Kimberton Inn, Kimberton, PA – A Review

by artfuldiner on August 20, 2018

in Artful Diner Mini Review, Opinion, Review, Romantic, Wining and Dining

Kimberton Inn

2105 Kimberton Road

Kimberton, Pennsylvania

(610) 933-8148

Kimberton Inn - Main Dining RoomMy initial review of the Kimberton Inn was posted in January of 2015. This was followed by a retrospective of their wine dinner in December of the same year… And I freely confess that I continue to be – given the restaurant’s famous (or infamous) reputation for hosting a veritable plethora of wedding receptions, banquets, and gatherings of similar ilk – extremely impressed by the outstanding quality of the cuisine served up at this cozy Colonial enclave.

And a lion’s share of the credit for the Inn’s gastronomic accomplishments must certainly go to Executive Chef Jim Trainer… So, given the fact that Mr. Trainer has been the Inn’s power-behind-the-stove since 1990 – an uncommonly lengthy tenure, it should be noted, for those in any way associated with various aspects of the decidedly fickle illustrious food service industry – I was completely astounded (along with a slew of other loyal patrons) to learn of his recent departure. (Reliable sources have it that Mr. Trainer is now cooking up a storm just a stone’s throw away at the Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery.)

The question, then, remains: After 27 years, did he jump or was he pushed? Did he leave of his own accord or was he given his walking papers? Perhaps we’ll never know the entire story… But since my father was a chef, I grew up hearing first-hand accounts of the variety of strange machinations that often take place behind that closed kitchen door… And truth is often stranger than fiction.

The new executive chef is Tom Wolter, who served as second-in-command to Mr. Trainer for nearly five years. And from what I’ve heard, read, and personally experienced of the new exec’s cookery, it would seem that owner Jeff Effgen is counting on him to add a bit more razzle-dazzle to the Inn’s American-style menu. If this is the case – and circumstances strongly suggest that it is – then Mr. Effgen is, unfortunately, attempting to fix what isn’t broken.

The thing about former Chef Trainer’s cuisine, if you’ll permit me to paraphrase a portion of my 2015 review, is that it was pleasantly contemporary without being self-consciously avant-garde; it enticed the palate without confounding the eye. His presentations found the perfect middle ground between innovation and tradition – and they fit the ambiance and the clientele like a glove… With this as background and having sampled Mr. Wolter’s cuisine on several occasions recently, I can honestly say that, at this point in time, his offerings simply haven’t demonstrated the same level of subtle sophisticated flair as those of his predecessor.

Kimberton Inn - Crab CakeTake Mr. Wolter’s Crab Cake (pictured), for instance… You have the crab cake itself, completely unadorned, a splash of herb remoulade, French green beans, and wedge of lemon. Hardly eye-catching. The presentation borders on culinary minimalism and is about as gastronomically arousing as a wilted head of iceberg lettuce.  The Filet Mignon, follows the same bland-leading-the-bland formula – filet… mashed potatoes… green beans – as does the Organic Salmon with parsnip purée, merely substituting the green of snow pea salad for the French beans.

Kimberton Inn - Seared Red SnapperThen you have his Seared Red Snapper Fillet… which is cooked beyond golden hue to a rather unattractive shade of “burnt brown.” As a result, the flesh became discolored and decidedly “mushy.” The red pepper-corn cream sauce was delicious; however, coupled with the rather careless arrangement of summer vegetable succotash, it made the snapper appear as if it had been accidentally plopped onto the plate from an as yet undetermined height.

Kimberton Inn - Salmon FiletBy way of contrast, take a gander at Chef Trainer’s Salmon Filet which I sampled several years ago… It was seared with a mixture of five spices, pillowed on a sesame-scallion crepe, and crowned with a lemon-ginger marmalade tiara.  The special finishing touch, however, proved to be artistic splashes of an irresistible citrus-soy sauce that succeeded in preparing the palate by enticing the eye. Simple… but downright seductive.

I am certainly not suggesting that every kitchen creation arriving at table must be a complete and utter work of art… However, they should be, at the very least, attractively plated; that is, capable of stimulating – rather than sabotaging – one’s appetite.

If Mr. Wolter is consciously attempting to put a bit more pizzazz into the Kimberton Inn’s menu presentations, thus far he is missing the mark. And bear in mind that prices here, while they have always been on the elevated side, are beginning to border upon the stratospheric. The above-mentioned Red Snapper Fillet will set you back a hefty $35.00; a Yellowfin Tuna Steak, $38.00. That minimally adorned Crab Cake weighs in at $31.00, the Organic Salmon at $32.00. Even the plebeian Calf’s Liver, Chicken Breast and Penne Pasta go for $32.00, $31.00 and $28.00, respectively. High-end items such as the Ribeye, Filet Mignon, Lamb Chops, and Lobster all hit the $42.00 mark. Selections from the bar menu, once a bargain, are no longer. That pedestrian Burger, for instance, will put an $18.00 hit on your wallet… several dollars more, should you decide to add on bacon and/or caramelized onions.

These are major league prices… and thus, you expect major league cuisine. The overall quality of the ingredients is certainly not in question… but their integration, preparation and presentation could, in my humble opinion, use a good, solid kick in the asparagus. I’ve always enjoyed dining at the Kimberton Inn, so I remain hopeful that this situation may soon be rectified. In the meantime, however, it is all too obvious to me that Jim Trainer’s presence is sorely missed.

Bon Appétit!


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