By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
Until the first course arrived, that is. While the Pacific Northwest mushroom terrine was appealing, with the texture and flavor of an upscale mushroom meatloaf, the delicate, truffle-kissed glace de viande was really more jus than syrupy reduction. And the foie gras, a slip of duck liver too thinly cut to withstand an intensive searing, was way overdone. The dry, charred organ meat imparted no moisture to the thick slice of toasted bread beneath; the peach half on the side was bitter, with none of the sweetness so crucial to offsetting the richness of foie gras (good foie gras, at least).
After those plates were removed, we waited and waited -- and waited some more -- for the soup-and-salad course. The salad proved to be a simple (for $6.50!) handful of mixed greens doused with a too-tart Champagne vinaigrette and ringed by halved pear tomatoes. It was easily forgettable -- but not forgivable, because while that salad was assembled, our lobster bisque had obviously been sitting under a heat lamp: A thick skin had formed on top of the soup, and the fat profiterole -- a savory cream puff -- on top was rock hard. Beneath all that, though, the brew was delightful, a super-smooth purée of creamy lobster essence sharpened with Armagnac and studded with teeny bits of lobster.
After those plates were removed, we waited and waited -- and waited some more -- for the caviar course. When the caviar -- Columbia River sturgeon, the least expensive but still pricey fish eggs -- finally arrived, it was beautifully presented, mother-of-pearl spoon and all, in a little jar set atop a silver plate, accompanied by chopped egg whites and yolks, red onion, parsley, sour cream and blini. But what looked good was almost inedible: The caviar had been kept at such a cold temperature that the eggs had popped into a mushy mess, and the blini were so overcooked they fell apart into dry little bits when we tried to pick them up.
1 Lake Circle
Colorado Springs, CO 80933
Category: Hotels and Resorts
Region: Southern Colorado
Mushroom terrine: $11.50
Seared Strasbourg foie gras: $17
Penrose salad: $6.50
Lobster bisque: $7.50
Sturgeon caviar (30 grams): $35
Fillet of English Channel Dover sole: $32
Tenderloin of veal Florentine: $29
Star treatment, my ass.
Yes, after those plates were removed, we waited and waited again. And while the music and the people-watching made the lengthy lags endurable, the staff, even at a one-star restaurant, should notice when diners have nothing to do for upwards of half an hour between courses. While the Penrose servers were all very accommodating and pleasant, they need to recognize that there's pacing for a romantic and relaxing meal, and then there's...oops, we have a problem here.
For the main course, we'd chosen one of the Penrose's "Traditional Tableside Entrees," along with tenderloin of veal Florentine, the preparation of which sounded intriguingly up to date; the veal had been added to the menu just two days before, according to our server. The white-truffle flan was what had sold us on the dish, but the side was so tiny it was gone in two bites; as good as the flan was, it couldn't compensate for the smooshy veal medallions, which were filled with what the menu had billed as "spinach essence" but tasted like vegetable Jell-O. The fact that the meat was undercooked didn't help; it gave the center an unsettling consistency.
But what happened to our gorgeous fillet of English Channel Dover sole was a bigger crime. I'd started salivating when I'd seen the fish, noted for its sweet flesh and tender texture, on the menu, since what passes for sole in this country is almost always some kind of substandard flounder (maybe yellowtail) or one of the other soles, such as lemon, rock or grey. The fish was still in a hot sauté pan when it was set next to our table, and there it sat, overcooking in a dull meunière sauce more reminiscent of fat-free milk than butter, while the server took his sweet time deboning the fillet. Slightly undercooked fingerling potatoes, baby carrots and two asparagus spears rounded out the disappointing plate.
Our last hope was for dessert, one raspberry and one chocolate soufflé. At least this time we knew we'd have to wait -- but we could never have guessed how long. At last our server reappeared, ready to present one soufflé -- a Grand Marnier version -- with a flourish, when he stopped and said, "Oh, you didn't order this, did you?" He whisked it to a table across the way and then disappeared for another half hour. But when our soufflés finally did make an appearance, they were the shining stars of the meal, textbook puffs of egg white, heavily flavored and served with individual pitchers of crème anglaise.
During our lengthy waits throughout the evening, we'd watched people around us celebrating -- one couple marked their 25th anniversary, another their 40th, while at a third table one young woman alternately wept and laughed as her beau proffered a big rock and the big question. In the ladies' room, the female part of the 25th anniversary couple confided to me that she and her husband had never been to the Broadmoor before, and that they had saved up all year to commemorate this special occasion.