Wednesday, April 5, 2017 / by Jamie Batte
I have five kids. Five. So naturally, when Friday night rolls around, I am READY to get out of the house! I’ve been married to Stephan for almost nine years now and I knew it was love when I found out he had taken on the Big Texan Steakhouse challenge (contestant 8396) and won. Not that I encourage over-eating… but I do dearly love to eat out. And so does he.
We have a thing for McGrath’s. Please, don’t mock. We’re in our mid-thirties and we do get a kick out of being the youngest folks in the restaurant most nights. But that’s not why we go. The food is incredible! Even the fountain drinks (being a root beer connoisseur, myself) are better than most places. So, as we hit the road last night, we gravitated toward McGraths. I think we both felt a little pathetic for rarely trying something different and Stephan suggested trying the new Larks in the Commons downtown (at the old Red Lion). I was hesitant… I knew the Larks in Ashland was good, but I really don’t like trying new things—especially when it comes to food. I don’t get out that often so when I do, I want the food to be GOOD. I hate taking the chance that it might not be. That said, Stephan has pushed me to try new things in the past and he is almost always right (Omar’s!) so I tried not to argue and we headed to Larks.
I’ve had an issue with the redesign of the new building since I first saw it, which has made me even more hesitant about the quality of the restaurant (and the hotel, honestly). The doors and signage are a nasty lemon-lime green color. I finally figured out as we were leaving that this was likely on purpose in an attempt to be “vintage”, but it just doesn’t work for me. We went through the large lemon-lime green doors back to the restaurant and were seated promptly. For a Friday night at 7:30pm, it wasn’t busy at all—which we love (the main reason we avoid Kaleidoscope—great food…too many people!). The seating and décor are very original and Stephan appropriately said that it looked like something Tanya would have designed on a good episode of Restaurant Impossible. Some of the chairs were replaced with cushioned wicker couches (which would not be comfortable for a short girl like me, but I suppose others might find it very comfortable). Two walls are lined with large, white plush booths—many of them circular. The room is not overcrowded and the lighting is perfect…Stephan thinks the numerous large chandeliers are original…I’m not so sure but they were definitely unique and I thought were a beautiful addition to the room.
The wait staff were all very attentive and friendly. I tried not to giggle at their formality and all the French on the menu…Medford just isn’t New York or Laguna Beach and it seemed funny that just twenty minutes earlier, I was changing poopy diapers and now we’re holding our water glasses with our pinkies out… *hehe*. We hadn't exactly prepared to go to a fancy restaurant. I was glad I had done my hair and makeup this day (which doesn't happen every day!) and especially glad that Stephan wasn't wearing any clothes with extra holes in them or a t-shirt with a large saying about bacon on it. I did, however, notice a few tables where diners were dressed very casually, so I guess I wouldn't have been too put off if we weren't dressed properly.
We started browsing the menu and let's just say Larks falls under the category of fine dining. When you have to check the balance in your bank account before ordering (raising 5 kids including three teenagers isn't cheap!), you know you're in a high end restaurant...and hope it's worth it. Which is where we get to the good stuff-the food. It was phenomenal! There was definitely a fair share of French and fancy words on the menu but, thanks to my obsession with Food Network programs, I was able to decipher it enough for us to figure out what we wanted. We ordered a sausage, spicy mustard, sauerkraut and soft pretzel appetizer which was absolutely delicious-and I don't even like sausage. Or mustard. And you couldn’t pay me to try sauerkraut but Stephan said it was the best sauerkraut he’d ever had. This was our first clue that we had hit the jackpot. The entrées stand alone and don't come with soup or salad unless you order them separately. In an effort to save on the diaper fund, we skipped those and just ordered entrées. The server guaranteed us that the portions are hearty so we weren't worried about getting enough to eat. Stephan ordered the Steelhead salmon over risotto and root vegetables. I ordered the New York steak which came with fingerling potatoes and Brussel sprouts. We had a little bit of a wait for our food-maybe 20 minutes-but the complementary Rosemary bread was also fantastic and is made fresh on-site and served with a little butter balls, which Stephan found particularly fascinating. Sidenote: when you get to your fourth and fifth bread refills, the pieces get smaller and smaller...
Both Stephan and I were thrilled with how delicious our meals were. The quality of the food was definitely "fine dining" and worth every penny. Anyone that can make root vegetables and Brussel sprouts fall under the category of "miraculous" is definitely in the right line of work. No kidding...I ate all my Brussel sprouts first. Both the salmon and the steak were perfectly seasoned and cooked as well. The server was right and we agreed that the portions were hearty. My husband is not a small man and may not be the best one to judge portion sizes, however, I try to be objective and believed it to be more than enough food for the average person.
Needing to get home to a sick baby and quite stuffed, we opted not to have dessert although, I continue to regret that decision as dessert is by far my favorite part of going out to eat. Furthermore, McGrath's discontinued what was my most favorite dessert in the entire town (chocolate ganache cake with marionberry sauce) and I am on the hunt to find something comparable. We're going to need to go back to Larks soon to try the dessert menu!
All in all, it was a wonderful experience and I can't honestly think of one thing that I could criticize. Maybe that's because I don't get out enough and so am easily pleased but, I think it's actually because Larks is doing it right! We are also very delighted to know that there is a now another fantastic fine dining restaurant right in the heart of Medford.
Have you been to Larks at the Commons? What did you think? Was your experience as good as mine?
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