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Dec 7, 2009 11:41 AM

Just so-so in Chestnut Hill...

Having never really had a bad meal in Chestnut Hill across all the various cuisines and hot spots along Germantown Ave., I took a friend who had recently moved to the area and never explored. On our drive back from the Camden Aquarium, we headed up Germantown Ave. and she commented on how quaint and cute the town was, a statement with which I whole-heartedly agree. As we made it further up the street, after I pointed out Hokka Hokka and Cin Cin, she said she wanted something a little less ethnic, more American, almost pub-like. So I thought of McNally's first but decided on Solaris Grille, where I've had many solid meals before, as well as some good spirits.

We arrived early on a Friday night so seating was no problem, however, our server placed us in the far corner of the dining room, which I found a bit odd. After ordering our beers, a great offering both draft and bottle, our server disappeared. Our location in the dining room may have lent itself to being forgotten, but after 10 minutes or so, she returned with our bread and drinks. The bread was a necessary accompaniment to the chicken tortilla soup we both ordered. It had nice chunks of chicken and a good corn undertone, but lacked the spice and was riddled with celery which I don't think has any place in this type of soup. Still the soup was adequate, particularly on a cold day.

Our entrees came out in short order, however, there was something noticeably missing from my dining partner's fajita platter, that being the trademark sizzle. In addition, the avocado was brown which led to its being left on the plate. Other than that, the dish got a positive review from my dining companion, but in truth, it's a tough meal to mess up. Mine on the other hand, was the Hibachi steak with wasabi-mashed potatoes and soy glazed green beans. 1/3rd of the dish was solid, as the mashed potatoes had a great level of nose-clearing heat from the wasabi and the texture was perfect. Sadly, the rest fell short. The beans didn't really have more than a hint of any type of glaze and certainly no soy to be tasted. Even worse, the beans had their coarse ends still attached, a major faux pas in my book. The steak was nicely seasoned but poorly cooked, as I ordered this medium and it came out more like medium rare. Overall, a generally unsatisfying meal for a less than modest price tag.

I won't disparage the restaurant or the street, because as I said, I've had many great meals all over Chestnut Hill, but this was one of my least memorable.

Solaris Grille
8201 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19118

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  1. Enjoyable review on a bleak monday. Riddled with celery, heh. We have a Solaris up my way. dunno if it is owned by the same people, it is in blue bell. Sorry you didn't have a better meal.

    2 Replies
    1. re: givemecarbs

      I believe it is the same ownership...glad you enjoyed the review! I'm new here and will post regularly!

      1. re: givemecarbs

        Yes, the Solaris Grille in Blue Bell is owned by the same people. We had a holiday party there Saturday. I will try it again because I don't want to judge the restaurant based on the few foods offered at the party. The entrees were ok, the appetizers I tried were very good. Service during the event seemed decent.

      2. I may be in the minority but I've never been impressed with the CH dining scene. I'm always surprised with the resident base that there aren't more really good spots. The only 2 we consider any more are Cake and Cafette.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Den

          I agree with you Den! And the last few times we were there, Cafette seemed to have really fallen off. I hope it was only temporary. Haven't been back in a while though...I miss Citrus ;(

          1. re: Den

            I doubt you're in the minority. Not much in CH. I like Cake, though I wish they would vary their menu a bit. Citrus was the best restaurant there, and I miss it. Going further back, Under the Blue Moon was great.

            1. re: JanR

              Gene at Under the Blue Moon was awesome. That place was great.

            2. re: Den

              I agree that CH falls short on good food. Is the bakery still in that back parking lot near the thrift shop? I used to looooove their soup and croissant sandwhiches on a chilly winter day.

              1. re: MLTimes

                Unfortunately, it looks like that bakery is gone.

              2. re: Den

                It's like New Hope. Most of the restaurants are mediocre at best because their location is all the draw that they need.

              3. IMO Solaris is one of the most disappointing restaurants in CH. I find Cafette and Chestnut Grill to be much more consistent for a tasty, mid-priced meal.

                1. Ugh, I hate Solaris. I used to live in Chestnut Hill, and went there a few times right around when it opened. We went three times separated by a year or so, and each time we were very disappointed. They have a salad on the menu whose name escapes me, but it's billed as having asaragus, snap peas, avacado and various other veggies. I thought it sounded good, so I ordered it. It is probably the most unappetizing thing I've seen in a restaurant. The veggies are chopped pretty finely and mixed with pureed avocado, then (so I'm guessing) pressed into a ring mold and served. It looked like so much vomit on my plate. I sent it back. I can't imagine how anybody would think that was appealing! They have another restaurant out where I live now called Tequila Joe's. I won't even go into it - that very same salad is on their menu too.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gwebber

                    I live in the area and so wish that there were some great places here. The reality is that we go to center city if we want a great meal. The few places that we'll get take-our are Tifin and Cin Cin.

                  2. Solaris has this odd knack of always seeming like it's having an off night.
                    It's a lot like Chestnut Grill, but CG is just consistently that one little step better that, for us, is often the difference btwn worth it and not worth it.
                    We don't go to either much these days, but when we were walking distance from both, it was more of an issue.
                    Now that we're 2 miles away, the C-Hill places we still eat: both sushi places, hill tavern, cafette, cin-cin.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bob Loblaw

                      That's a great way of putting it. They always do seem a little off, and it's weird. A shame, too, since the patio is so nice in warm weather. We've gone for drinks and to play pool upstairs a few times, but I won't eat there anymore. Hill Tavern, Shundeez, and Campbell's are our go-to places in CH now.