theengineer and I critiqued restaurants as we walked passed, all the placed we'd had unmemorable or lackluster meals, the places which were decent, but not as good as the competition elsewhere in the city, the places I'd read good reviews of, but were rather pricer than what we were looking for. I wanted to go somewhere that was new to me, and he eventually suggested a place called the Mid-Town Grill that he'd not eaten at in years and years. Before we found it, though, we found Marlowe, an accessible-looking place with an interesting and reasonably-priced menu. (Although we later learned from the waitress that the venue used to hold the Mid-Town Grill. The two restaurants were otherwise unrelated.)
Dark, smooth wood lined the walls and composed the table-tops, but the chairs and benches were comfortable. The place was a bar and restaurant, but more than anything, it reminded me a bit of Citron, my once-favorite Toronto restaurant, back when it still existed. There was more bar to it than Citron had, a bit more piped in music turned up further into the night, but it had something of the same feel, price range, and quite a bit of the same quality of food, although in an unrelated style. I ordered an amaretto sour, a drink I still associate with Citron, and it was quite good.
We started by sharing a platter of Gator Fingers. Yep, they contained real alligator meat a novelty too intriguing for me to pass up. (Among exotics, they also had an ostrich burger.) Underneath the deep-fried batter, their texture was like that of a very dense fish, but with an altogether non-fishy, fairly neutral flavor. The accompanying Louisian Tomato Dip was nicely spiced and intriguing enough that I kept eating it even after we'd run out of Gator to have it with. A round of bread arrived, a tasty batch of seasoned white flour with a firm texture averaging towards softness.
theengineer went for the densely-sauced Mustard Crusted Chicken; he thought the taste a little too rich for eating a full potion though. I opted for one of the specials, Bourbon BBQ-marinated beef brochettes on sun-dried tomato mash and snow peas. The marinade was nicely layered in flavor, a thoughtful and easy-to-eat dish with a satisfyingly non-ketchupy BBQ sauce. I was very impressed with the buttery snow pea pods though, cooking to soft and yielding, while still mainaining their crispness.
Desserts were decent but not as good as the rest of the meal. The warm chocolate torte spilled out with liquid chocolate filling, as promised; the torte was remarkably light in both density and flavor given the amount of real chocolate that had clearly been used in its making. It didn't fill me up too much, but neither was it too richly flavored. I don't know how theengineer's apple crisp was, but he only ate half, giving me the impression that his wasn't any more addictive than mine. Still, they have crême brûlée flavors of the day, and an apricot truffle cake, so there's hope for excitement yet among their sweets.
I'd absolutely go back - pleasant ambiance, decent, kindly service, and generally good food for the right price. Sure, the music cranked up as the evening wore on, but never approached the sort of levels which interfere with conversation. And hey - I've now tried alligator!