On occasion chain restaurants get it; they can offer fantastic food, great service and a slick presentation that sometimes your independent restaurants can't. It costs a lot of money to have all of the training, support staff and customized decor that makes up a great chain restaurant and so typically the prices at your higher end chain restaurants are higher than that of your local equivalent independent restaurant. Typically these chain restaurants have better buying power, think of Costco, the more you can buy at any time the bigger the discount. They will also have, General Managers for the restaurant, District Managers for a certain area where multiply restaurants are in, they will have CFO (Chief of Financial Operations), CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and sometimes CBO (Chief Branding Officer).
It takes a lot of smart, good people to get these restaurants spread around the country and around the world. These restaurants also typically also have a Corporate Chef, among his/her many tasks, is to constantly add and subtract from the current menu. Costing of food, sourcing of food and putting in structures in a kitchen to reduce waste so that the restaurants have the appropriate Food Cost (typically a percentage of what each dish costs, for example: Dish A on the menu is listed at 10 euro, the actual cost of this dish is 3 euro).
There is a sort of guideline that one can follow if you are new to the food industry: 30% on food, 30% on labor, 30% on fixed costs and 10% on profit. These number shift slightly from restaurant to restaurant but this is range.
Now, all of this information is need as a prequel to my review of Peter Pane. When I go to chain restaurants; which I do on occasion, I have a slightly different expectation than that of an independent restaurant. I appreciate all of the complexities that go into making a great chain restaurant but also feel with all of these people working behind the scenes the chain restaurant needs to nail it.
I need to walk out of that restaurant not thinking about anything but how good that experience was.
So lets take a look at Peter Pane - Burger Grill and Bar.
The first thing you notice, as with any restaurants is the decor. Peter Pane has similar decor that is done really well. A obvious play on the Peter Pan theme, made with wooden benches, big wooden poles wrapped in rope and cages and the general feeling of being in a boat(ish). It is both stylish and offers a unique presentation of a mid range restaurant. Though the seats I would imagine can be difficult for people with limited mobility, they do offer a few more traditional chairs and tables.
The service was good; quick, easy and attentive without being intrusive.
I ordered a house made lemonade and again it was good and big enough for at least two of me.
I picked a seasonal item, which is what I traditional will do at almost any restaurant. I do this for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I find these dishes to be the most creative and interesting on the menu.
So I picked the Sweet Potato, Amaranth Patty with Arugula (rocket), Lime Dressing, fresh Strawberries, Goat Cheese and roasted Cashew. Now this isn't a big stretch of flavors, most Chefs, know that these ingredients go well together but a well executed combination of these ingredients is really fantastic. I also picked a side order of Coleslaw, I do like a good, fresh coleslaw.
Trust me underneath that Arugula, there is the patty and individually all of it tasted good. Well almost. I will start with the coleslaw. Bad news first and all.
The coleslaw was horrible, while I was trying to eat it, it reminded me of when I was a child eating coleslaw that you could get at some fast food restaurant. And when eating a mid-range restaurant the last thing that you want is to be reminded of a cheap, greasy fast food. Way too much vinegar created this soggy mess of pickled wetness. The cabbage and carrots, were not crisp nor fresh and I could tell that that the coleslaw was made at least at the very beginning of service, which me eating a 2pm, should never get served. It's often the little things that can quickly make a good restaurant experience go bad and my first bite of a vinegar tasting coleslaw, wasn't a good start. Good coleslaw is fantastic, fresh and crispy. This was neither.
But that's the side dish, what about the main? Rarely have I ever complained about too much Arugula; however, this is one is borderline. When the Arugula over powers the main part of the dish and subsequently becomes the main dish, it's too much. However, Arugula is amazing, hence the borderline comment. But sadly, the lettuces (there was a generic green leaf lettuce buried in there too) was way too much for a rather delicately flavored Sweet Potato and Amaranth patty.
The patty itself tastes really nice, but the boldness of the rest of the dish allows that delicate flavor to become lost. And so, ultimately the dish failed.
On it's own the patty is really good and on it's own the Arugula with lime dressing, roasted cashews and strawberries works. Though the look of the goat cheese again reminded me of a fast food restaurant, that exact shape and size of each piece typically is common when you buy a large bag of goat cheese already crumbled. ( I won't go in to here about why this is done, but it is very common in chain restaurants). However, as a combination it didn't work. Looking at this meal, I thought to myself that it should work, the patties flavor is complimentary to the "salad" that was on top of it. But you need the patty to be the star, and it wasn't.