Twelves Grill & Cafe, West Grove, PA – A Review

by artfuldiner on May 21, 2018

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Pennsylvania, Review, Wining and Dining

Twelves Grill & Cafe

10 Exchange Place

West Grove, Pennsylvania

(610) 869-4020

Should you be spending the afternoon sampling wines at Va La Vineyards in Avondale (see my review) or taking in the flora and fauna at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Twelves Grill & Café, tucked away in the nearby tiny hamlet of West Grove, would make a superb stopover for either lunch or dinner.

Twelves - ExteriorMaking its debut in 2008, Twelves is domiciled in the venerable old Sovereign Bank building, which was originally constructed in 1883 to house the National Bank of West Grove. Co-owners chef Tim and Kristin Smith named their establishment in recognition of their birth dates, first date, and wedding, all of which took place on the 12th of the month.

Twelves - InteriorBecause of the building’s former incarnation, you might expect the restaurant’s interior to be rather cold and utilitarian; fortunately, this is not the case. Patricia Smith, the chef’s mother and an interior decorator, was instrumental in choosing the color scheme and overall décor. Soft gold and bronze hues predominate and blend in nicely with the bank’s high ceiling and tall, deep-set windows. The tone set here is cozy… calm… sedate. This is a serene, friendly, totally unstuffy welcoming space.

… And this fits in quite well with Mr. Smith’s laid-back culinary style. A graduate of the Art Institute of Philadelphia, his credentials include the Dilworthtown Inn, Farmhouse Restaurant, and the Back Burner Restaurant as the Executive Chef/General Manager. Although he brings a great deal of creativity to the kitchen, his approach is decidedly casual. His take on American bistro fare is comfortably innovative without being intrusive.

Twelves - Parm Crusted Chicken… And the delightful Crispy Parmesan Crusted Chicken is a marvelous example of his methodology. This is a relatively simple dish – pan-fried chicken breast companioned by smashed potatoes and sautéed spinach – that becomes sublime in its embellishment and presentation. For starters, the chicken is perfectly prepared with a crispy golden-brown crust yielding to a tender and succulent interior; the potatoes are perfectly seasoned with just a touch of garlic; and the spinach adds a splash of color as well as flavor & texture. But it’s the luscious lemon sauce and smattering of capers that provide the piquant pièce de résistance. For a variation on the theme, the Pan Roasted Veal Cutlets adorned with mushroom pan gravy, horseradish smashed potatoes and grilled asparagus are equally satisfying.

Twelves - Pocono Trout FiletOn the other hand, my dining partner’s Sticky Duck – cast iron roasted duck breast and duck leg confit – was a bit of a downer, suffering from a surfeit of fat and gristle… The accompanying duck fat rendered potatoes, however, were quite good. The Pocono Trout (pictured), sampled on another visit, was also something of a good news/bad news proposition. The trout was beautifully pan seared and nicely seasoned… but obviously improperly filleted, as there were bones aplenty. The sweet potato fries were deliciously addictive… but the greens and ramps that crowned the dish were so chewy as to be inedible.

Twelvs - Fettuccine w ShrimpThe Pasta du Jour, however, was right back in the plus column. In this case, it was fettuccine tossed with shrimp, tomatoes, and baby spinach… and all constituents were completely on target. The pasta was al dente, the shrimp delightfully crunchy and at the peak of good health, the tomatoes firm yet tender, and the baby spinach properly wilted. But it was the incomparable wild onion pesto that proved to be the culinary catalyst, propelling this dish into orbit. There was just enough zip to keep the taste buds standing at attention without overwhelming them. A sure winner.

The starters, it should be noted, are consistently first-rate. The local mushroom soup, for example, has a flair all its own. The consistency is creamy but not too rich, with a tiara of crabmeat and dash of truffle oil in strong supporting roles. Greenery offers a number of highly recommendable items, such as the recently sampled Baby Spinach Salad. Embellishments include julienne of crisp apples, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, buttermilk bleu cheese, and a dynamite roasted shallot Dijon dressing.

Twelves - Portobello FriesMy nod for favorite appetizer, however, clearly goes to the scrumptious Portobello Fries (pictured). Thick slices of portobello mushroom are rolled in seasoned breading, deep fried, and served up with a zippy sriracha aioli. This is a fabulously addictive starter… crunchy, meaty bites spruced up with just enough heat to keep you coming back for more.

The side dishes, which are served family style, are also worth checking out. The House-Cut Bistro Fries and Sautéed Local Mushrooms are quite good. The Bleu Cheese and Cabbage Slaw and the Sweet Potato Fries served with a sweet/slightly spicy maple Dijon, on the other hand, are downright irresistible.

Twelves - Caramel Apple Pound CakeDesserts alternate between in-house creations and items from Wilmington’s Sweet Somethings gourmet bakery. Mr. Smith’s luscious Cinnamon Ice Cream and Crème Brûlée are something of a must… ditto Sweet Somethings’ decadent Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mousse Cake. Recently sampled was an equally gratifying Caramel Glazed Pound Cake (pictured) garnished with apples and dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

Twelves Grill & Café isn’t perfect… I mean, what restaurant is? However, despite a few faux pas, I thoroughly enjoyed my dining experiences here. The atmosphere is pleasant, the service friendly, and the price is right. In addition, the fact that you may BYOB certainly reduces the strain on your pocketbook. There is a $5.00 corkage fee, which is waved should you tote along a vintage produced in either Pennsylvania or Delaware… So, be sure to pick up a bottle at nearby Va La Vineyards on your way over.

Bon Appétit!


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