Location: Sangria, 840 W Hamilton Street Allentown, PA 18101 Phone: (610) 432-3280
Foodie Factor: 3/5
Service Quality: *
Sangria, in the Butz Building at 9th & Hamilton, is one the of the latest upscale restaurant additions to Allentown’s center city. Just down the block from the BrewWorks, Sangria offers a contemporary interior with a glass walled street view which lets in lots of light. As the sun sets, the atmosphere becomes more intimate, yet still allowing for occasional people watching, such as the inability of some to parallel park. (From the other side of the room, I hear “Did that guy just hit that other car while parking?”)
Sangria pitches itself as Mediterranean Cuisine. This is a pretty broad definition. Italian Calamari, Spanish paella, Greek/Turkish moussaka all make appearances, yet much of the menu is more Mediterranean “inspired” than true classic regional dishes. The calamari is indeed very good – made from calamari steak, instead of the run-of-the-mill rings & legs. Much softer meat, drizzled with aioli, made for a decent start to the meal. The tomato dipping sauce needs some more kick though, and was somewhat watery. There is a decent selection of salads, and each are sized to share. They also have a few flat bread appetizers that would be good for a larger party than just two.
We ordered the Filet-On-A-Stone, and the chef’s special Gorgonzola Encrusted Lamb Chops. If you have never had a hot stone steak experience before, basically you get a chunk of raw meat on a 400 deg. slab of stone, whereupon you cut & cook to your liking. It’s more of a show piece, than any example of cookery – since you’re basically doing all the work yourself. That said, the quality of the meat was excellent. Unfortunately, the seasoning was underachieving. The lamb crust had the bread crumbs, but I couldn’t find any cheese. It also came with a depressing pool of beef demi-glaze which made me feel more like I was at the “Village Inn” instead of eating from a $35 plate of “Mediterranean Cuisine”. The filet likewise required some more love with a sprinkle of the supplied spice rub, which was served alongside another small cup of that unfortunate demi-glaze. There are so many good sauces out there, why they went with a French style thick jus, is beyond me.
For dessert, they make a creme-brulee, which was nicely crusted & quite good. We also ordered an “angel food cupcake topped with berries & house-made whipped cream”. I’ve made whipped cream before, and by house-made, they apparently mean “spooned-by-hand-out-of-a-Cool-Whip-container”. Remove the dollop of processed-HFCS-lard from the top of the creme-brulee, and you have a really good dessert. There was no hope, however, for the cupcake, and the manager removed it from the bill. They do have espresso, I was told the brand was “Delta”, and yes it was bitter. (Google: David Lynch Mulholland Drive espresso scene, and you’ll understand)
I’ll abstain from commenting on the service, since I went to high-school with the waiter, and it wouldn’t be a fair review on that area of quality. It was good that both the manager & chef made rounds of the tables. However, it was bad that two separate bus boys visited our table to start up conversations as if I was there to have dinner with them.
Bus Boy: “What do you do for a living, are you a business man?”
Me: “I’m sorry, do you work here? …but yes, I have my own business”
Bus Boy: “How much do you make?”
In summary, regardless of some culinary mis-steps & some intrusive wait-staff, I would recommend that one try this place out. I personally want to go back for the paella, which looked fantastic going to other tables. I also think Sangria would be very good for lunch, and will stop by the next time I am down that way for a meeting.