I was in the mood for something inexpensive. I was in the mood for something local. I was in the mood for something quick, but definitely not interested in fast food. Having had a rather successful meal at the most unlikely of places, Lindsay's Amber Restaurant, I decided that the planets had aligned sufficiently and I set my sights on returning to this odd duck of a restaurant. The first time I had gone, I had ordered their fried chicken and Jo Jo's and been quite surprised at how well executed both were. I had been back one time previous to tonight and while the burger I ordered was decent, it wasn't nearly as good as the chicken had been.
I arrived at around 7:30 PM to find that as in previous visits, the restaurant was mostly empty. I heard one of the waitresses talking to a customer at another table and telling him that while it was slow now, it had been busy earlier. I'm not sure what exactly "busy" constitutes at Lindsay's because there was enough seating for about one hundred people when full.
Picking up the menu tonight, I let my eyes wander from section to section to see if anything jumped out at me. Knowing that the fried chicken was cooked to order and could take a while, I decided to try something else instead. When my gaze fell onto the pasta section, I saw that my only two choices were spaghetti and meatballs and chicken Parmesan. Somehow my brain made the connection between the previously-eaten fried chicken and the chicken Parmesan and I managed to convince myself that if the one had been good, then logically it follows that the other must be as well, right? They are both chicken after all.
With my pasta dish, I was allowed the choice of one side. I decided to go with the garden salad:
This was pretty much your standard Iceberg lettuce salad with shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers, red cabbage, boxed croûtons and French dressing on the side. There was nothing fancy about the salad, but the greens were nice and crisp and the croûtons added a needed saltiness to each bite.
Having finished my salad, my entrée arrived at the table:
As soon as I saw the two whitish squares of cheese on my plate, I began to worry. As it turned out, my suspicions were confirmed when I tried to prepare a forkful for eating. The cheese was not only Mozzarella, but it was the incredibly stringy variety. This made it incredibly difficult to eat a forkful of chicken or pasta without also dragging up half a slice of cheese at a time. Plus, cheese on the chicken is the norm for this dish; but cheese on the pasta, too? If such a thing were possible, this was simply too much cheese.
Here was a shot of the pasta portion of the dish:
Sadly, this pasta was overcooked. Not to the point where it turned to mush, but it lacked the nice chewy texture that pasta cooked properly should have. Along with being overcooked, the pasta had also not been drained properly as it was sitting in a puddle of water. Sadly, this is a common problem and while Lindsay's doesn't bill itself as an Italian restaurant, if a dish is being offered on the menu, it should be prepared a little more carefully.
Here was a side shot of my chicken breast:
Here you can see two important things. First, the chicken had a nice thickness to it and it wasn't dried out. Second, the orange puddle underneath the chicken breast was the plethora of water in which the entire entrée was sitting. I tried the meat sauce by itself and found it to be a bit on the acidic side and strongly seasoned, but still palatable. While the chicken was juicy, it was clear to me that this chicken had been heavily brined. The chicken meat had a strong metallic flavor which I found rather off-putting. While the top parts of the chicken had a nice coating on them, sadly the coating on the side in contact with the pooled water had more or less dissolved from the bottom of the breast.
With my pasta dish, I received a side of garlic bread:
The garlic bread did have some of the toasted bread flavor to it, but in the end, I found the garlic bread suffered the same fate that the chicken breast did, a strange metallic taste. I didn't detect the presence of any actual garlic, so I'm assuming the flavor came from either garlic powder or garlic salt. I ended up only eating one of the two pieces and by that point needed to finish the remainder of my water to loosen the grip of those salty and metallic flavors from my palate.
I realize that my expectations are high for a dish that many restaurants, Italian or not, have on their menu. However, having eaten their very tasty and moist fried chicken, the bar had been set fairly high. What I experienced today was food that caused my palate to fatigue so quickly because of strong and unbalanced flavors. The overcooked pasta was a technical error that could've been prevented and the puddle of water that my food sat in was simply due to carelessness after reheating the pasta.
I'm not going to cross Lindsay's Amber Restaurant off my list quite yet. Their fried chicken remains a signature dish and a highlight of my three experiences there. Based on my dinner tonight, however, I'd probably recommend you stay away from the chicken Parmesan; there are much better dishes on the menu.