Thursday, May 5, 2011


Smugly nestled among the shops in urban-idyllic Chestnut Hill, Mica offers cozy restaurant eye candy.  Its walls are simply adorned in a grey/taupe; its fireplace features lit pillar candles.  Its servers are dressed in black and sported exotic accents.  It's also a BYO and does things like offer 4-course tasting menus on Wednesday for $45 (this night, featuring lobster).  I wanted to like it.  And yet, Mica managed to take its concept past feeling transported from the mundane, past interesting and tasty new cuisine, and landed in the area of pretentious discomfort and odd flavor combinations.

A note on the seating.  Mica features one main dining room, with a gorgeous fireplace and bay window.  Upon arrival, I noticed all of the seats were occupied by older folks, that is, at least one generation up from me.  Fine.  However, we were then led to the back room, equally cozy and nice in a darker, nearer to the open kitchen and beverage set-up, sort of way.  Four tables occupy this space, which does have windows, and were taken by younger folks.  This reminded me of the Parisian habit of sitting all foreigners together.  But if the food is worth it, I'm game.  As MCRF pointed out, it's worth taking the youth compliment.

The amuse bouche had promise.  A lobster panna cotta, it was a rich, buttery blend with a subtle lobster flavor that did indeed whet one's appetite for more lobster (as if I need a nudge toward wanting lobster).
Service was a bit slow between courses, and the bread offering shifted from a freshly baked baguette to something more hastily purchased to satiate waiting diners, which was an interesting and obvious flub.  It was $45 lobster night, though, so perhaps understandable if not excusable.

Our first course was a lobster carpaccio with a salad and peanuts.  Reported in the announcement to be a thai apple salad with truffle, I detected no truffle here, although the menu may have changed.
The salad was crisp and enjoyable, but the peanuts overpowered the lobster, which was best enjoyed separately.  The next course was equally ambitious -- tempura lobster claw, coddled egg, asparagus, black trumpet and a "shmear" of a banana-garlic paste.  I enjoyed the latter ingredient for its similarity to foie gras without the overpowering richness (I have no idea how you get foie gras flavor out of that combination, but you do).  The tempura claw, however, was strangely difficult to cut.  The overall dish ended up being an oddly textured combination, descending into a liquid at the end suitable more for an english muffin than a lobster claw with asparagus.  Next up was lobster crepe (pronounced by our server as "crepée," a term with which I am not familiar), with peas, mushrooms and a sauce separately poured that I couldn't identify.  Perhaps the least successful of the course, the crepée was more of an eggroll, fried with some strange wasabi-like aftertaste that was imminently forgettable.

Dessert featured a white chocolate panna cotta with a banana caramel topping with black pepper streusel.  Believe me when I tell you the "black pepper streusel" (sadly too dark to photograph) was unfortunately reminiscent of fried chicken batter pieces.  Perhaps avant-garde, but the flavor palate failed to appeal to me.
Mica has been only been open since March 18 of this year.  Even with an allowance for early stage hiccups, however, Mica's over-promising on concept still under-delivered on taste and atmosphere for me. 

Mica is located at 8609 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia,

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