Taste on Melrose, Iowa City
My in-laws from Chicago were in town last weekend and they always insist on taking us out for a "nice" meal when they visit. While we love the gesture, my MIL has some serious food sensitivities which makes it an interesting adventure, at best.
In the past, we've tried the new Lark (ablsolutely horrible experience, but they had really liked it in its Tiffin location), Iowa River and Power, and Linn Street Cafe. Having mixed results at the last two, we decided to try Taste on Melrose for this trip. Knowing that they have a limited menu, I called the restaurant on Wednesday to give them a heads-up about the MIL's restrictions and to make sure there would be something for her to eat. I spoke with Brandon, one of the chef's and he couldn't have been more accommodating and gracious. He even offered to hold a couple of pieces of salmon from the lunch offering of salmon ceasar salad in case she was not able to eat anything else on the dinner menu.
We had a wonderful meal, and MIL did end up eating the beautiful piece of wild salmon - which they grilled for her. My picky 14 yo loved the hangar steak and they were so nice about subbing the yukon gold mashed for the wild mushroom risotto that it was supposed to come with (they did the same for my FIL as well!). The more adventurous 17 yo was very happy with her grilled prawns and lemon-chive risotto (which I sampled and loved - very summery and light tasting) and i thought my pan-roasted scallops were done to perfection - and loved the accompanying carrot puree. The black olive relish provided a nice tangy contrast to the sweet scallops and puree - just a lovely dish. DH had a pasta dish that, in my opinion, was the weakest of the entree's - chicken and peppers with a spicy cream sauce. It tasted good, but became rather one-note after a few bites.
We started with the Iowa cheese plate - which was Maytag blue and a gouda, served with figs and grilled olive bread and the pesto bread salad. Both were very good, with the bread salad being a surprise favorite of the 14 yo - even with the spicy arugula! Too full for dessert (plus MIL baked, so we had goodies at home).
It was so nice to have such attentive and accommodating service - both chef and server went out of their way to make sure EVERYONE was happy with their meals. I also love the way they have the menu separated into half tastes, full and half tastes, and full tastes, so you can really design your meal to your appetite. DH and I were quite impressed and will make Taste a regular in our rotation.
Oh yeah - the new Lark was destined for early closure; horrible location, terrible service, inexperienced management and sub-par food.. We certainly didn't shed any tears when it closed! And my grandpa really loved the east side Midtown, so we tried the west side branch. Once.