Word had come down that the Osprey Tavern, a new and splashy addition to Baldwin Park, had completed a soft opening, invitation only dinners and was ready to open to the public. March 17 was the official date, so I was surprised when 10 days later my guests and I were presented with menus emblazoned with "soft opening" at the top. At what point do you commit and just say "we're open"?
The menu now available through the restaurant's Facebook page (the official website is "coming soon," though I don't think soon still qualifies) does not say soft opening, but it also doesn't look like a complete menu, either. Like the one I was presented, it has only three entrees, or plates, as they're referred to here, if you don't count the two pizzas, and I don't.
Let me just say right off that I liked Osprey Tavern overall, though, as is the case with most just-opened restaurants, some tweaks and adjustments are needed. But I find the atmosphere lively and fun, the service more than serviceable, and the menu, limited as it is, off to a good start.
Much of the food coming from the open kitchen that shares dominant space in the room with the central bar is prettily presented. The heirloom tomato salad, for one. The firm wedges of multicolored tomatoes were interspersed with deep red beets in a puddle of burrata cheese and underneath a thin bread crisp decorated with granola, pistachios and micro greens.
I don't know why chefs feel compelled to pair pork belly with fruit, but it was nice to see Osprey's Berkshire pork belly with simple grilled Florida peaches, much less cloying than the jams and compotes one usually finds. Fiddleheads, a bit of braised kale and some croutons infused with foie rounded out the dish.
Tagliatelle was a fairly simple bowl of the wide noodles tossed with with pieas and salty bits of pancetta in a sauce of brown butter and Beemster cheese. A buttery crisp sat atop, though who could notice it under the crisp rashers of bacon?
Oysters, at $18 for a half dozen, are pretty dear. They're served on the half shell with a micro green leaf in the center, quite unnecessarily. Two eye-dropper style vials were stuck in the crushed ice, neither of them labeled. One was an anise flavored mignonette and the other a hot sauce. Up to you to determine which.
The mushroom tartine was presented in the classic French manner, as essentially an open face sandwich. The thickly sliced bread was slathered with a hummus fashioned out of fava beans and topped with chewy shiitake and hen of the woods mushrooms. I couldn't find any of the La Caseria Blue cheese the menu promised, but the little flowers that decorated the tartine added some nice color.
One of the three entrees/plates is a prime Delmonico steak, which at $36 is the most expensive item on the menu by eight bucks. Even though it was a perfectly acceptable steak, I can't say that I'd order it again. Its presence on the menu is obviously meant to appreciate the person who only orders a steak when dining out, but I'm not sure the bananas and broken vinaigrette or the little dollop of barley on top of the meat will appeal to that base.
The BBQ Poussin was the only truly disappointing entree. The quarter sized coins of kohlrabi and spears of rapini offered more to chew on than the bony bird.
Osprey Tavern occupies a corner space that was not previously a restaurant, directly across the street from Seito Sushi, which is owned by the same people. Following the trend shown by Prato and Boca in Winter Park, the bar at Osprey has been made a prominent part of the room. Design details include 19th century style black and white floor tiles in a 3-D pattern, rough hen wood paneling in one corner of the room, tufted banquettes and wagon wheel chandeliers. It should be noted that the noise level can be quite loud.
The bar staff was friendly and accommodating to newcomers (aren't we all at this point?) and our server showed a good command of the menu (though there isn't a lot to memorize at this point).
Baldwin Park has not been successful in holding on to good restaurants. Seito Sushi is an exception. And with the same leadership in place here, maybe Osprey Tavern has a shot.