Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Restaurant Week at Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Columbia

Delicious and fun mix beautifully at Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Columbia, and the ongoing Howard County Restaurant Weeks is a great excuse to explore -- although not the only deal to choose.

Mrs. HowChow and I ate at Iron Bridge on a celebratory whim Monday night. For restaurant week, Iron Bridge is offering three courses for $30 -- an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. Iron Bridge has specials every weeknight like a "burger and wine" special on Mondays. But we actually ate the regular appetizers -- four tapas-sized dishes that we split before having dessert. We paid a little less and still walked out satisfied and full.

Iron Bridge is a special kitchen. Dishes are small, simple and smart, which was my reason to try more little dishes than a full-plate entrees. Consider the "fries" served with a barbecued beef slider. They look like thick cut fries, but they're really slices of polenta, fried with such a light touch that the outside was crisp and the inside was almost creamy. It's surprising. It's funny. But most importantly, it's delicious and dipped beautifully into the barbecue sauce.

I started to write that the best items were the simplest -- house-smoked salmon with a spectacular cream on thin slices of toast. But the dishes are deceptively complex. Someone turned out that salmon with a mouth-filling flavor of fish and salt, but none of the oiliness that mars bad lox. Someone made a perfect cream and thin toasts with a slight crunch, but still the chewiness of bread. It's an intelligence that run through everything at Iron Bridge from the manager who moved us away from a happy, loud group to the waiter who let Mrs. HowChow order a half-pour when the menu only listed wines by the full glass.

This was one of my favorite dinners in a long time. The beef sliders and the shrimp were both cooked perfectly. The bread pudding was delicate -- although more like a cake than the moist puddings that Mrs. HowChow prefers. The wine was superb and fit Mrs. HowChow's description of "dry, but full flavored" exactly. This was the fun of eating at a favorite restaurant, made especially good because we didn't fall into our "favorite sushi roll" rut. Iron Bridge changes its menu all the time, so we make new picks confident that nothing with disappoint. I really wanted the cheese plate, but we relented because four tapas and dessert truly filled us both up.

My only complaint is the lighting. Sure, it's romantic and adult, which goes great with the way that Iron Bridge has little nooks where you can be together even in a crowded room. But some of us are snapping away with a camera phone, and there just isn't enough light to focus.

For more about Howard County's restaurant week in July-August 2009, check out a prior post that links to the full list of participating restaurants. The funny thing at Iron Bridge is that there wasn't a sign of restaurant week anywhere. Not even a mention of the "three for $30" special on the menu. I guess you get the deal if you know about it before you arrive.

Iron Bridge Wine Company
10435 Rte 108
Columbia, MD 21044

NEAR: This is on Rte 108 west of Rte 29 and Centennial Park. From Clarksville, you could just come north on Rte 108. From anywhere else, it's very convenient off Rte 29.


Anonymous said...

I apologize for the horrible iPhone photography. Mrs. HowChow

pizzablogger said...

Great write up about a place I enjoy very much!

Mrs. HowChow, I'm guessing you were holding the iPhone when you took the pic? I've found when you notice the lighting is low, flipping an empty water glass upside down and resting the camera on the glass, or on top of any stable object, will allow for a better photo. Hope this helps.

HowChow said...

Thank you so much for the photo tip. But I'm laughing because my wife cringes every time that I take a picture. She tried at Iron Bridge, and she'll snap for me when I ask. But she can get mortified if the photos take too long, so I don't see her flipping empty water glasses any time soon!!

Anonymous said...

We took advantage of restaurant week to finally try Iron Bridge, and I have to tell you it was horribly disappointing, especially in comparison to our Bistro Blanc restaurant-week outing. The food, while sounding delicious, came-out tasting either OK or just plain gross (my charred veal). Maybe we just hit on a bad night for the chef, but I thought Bistro Blanc was significantly tastier (and more generous with the wine).

Anonymous said...

I've had only one really bad experience at Iron Bridge and it will be the only one, since I refuse to go back to places where I've been treated badly by the staff. My money is good any day of the week at lots of other places. Sorry Iron Bridge, but you need to do better with your customer service...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
HowChow said...

I erased the comment above this one because it named an Iron Bridge employee and ridiculed her. I'm all for people's reports about food and atmosphere. I'm even cool with anonymous ones. But please don't use HowChow to name someone and make fun of them. This is the substantive part of the comment that I erased:

The management is pompous, ill-dressed and rude. If you are trying to run a respectable establishment, make sure your staff is properly dressed.

The food was hit or miss, nothing ambitious or creative. Smoked salmon was delicious as well as the foie gras. Steak was enormous and tasty. The cheese plate was overpriced. Service was rushed as always, and we only actually saw our server, "Kristina" once. I tipped the bus boy as he did an amazing job serving us. The wait staff could use some brushing up as it seems the cleaning crew does a better job and is more attentive. The wine was great, but next time I'll just buy it to-go as I won't plan on staying.

Anonymous said...

I so want to like Iron Bridge, and they make it Soooo difficult.
The wine was not really as described. Glasses were slightly dirty -- a big deal when you pay over $10 for a glass of wine. It wasn't really an appropriate glass for the type of red, which was a major oversight for a wine bar. Finally, it had been opened and left overnight.
Food is tiny. The $22 entree should not look like an appetizer. I realize they have small plates, but that's why entrees are called entrees.
My meal was plain gross -- "hot" pasta that was served cold (how long do you have to leave pasta out for it to be that cold?). The taste was metallic and had none of the expected flavors. I couldn't really eat it. I should have sent it back, but we'd waited so long for it to get cold in the kitchen, that my heart wasn't in it.
On the bright note, our server was very good, I've had her before and she knows the menu.

Anonymous said...

Horrible experience. Food is good but not as good since they lost their chef about 2 years ago. Management is terrible - they do not understand customer service.

THEY put the wrong display label indicating a specific bottle of wine for a specific price. We ordered two of the bottles listed. When the tab came, the bottles behind THEIR label was not the the wine listed on the label. About a $200 difference between the actual cost of the bottle and the label for the bottle.

Management did absolutely nothing about THEIR error, including, they didn't even move the label showing the wrong price for the bottles of wine.

Their position was that we should have known that the wine we receive was not the wine on the label.

POOR place to go - check out Bistro Blanc on Ten Oaks Road instead. Better service and no STUPIC management.