They were slick when coated in the sauce, so maybe that is where the name came from. Regardless, it was a great dish and the dumplings were fantastic.

The most fantastic thing about Old Crown is the good vibe of the place. The laid-back feel and cool urban-modern digs make you fall in love with it right away.

The service, though just as laid back with servers donning T-shirts and jeans, wasn’t lacking. My servers were prompt, attentive and could answer any query.

And I cannot forget the bar part of Old Crown. Not only did I have a perfectly made old-fashioned and sazerac with my meals, the Irish coffees with dessert were fantastic. Guess it should be given the place is first, and foremost, a coffee shop.

Restaurant: Old Crown Coffee Roasters

Address: 3417 N. Anthony Blvd.

Phone: 422-5282

Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes, but no menu

Menu: Salad ($4), Buffalo shrimp ($9), potatoes ($7), seafood pasta ($16), Chicken & Slickers ($15), osso bucco ($16), meatloaf ($15), risotto ($14), coffee cake ($6), mousse ($7)

Rating breakdown: Food: **1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.

        

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