Already one of West Chester’s most well-known restaurants, Gilmore’s was in the spotlight recently, thanks to the culinary prowess of sous chef Jason Curtis, who won the regional and national Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jeunes Commis (Young Chef) competitions this past spring and summer.
Needless to say, owner Peter Gilmore is quite proud of his newly decorated charge. The 22-year Le Bec-Fin veteran, Curtis and the rest of the Gilmore’s team have been delivering cuisine that is seriously—and consistently—delicious enough to keep the restaurant going for nine years on Gay Street, where turnover is more the norm than the exception. Its dedicated customer base and the kitchen’s refined culinary delights have combined to make this intimate BYO one of the best around, year in and year out.
But there are plenty of folks out there who haven’t really grasped Gilmore’s true nature. On the surface, the floral-patterned carpet, ornate drapes, linen-topped tables and formal service could easily be seen as “stuffy.” In fact, the ambiance is quite homey and hospitable. And just because the dining room is all dolled up doesn’t mean you have to be. Go dressy, if you want, but nice jeans paired with a snappy pair of shoes and a snazzy top will do. And if you’re wearing a belt, make sure you have an extra notch or two to spare. You may be in for a four-course meal.
Dinner was excellent from top to bottom. Appetizers were sized appropriately, so as not to kill our appetites—though it would be fair to say that heartier eaters might be a tad underwhelmed.
But what the dishes lacked in size, they delivered in taste. The pan-seared foie gras was rich and velvety, served on a buttery, thin, crispy round of puff pastry. Though some might be wary of the fruit-forward blueberry sauce that sat in a small pool alongside the foie, the sweet-tart pairing was exquisite.
One of the evening’s specials, a large U-10 scallop sliced into thin discs, was tasty but on the cusp of rubbery; a crisp, caramelized skin would’ve been more ideal. The accompanying roasted tomato salsa was fresh and flavorful, the balsamic reduction a perfect sweetness and the cucumber garnish refreshing. All were details that made up for the slightly imperfect centerpiece.
Also noteworthy was the second appetizer special: a tiny quail perched atop a silky, firm rectangle of corn soufflé with chanterelle mushrooms and a light brown sauce.
Flawless in execution and flavor, our entrées contained a luscious array of ingredients from land and sea. Juicy, tender and robust in flavor, the rib-eye au poivre—infused with whiskey rather than the usual brandy—had a bold peppercorn crust. And the cream sauce that came with it was out of this world. The potatoes au gratin were sliced paper-thin and layered with an incredibly cheesy, creamy bind.
The Poulet Wellington was a truly divine reinterpretation of the classic beef version. The accompanying chanterelle mushrooms were perfectly in-season, and though we all craved just a bit more of the stock reduction, we loved the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the chicken and the crisp haricot verts. A hearty baked crust lifted the scalloped potatoes above the ordinary.
The artistically braided salmon and sea bass dish exceeded our expectations. The beurre blanc was so lush and rich, we wanted to lick the plate. Instead, we mopped it up with scoops of al dente lentils du puy, a perfect textural complement to the butter-soft fish.
We knew dessert was not to be missed. For months, we’d been hearing about Peter Gilmore’s chocolate mousse encased in a candy apple. When we saw it for ourselves, we were in awe. It truly is a work of art—and, better yet, absolutely delicious. Just a slight tap of the shiny, paper-thin, bright-red candy shell, and the smooth mousse center was ours.
The cappuccino-flavored crème brûlée was also quite good. It came in a square porcelain tart pan, its glistening mahogany crust shielding the delicate contents. And the bread pudding was served warm and gooey with vanilla ice cream. Dense but not overly so, the “pudding” was nearly the consistency of a cinnamon roll.
The Skinny: If you’ve always avoided Gilmore’s for fear of a pretentious experience, don’t sweat it. You’re in for a treat. Comfortable environs, great food and superior service are what you’ll find—and you don’t need a culinary dictionary to comprehend the menu.
The old-school touches are fun, too, like the large silver domes that keep entrées warm until they’re delivered to the tables. Better yet, the prices are in line with what you’d expect at far less impressive restaurants—think three courses for about $60 per person. Not bad when you consider the time, effort, innovation and premium ingredients that go into every Gilmore’s creation.
Location: 133 E. Gay St., West Chester; (610) 431-2800, gilmoresrestaurant.com
Cuisine: Contemporary French.
Cost: Most entrées top out at $26; appetizers, $18.
Attire: Sophisticated casual will get you in the door. But if you’re looking for an excuse, go ahead and dress up.
Atmosphere: Slightly reserved but comfortable; not the best place for kids.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30-8:30 p.m.