Lately, TPB and I have seemed to miss the "morning" part of our weekend and find that it's mid-afternoon before we finally venture out, thus whittling our restaurant options to those happy places that accommodate such non-conforming folks who want a good meal between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m.
Solaris Grille is just such a place, one of the few places in Chestnut Hill that seats you at 3:00 p.m. Foregoing our initial sushi preference, I was pleased to find that Solaris's sunny icon appropriately conveyed its restaurant sense -- a light-filled, refreshing cafe. A nice antidote for a wintry afternoon.
Our server was wonderful, nicely attentive and helpful with choices and options. The menu itself offered a good selection of cafe food, and although we strayed from the heavier items, all seemed appealing.
We started with the mussels, served in a buttery wine and garlic sauce. The sauce, which tasted mostly like butter, was of course delicious, especially with bread, butter's natural companion. (I have to add that the bread, while fine dipped in melted butter, tasted a bit like Wonder Bread's take on the dinner roll). The mussels, however, tasted less than delicious and were quite salty. Nevertheless, we managed to finish them off.
Continuing with our appetizer strategy, we had ordered the boneless chicken wings (hot) and the scallops wrapped in bacon. Honestly, I'm not sure I need my chicken wings to have bones. Having famously refused to finger paint as a child, the less I get my hands dirty, the better. The wings had a great mix of spice, sauce and breading and, best of all, my hands remained free to sample other foods. Which included the succulent scallops wrapped in bacon, done to perfection in a way that was surprising and satisfying. Served with a generous helping of salad, this would be the perfect appetizer to share at dinner.
We finished the meal with what sounded like a winner -- the Lobster, Crab Claw and Avocado Salad. (While the picture appears to be taken ... in heaven, the lens was likely a little buttery). In any case, the half lobster came stocked with tail meat, and a small tower of crab and avocado salad (prepared with lemon aioli) was served alongside. This dish fell a little short for me. The lobster, while still being lobster and therefore good, was a bit rubbery in its coldness and the salad, offering perhaps the biggest portion I've ever seen for such ingredients, missed the mark. Perhaps it was the crabmeat (I'm from Maryland and many crab preparations here miss the mark), but the taste felt less than fresh and the strong lemon flavored enhanced, rather than contradicted, my suspicion. Although tasty, the "lemon aioli" binding was too generously applied.
Would I go here again? Absolutely. It's the perfect place to take a visiting mother, get a soup and sandwich combination, or grab something light that's not boring. It also fits nicely on a lazy afternoon while strolling through Chestnut Hill. Speaking of which, while you're there, please try Chestnut Hill Coffee Co., across from Borders (and skip Starbucks!). The espresso is magical.
Solaris Grille is located at 8201 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, 215-242-4200 (and is open generally from 11 am to 10 pm except on Friday and Saturday, when it's open until 11:30 pm). Chestnut Hill Coffee Co. is located at 8620 Germantown Avenue.