This was our first trip to this cozy little restaurant in downtown Malvern, tucked away in a corner next to Paoli train station. The thing that drew me to this restaurant in particular is the fact that they offer organic and local entrees. It was listed on http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?pd=Home, as one of only two restaurants within a ten mile radius of my home offering local and organic choices. It had great reviews on Opentable and on Yelp! so I was intrigued. Tables are timed seating here, so our reservation was for 6PM, and we were told when we called for a table that the next seating would be at 8, and we had two hours to eat. As it turned out, we had plenty of time, and never felt rushed.
We arrived a few minutes late for our reservation and the ladies at the desk took our jackets and led us to a table in a cozy dimly lit room. Our waiter came over immediately and opened our wine. Alba was previously a BYO but has recently gotten their liquor license. There is a $15 corkage fee. Our waiter brought over some bread and oil, and a little mini teacup of a roasted tomato soup, which was really excellent, a delicious start to the meal. I wanted more. First to come out was an unremarkable Salad of Branch Creek Farm Greens, Escarole, Asian Pears & Fennel, Lemon-Anchovy Dressing. This sounded interesting, and different, but it tasted watered down and fairly bland. Probably could have used some nuts, or a little more sweetness, because the pears weren't cutting it. This was essentially the only green salad on the menu, but it was trying too hard and came up short.
For a starter, we tried the Mozzarella Buratta: Bruschetta, Stone Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt. The mozzarella was delicious, tasted very fresh, and the bread was delicious toasted, but I think they forgot the "bruschetta"/ tomatoes, because it was just the mozzarella and toasted bread. Around this time another table was seated so close to us on our left, our elbows almost touched. There were plenty of other tables in the room, but we seemed to be clustered in the corner. We heard every word of their conversation and I am sure they heard every word of ours. I was very conscious of having strangers so close.
Now, the entrees are where this place really shines....
I chose what looked to be the only vegetarian item on the menu --a Lasagna of Spinach & Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms, Béchamel, Our Own Hens’ Egg. It sounded terrific, and did not disappoint. It arrived at the table piping hot. Surprisingly light and fresh, it hit the spot. The extra bread helped. Whole grain bread would have been an added bonus. My husband tried the Slow Roasted Berkshire Pork, Celery Root Puree, Apple-Grappa Sauce, Celery Heart Salad and he really enjoyed that. His plate was wiped clean. As for dessert, I opted for a coffee and the Warm Hazelnut & Chocolate Brownie Amarena Cherries, Vanilla Ice Cream and it was the perfect end to any meal. I don't know if I have ever had a whole hazelnut before, but they were perfect with this dish. I have no complaints. Worth every calorie.
All in all, it was nice, for a change. The atmosphere is cozy and romantic. Our service was seamless, and the waiter didn't miss a beat. I will definitely be returning. I am excited that more restaurants are offering local and organic choices in the city and it's suburbs. We have a long way to go before our choices are as food conscious as those establishments on the West Coast, but it's a good start. I'll be on the lookout for more vegetarian fare, and lighter, healthier dishes in general, so I'll keep you posted!