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“Yes and no”
Review of Sycamore - CLOSED

Sycamore
Price range: $30 - $30
Cuisines: American
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Romantic, Special occasions, Local cuisine
Dining options: Reservations
Dining style: Fine Dining
Cross street: Baltimore Avenue
Transit: Sycamore is literally steps away from the Septa R3.
Description: BYO
Ardmore, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
96 reviews
70 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 63 helpful votes
“Yes and no”
Reviewed May 27, 2012

Lansdowne. I can’t even remember the last time I drove through the center of the old town. Many things have changed; a few things have not. The Episcopal church is for sale. But the antique auction is still there. And so is the giant sycamore that used to grow out of the foundation of a house. The house, however, is now gone. A park replaces it. But that takes me to the purpose of my visit, the Sycamore restaurant. Yelp posters seem to rave about it. So, I thought we’d give it a try. They offered a $29 Sunday tasting menu. I like tasting menu for new restaurants. And even, if they don’t offer one, my dinner companions and I create our own and we ask for sharing plates. We arrive on time. The reservations I made through Open Table did not go through. Nonetheless, it wasn’t crowded and they seated us immediately. The room was golden autumn warm: reds and oranges. Yellow walnut tables, no clothes line the hug banquettes along the wall. The tables are very close. You can hear every conversation distinctly. The music, a bit too loud, doesn’t do too much to keep the high decibel talking down to a modest level. We heard every detail of the car accident recounted at the other end of the dining room.

The wait staff graciously attended us. The printed menu might have been a bit more appealing and certainly a bit clearer. While the regular items were listed on the opening fold, the tasting menus for which we had come peaked out of small print in small paragraphs on the back page. The tasting menu requirement is that all persons at the table must participate. This seemed not only reasonable but what we had come for. The three of us wanted to share and taste. And here was the big mistake. The question is, was the mistake ours or Sycamore’s. Was this to be a tasting and sharing menu?


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When we made our choice known, the affable waitress intoned her memorized liens. The tasting menu selection might be anything. Some things might be on the menu, others not. Some dishes might be singular; others might be the same for the three of us. The server, young, and outgoing, but not always clear, seemed to have the menu more memorized than understood. Then too, in the din of the Sycamore, her pronouncements on our fare are less than distinct. Nonetheless, in our own enthusiasm to try the Sycamore menu, we smile and agree with great anticipation of what may appear on our table. As a Japanese diner might say to a Sushi master “we are in your hands.” And, much to our dismay, so we were.

I must say that shortly after making our choice our waiter brought us a delightful “amuse bouche:” a delicate Asian spoon of fennel, mandarin orange and balsamic.” The spoonful was imaginative and a sparkling invitation to dine. But dining was not an immediate follow. We waited. And then we waited. And we waited some more. This “grand pause” was the overture to the evening’s table ballet.

Now, I don’t like to be rushed at a restaurant. I don’t like courses being served too quickly. I like to mellow between courses with friendly banter. But to mellow is not to stagnate. We waited for very long breaks between courses: very long.

Finally the first course arrived. Three dishes: a lone scallop, a lone clam fritter and a bowl of pasta (what I think are called lumache.) Now, this is a tasting menu. And, remember, to request this menu all persons at the table must participate. Well, how can three people taste one scallop, one fritter and a serving of pasta that is barely one cup? Well, we carved them down as best we could. But how much can you taste and savor in barely a forkful?

Then, we waited again. We waited. And, we waited. Finally our most pleasant waitress brought the three samples of what I would think were main courses. The first was a serving of bass that was very delicate. While the portion was again small, we did manage to divide it into three. Then there was crepe. I cannot say too much for this creation. The texture was so heavy that the starch leached visibly into the sauce and turned it somewhat white.

By this time, I was starving: not just for something in my stomach but for the desire to taste what I came to this restaurant for. After waiting yet another inordinate stretch our server brought is “something not on the menu.” It was a stew: in fact, three servings of the same stew. This time we each had an appropriate size serving. Things were looking up. But, the moment the platters touched the tables, my childhood returned. I was with my mother at the Horn and Hardart Automat. I put the coin in the brass fixture machine, the glass door opened, and I had a deep green glazed thick ceramic bowl of stew. The aroma was without comparison. Then when my fork and my teeth met the stew, the memory became real in the overcooked carrots and completely shapeless dissolved meat. With the dish my stomach hunger was somewhat satisfied, but my culinary hunger remained insatiate.

“How is it going?” our server questioned? “Oh, just fine,” we all chimed in unison. (How we lie because we are taught to be polite and because we haven’t the “hutzpah” to retort with honesty.) “Great,” she said, “because you have more to come.” Well, what could it be? And, then, yet again, we waited. At length our server returned with a board of cheese and olives. No problem there. I love both. But, it was also very clear from the droplets and dark air shadows on the cheese slices that this cheese board was set up some time before it was served.

