In support of Dine out for Life and Moveable Feast I visited White Oak Tavern which was one of the participating restaurants in Howard County. First let me start by saying, White Oak Tavern should be commended for participating in such a great cause. To donate such a hefty portion of their dinner bill to such a cool cause is very admirable.
But let’s get to the review shall we?
White Oak Tavern and I have a love/hate relationship, I love what they’re trying to do and the vision that their kitchen has. They’re taking risks on their menu and I get that. What I don’t like about White Oak Tavern is that they never seem to deliver a consistent effort when it comes to their food. Some dishes will be great, then others not so much. No dish ever has me saying, “oh wow, this is the best thing I’ve ever had.”
We started with the Brussels sprouts appetizer which had an interesting flavor profile, they used a goat cheese cream with chunks of pork belly and cauliflower to garnish the Brussels sprouts. Overall the dish was tasty, the savory flavor from the bacon lent itself to the Brussels sprouts and the tangy goat cheese. It was good, but not great.
We also tried the duck confit lettuce wraps, which were a take on the standard chicken lettuce wraps that are popular at many Asian restaurants. This was probably the best dish of the night. The confit was cooked beautifully as it was juicy and tender,meanwhile the sweet and spicy chili sauce on the duck added just enough kick and sweetness to make this dish a home-run. The quinoa used as a filler helped deaden some of the spice, but I could’ve went for more duck or some crushed nuts instead of the quinoa.
White Oak Tavern’s small plate menu allows diners to try multiple dishes without committing to any one thing, it’s also where most of their culinary imagination comes out.
The restaurant was running a special which was Bacon Mac & Cheese. As you know, I have a standing rule for mac & cheese, it’s that I always get it. At least once.
The bacon mac & cheese was well done despite the pasta being slightly too al-dente for my taste. The cheese had a smooth yet sharp flavor that balanced well with the crisp chunks of bacon and crunchy breadcrumbs mixed in. Had the pasta been slightly more cooked, this dish would’ve been one of the better mac & cheeses around.
The serving sizes at White Oak Tavern are always beyond generous so we split an entree, the brisket on the menu screamed out to me so I had to try it. This was a dish that delivered on several levels, but was far from being perfect. Let’s talk about the good, the kitchen used adobo peppers to create a great spicy and smokey flavor in the brisket. The brisket was so tender that it basically melted in your mouth. It was fairly spicy, but not so spicy that you couldn’t eat it without a heaping glass of water nearby. The refried beans that were served with it, could’ve been creamier and the sweet potato hash that was served alongside (I presume to help with the spice of the beef) was a bit of a throwaway. They were a bit under cooked and could’ve served to be replaced with a few flour tortillas instead.
We finished with what we thought was going to be the best part of the evening, but instead it was the worst. We ordered a caramelized bacon blondie, woof, it did not work. Let’s disect the dish from top to bottom, first the usage of bacon on the blondie was overkill. The candied bacon overpowered the rest of the dessert, and ontop of that the usage of what seemed to be vanilla with the bacon just created a bizarre flavor profile in your mouth. Meanwhile, the blondie itself was mediocre, the spongey texture and bland flavor just left us completely dejected with our dessert choice. It’s the best part of the meal! Having bad dessert is like showing up to open Christmas presents to only find out your parents have bought you socks. (That is of course you really wanted socks).
White Oak Tavern is the place I just can’t quit, I want it to be good, but every time I go I wish I had just stopped by the Chinese place near by instead and gorged myself on General Tso’s.
Rating (by popular request): 2 Stars (out of 5)