The Stone Turtle starts slowly but usually gets where it wants to go. This is Gregory Baumel's stylish spin on the gastro-pub theme. It's a relaxed and upbeat eatery, where a clever chef plays with food.
Full of dark wood, exposed brick, plus a graffiti mural, the restaurant greets you in a hue that's a few shades lighter than the olive in your martini. The last line of the Beatles' "The End" punctuates the artwork and imagery; rock, Motown, Sinatra, the background sound. Baumel has a lively playlist - and, generally, plates to match.
The tuna Tartini is sashimi-grade yellowfin, with citrusy ponzu sauce, paired with avocado and sprouting waffle potato chips. It's good. So is a lobster-and-white-Cheddar quesadilla, flanked by guacamole and pico de gallo. Meaty, fried, panko-breaded crab cakes arrive with mango relish and pepper-spiked cream. Standout turkey potpie benefits from a buttery crust. Just as appealing: a thick, pan-roasted filet mignon, wrapped with applewood-smoked bacon, served on a round of polenta, with baby spinach and green-peppercorn sauce. Baumel sends out a juicy and tangy pulled-pork barbecue sandwich. There are ample contributions from the burger board, which in addition to the beef variety include turkey, salmon-and-crab, organic bison, and antelope from Broken Arrow Ranch, those last two a bit dry. Best sides are sweet-potato fries and onion rings. And try the walnut-fudge brownie with vanilla gelato. The dirty ashtray, an artfully arranged sundae, is an alternative. Fine beers on tap, Mighty Leaf teas, Lavazza espresso.
"Screaming oysters" shriek from their sake-oyster sauce, which is overwhelmed by chili peppers. A quintet of burger shots, minis on crumbly pastry-puff rolls, is overcooked. Likewise, "kokonut kalamari." The grilled mango shrimp cocktail heatedly buries the taste of the shellfish. Paella with shellfish, smoked chicken and chorizo: dehydrated. The four-cheese-and-wild boar lasagna, watery and bland, makes you revere tradition. Banana-chocolate bread pudding tastes boozy and harsh.
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