When the cheese disappeared we sat again for the now accustomed wait. Finally, dessert approached: a chocolate ginger bread cake with vanilla ice cream. I must say that for the first time, the size of the cake was appropriate for three people. But, while the service was a tasting menu for three in keeping with Sycamore’s conditions there were only two dollops of ice cream on the cake.

I would also note that at each service change we had to ask for a clean plate and for new cutlery. Bread was not replenished and only given meagerly upon request. Each new piece of bread was cut into three thin slices.

For a restaurant in a low rent area that charges city prices there might be many improvements.

  • Visited April 2012
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
2 Thank TonyDM
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

35 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    23
    7
    3
    0
    2
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Levittown, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
12 reviews
10 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“Lamb-y Goodness”
Reviewed April 20, 2012

I went to Sycamore April 12, I enjoyed a delicious crab cake appetizer and a succulent Barnsley Chop grilled to perfection w/ garlic duck fat poached potatoes, spring pea puree and mint lamb jus. It was a limited dish; I'm glad I reserved one.

I have also been to the prefix nights on Sunday and Wednesday. It's a nice way to try Sycamore for $29, a cheese plate and dessert is included.

  • Visited April 2012
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank LK30
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kennett Square, PA USA
Level Contributor
138 reviews
87 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 98 helpful votes
“Overpriced food, small portions, unimaginative plating of entrees”
Reviewed January 8, 2012

I have mixed feelings about this restaurant. It is a charming little place that is beautifully decorated inside with a fine assortment of music playing in the background. We did love the charcuterie board that was served at the beginning of the meal ($19). Unfortunately my husband and I had our hearts set on having the beef borgognone for dinner (as it appeared in their menu on their website the day we went for dinner). However, there was a different listing of entrees as they change their menu on a regular basis. What a huge disappointment!!! I ordered the 10 oz. delmonico steak for ~ $32 (rip off!!!). It was served on a rectangular plate with 3 little potatoes and 1/8th of a lemon wedge. Flavor was fine as long as I picked through all the fat & gristle. My husband ordered the pork chop ~ which he was quite pleased with. My MIL had the special of the evening ~ lamb shoulder served over polenta. There was hardly any lamb there; and what I did see looked like shoe leather. It appeared to be dark and very overcooked. She was not very pleased with her meal.... And the biggest disappointment of all was dessert (all are $7 each)! I ordered the sticky toffee pudding. No kidding, it looked as though their "pastry" chef had baked a 9x13" pan of sticky toffee pudding and then cut the pieces into small ~ 2.5" x 2.5" pieces. There was a little drizzle of cream in the plate too. (We have become very spoiled by the awesome sticky toffee pudding at The Whip ~ so maybe this was an unfair comparison, but......). My hubby ordered the pear tarte tartin. It wasn't too exciting; rather bland actually. Dinner for 4 people (without alcohol) ~ 1 charcuterie, 4 entrees, 4 desserts = ~ $167 + tax & tip. Because this restaurant is quite far from where we live, I know that we will not return. If we lived closer, we might only go there for the charcuterie board. My suggestion: skip the entrees and lousy desserts and save your hard earned money!!!

  • Visited January 2012
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank bouncingbunny
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
pa
Level Contributor
130 reviews
98 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
“Risky and $$$”
Reviewed January 5, 2012

Disappointed as menu did not match online choices. I was told the online menu is not correct due to menu changes daily so they post the most interesting choices but you actually have to go to see what is being offered. Kinda shocked at the entree prices as they are not large portions & small side accompaniment is less than 1/2 cup. The 5 choices we had: 1 vegetarian, 2 meats($36.00 rib eye!) & 2 seafood ($28.00 scallops!) did not really peak my interest but our food was prepared very well. I had soup (delicious) & friend had short rib app (very good) & both had dinner (veal loin /scallops) we did not have any drinks, coffee or dessert and our bill was $80.00 for 2 people. There is a pre-fixe $29.00 & chef tasting $49.00 menu on certain nights that sound interesting. You can also get a combo cheese/meat platter for $19.00 where you pick 3/3 from list which would be cool to do with a good bottle of wine. Place is small so you can be seated close to others. This place is not for the meat & potato person.

  • Visited January 2012
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank otrs
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Lansdowne, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
103 reviews
60 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 36 helpful votes
“Never better”
Reviewed December 29, 2011

This was my fourth visit to Sycamore and I am never disappointed- not in any aspect of the meal or service.The service lacks the pretense of center city Phila (thank goodness) and the food competes with anything you might find there. Outstanding food. Cozy atmosphere. Reasonable prices (for what you get) and creative menus.
The better news is that they will be opening a small plates/Mediterranean style w/ pizza place in March or the spring-again in Lansdowne! Yippee.

  • Visited December 2011
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank broadbeb111
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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