Dylan Prime makes an awesome cocktail, sadly that’s all I remember about my visit to the restaurant a couple of years ago. A large group of friends and I attempted to and succeeded in having one of each of their dozen or so cocktails apiece. Some food was consumed and I remember it being pleasing, but when I think back on the evening I spent at Dylan Prime the memory is of a jubilant time fueled by great cocktails. Blurry as this memory may be it is a fond one, so when I heard the Dylan Prime team would be opening Devin Tavern I was definitely interested in checking it out. Last night, check it out is what we did.
Of course it all started with a cocktail. From a list of nine cocktails (happily not one erroneously named a martini), I chose with the bartender’s direction a Pepper Basil Caipirinha. The classic adapted to be a little more savory, playing up the aromatic aspects of the Cachaça, it was a great variation. Then cocktails moved on to wine. Not knowing the food, we went with an American white (Seven Hills Viogner ’05) and a red (Ridge Geyser ’03) that seemed fairly priced and like they could straddle a menu that read as straightforward American fare, echoing the list on both counts.
The menu and the space of Devin Tavern are both grand and comfortable. There are fifteen appetizers, thirteen entrées, six sides, two verbal appetizer specials, and one verbal entrée special. The space is comparably huge: from the bar you not only see that there is at least one more large room in each direction, but sense there may be more. When you travel to the restroom, you find yet another good-sized bar, and dining room sub terra. From the tables’ perspective, though the space is well managed the actual surfaces are ample and the room around them is generous. The resulting feeling is spacious more than outsized. The menu, daunting when first approached, shakes out to make sense as American gastronomy leaning toward the hearty, seasonal, and artisanal.
From the left side of the menu, I chose Chicken & Biscuits Bobo Farms Chicken, Morel Mushrooms, Double Cream which turned out to be an open face potpie. In a bowl were all the components of a chicken potpie – the creamy sauce, the diced mirepoix, and pieces of skinless chicken meat. Studding this mélange were small morels and served on the side were country biscuits, which I crumbled into the bowl and used to soak up the creamy sauce. Prepared in this method the aromatics were able to retain some of their bite, making for a more interesting combination than the homogenous softness of a typical potpie.
From the verbal appetizer offerings, Wife chose a summer salad of artichokes accompanied by some of the mirepoix they had been braised with, asparagus and heirloom tomatoes. This excited her in theory more than execution. I found it astringent with the Viogner; good salad, bad pairing on my part (better, I guess, with her Shirley Temple made with the house made grenadine).
Because I couldn’t resist, we also split Barents Sea King Crab Legs Broiled with Radish, Mint, Parsley, Tarragon, Lemon Salad. It is not hard to make king crab legs taste great, but it is simple to make them taste less than great. These were perfect; the herb salad was on the side, leaving just the sweet flesh with tints of caramelization, some drawn butter for dipping, and a lemon wedge.
From the right side of the menu, I ordered Beef Short Ribs Kansas City Glaze, Cast Iron Potatoes, Roasted Garlic Slaw. The ribs were off-the-bone, deeply caramelized, luxuriant, and tender, with hints of smoke more than smoked flavor and a tangy sauce with some heat of black pepper rather than capsicum. The slaw was straightforward; the potatoes were fingerling and bliss, halved and browned.
For Dessert, we split Savory Cheese Cakes & Sesame Bread Sticks Rosemary-Sage Goat Cheese, Walnut-Pecan Maytag Blue. Alone, the goat tasted strongly of sage and the blue of salt, but with the sesame crisp these extremes were tamed and the cakes became enjoyable.
The best part of the night may still have been the cocktail, but this time I remember the food, fondly. From this early vantage it would seem Devin Tavern is a large comfortable space, solidly making substantial American cuisine and a great drink.