Five years ago, when Scott Morrison and Michael Wei opened Nectar in Berwyn, discerning Main Line diners warmly embraced its enormous Buddha and Asian fusion fare—and they haven’t let go since. Buoyed by that success, Morrison and Nectar chef Patrick Feury dove into another local project: the much-hyped Maia in Villanova. But when it quickly closed in 2009 after a slew of negative press, Morrison seemed to have dropped off the culinary map.
Then, last October, the buzz hit about Floret, Morrison’s new project with Dan Kremin (Barclay Prime, Buddakan). The initial concept was supposed to be “bistro meets lounge,” with innovative takes on comfort fare, trendy cocktails and “value-priced” boutique wines. Like its predecessor, Pond, a portion of the facility would be dedicated to private parties.
As Floret unfolded, there was positive commentary but also skepticism. I, for one, was excited to hear that Morrison was back. But when I first pulled up a chair at Floret, I discovered that the menu and ambiance were somewhat different than advertised. The lounge didn’t feel especially loungey, and the large dining room felt as if it was underutilized.
Service was attentive, friendly and polished—exactly what I’d expect from Morrison. Yet, a lunchtime appetizer of crispy fried calamari with hot peppers and leeks arrived soggy. On second try, it came out of the kitchen crispier, but the accompanying aioli lacked zing and the jalapeños were canned. Far better were the roasted artichoke hearts with gremolata and sharp Provolone—particularly the mild red pepper sauce they were served on.
My burger—topped with Gruyère, wine-braised mushrooms, onions and a mustard-infused sauce—tasted more like steak than ground beef. The accompanying frites were tastily seasoned with large crystals of salt and a hint of truffle oil. The pasta special’s light tomato broth benefited from the smoky-savory sausage, mussels, broccoli rabe, Parmesan, olive oil, basil and garlic—even if it was overpowered by the fresh lemon juice.
Topping off our lunch, a colorful, enormous dessert sampler featured a light and creamy milk chocolate pot de crème; airy sugar-cinnamon-coated mini-doughnuts served with crème anglaise and berry and chocolate sauces; espresso-cream-filled profiteroles with chocolate sauce; and an expertly caramelized crème brûlée.
For dinner, we ordered a trio of salads. Best was the healthy-sized tousle of baby arugula, thinly shaved fennel and blood oranges dressed in a lip-smacking pomegranate vinaigrette. The tangy-sweet beet carpaccio and spinach came mixed in a champagne vinaigrette, with honeyed goat cheese and a crunchy hazelnut truffle. Coming in a distant third: a mound of mixed greens topped with a single over-cooked lobster claw.
Our protein-heavy entrées included beef short ribs with crispy polenta. The meat fell off the bone, but it was drenched in a thick mahogany sauce that lacked any distinct flavor. Expertly prepared, the grilled 14-ounce veal porterhouse special was lightly charred, with a sweet tomato glaze and natural jus.
Another special, the pan-roasted Chilean sea bass—layered with a smoked-salmon-and-lobster mousse and napped with a lemon chive beurre blanc—was moist and light with a firm texture. The mousse was fluffy enough, but it was merely specked with salmon and lobster, and thus lacked in the anticipated rich flavor. The beurre blanc, however, was velvety and balanced—a great example of how tasty an old-school French sauce can be.
Perhaps befitting Floret’s homestyle concept, the accompanying fingerling potatoes and cauliflower au gratin were Plain Jane all the way. Less standard, however, were à la carte sides like the caramelized Brussels sprouts with pancetta, and sautéed broccoli rabe.
Once again, dessert was flawless. We couldn’t keep our forks out of the downright addicting hazelnut crunch cake.
THE SKINNY: Revolving doors are a new restaurant’s worst enemy. Since opening in February, Floret has lost two chefs and one general manager, resulting in a somewhat altered culinary concept and inconsistent cuisine. The portions are generous and the price points forgiving, but Floret lacks a distinct personality.
These days, Morrison is on-site daily, measuring every detail at Floret. Weekends have seen a steady stream of patrons, while the space’s private-party business is growing. For the record, I love Morrison’s idea of a lively, classy lounge set amidst the property’s tranquil pond, white swans and native plantings. The Main Line is starving for a jazzy, sophisticated place to party.
Right now, though, Floret is having trouble finding its niche. But the good news is that Morrison has already begun the tweaking process. Shortly after my visit, I got wind of plans to hire a chef from Barcelona to elevate Floret’s menu. Just as I was about to give the place another try, the idea was scrapped. A few days later, I learned Bruce Davies had been hired to replace temporary chef Dave Walti (Spence Café).
By the time you read this, Floret should’ve rolled out a revised menu, with more of the small plates Morrison wants and, one would hope, more consistency and creativity.
Location: 175 King of Prussia Road, Radnor; (610) 293-9411, floretrestaurant.com
Cuisine: American and French.
Cost: Dinner entrées $15-25.
Attire: Smart casual.
Atmosphere: Sophisticated yet relaxed ambiance in the bistro; more formal in the dining room.
Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Extras: Ample private party space and gorgeous outside dining on Sunday.