Nestled between the rolling hills and green pastures of Chester County is one of the most fabulous restaurants in the Philadelphia area.
The Birchrunville Store Café serves upscale contemporary French-Italian cuisine in a down-to-earth country setting. My sister-in-law had wanted to try the place for years. So when I came home for a visit that was the only definite plan I had. The two of us set out on a Thursday evening.
We considered whether or not we needed to dress up. But it had snowed that morning and was still nippy. So we decided to dress up our jeans. Apparently, we were dressed appropriately. The restaurant is in fact a “country store” motif, connected to the post office. Since it is a BYOB, the large store front windows were partially filled with wine corks, as were baskets around the room. The décor of the small dining room was country, cozy, welcoming and warm.
We were literally “wowed” by the menu. The menu changes daily. In addition to the delicacies listed, there were at least 9 different specials. I had just never heard of a restaurant that had both a daily menu and special offerings! With one look at the menu, I decided I was in heaven. A sample of the menu can be viewed here.
S-I-L and I could not decide. Before coming, I had my heart set on duck and scallops. Duck was not offered that night, but scallops were! After a lengthy discussion (and having already started on the wine), we decided that we should share several appetizers, dinners, and dessert. My thought was that we could bring leftovers home for my brother. Yes, we left him behind. Sad, I know. But it was girls’ night!
From the many offerings we ordered the following. We shared not one, not two, not even three, but four appetizers! We had the best lobster bisque I have ever tasted, made with port wine and saffron.
I enjoyed a few Kumamoto oysters, which are a Japanese variety, but raised in the States. The oysters were topped with caviar, the reddish type used on sushi. The only issue I had with the food the entire evening was that the oysters were not shucked properly. The oyster was still connected to the shell by the knob on its underside. So when I drowned my oysters with minion sauce, slurping them down was impossible! I lost the sauce and the caviar in an attempt to free the oysters.
The oysters and bisque were followed by a Tuna Tartare – again, the best I ever had. White tuna, topped with Ahi Tuna, topped with Smoked Calamari Salad, drizzled with the perfect amount of sesame oil and fresh basil.
The final appetizer was a homemade gnocchi served with roasted vegetables – parsnips, baby spinach, tomatoes, onion – with pecorino and pancetta. Mmmmmm.
One would think we may have been full at this point, but no. S-I-L and I are troopers when it comes to fine dining. The entrees arrived . . .
Herb-encrusted roasted rack of lamb, served on a bed of polenta with a tomato thyme reduction, broccoli rabe, a dollop of mashed potatoes and yam puree, and decorated with a potato crisp embedded with parsley and sea salt.
Our second entrée was a pan-fried sea bass, wrapped in thin slices of potato and stuffed with diver sea scallops and basil served atop tomato consommé. Moist, flavorful and delicious!
Having finished most of our meal, we opted for dessert. While I like sweets, I don’t have a sweet-tooth and rarely order dessert. But this seemed more and more like a special occasion. So we shared a trio of Crème Brulée – vanilla, pistachio and a type of coffee (I apologize but my memory escapes me.)
The servers skillfully catered to our needs throughout the evening. They were pleasant and knowledgeable, having thoroughly memorized all of the specials. Refreshingly, they were not the “Le Bec Fin” stuffy type of servers.
Unfortunately for my brother, there were no leftovers. I imagine you will also clear your plates! If you are in the Philadelphia area, this dinner is well worth the trip! It was the best meal I had in a long time. And on top of that, dinner cost us $110. That’s right, only $110 for the tastiest 4 appetizers, 2 entrees, dessert, coffee and soda!
My only other negative comment (besides the oysters) is that the menu boasted “free range” meats. I am told that it has at times also claimed organic vegetables. But the restaurant is not necessarily “green.” A changing menu means wasted paper on a daily basis. And an insider tells me that the chef can be very demanding with his suppliers – often ordering small quantities in limited time, which means a lot of gasoline can be wasted.
Other than that, I say Bravo! to Chef Francis Trzeciak! Well done! If you are ever in Ankara, please stop by! I would love for you to show me a thing or two!
Many thanks to my sister-in-law for a wonderful evening! Brilliant dinner suggestion, simply brilliant!
If you are planning to go, make your reservations early and call for directions or use Google Maps. Do NOT trust your GPS on this one!
Birchrunville Store Café
1403 Hollow Road
Reservations are highly recommended!
Private Tastings and Private Parties are also offered.
It’s located off of Rt. 401, just above Rt. 113. There are a few short turns from there.
My apologies that the photos aren’t better. I hadn’t planned on the review and therefore didn’t bring my camera. I made due with my cell phone.
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