Most classier dining establishments pick a theme or atmosphere in an attempt to appeal to a specific kind of patron looking for a specific kind of experience. Hotel restaurants don’t have that luxury. They have to appeal to a group as diverse as the guests occupying the rooms.
Fortunately, T. Burke’s at Dolce Valley Forge has the space and quality to please a wide array of guests, from romantic couples, to executives at a boisterous business meeting, to the solo business traveler catching the game after work. The large space maintains an intimate feel with soft lighting and comfortable seating. When my dining cohort and I arrived around happy hour, the atmosphere was surprisingly upbeat. Top 40 radio played quietly while several muted flat-screen TVs played ESPN.
The Monday night happy hour special, “Flight of the Four Bourbons,” consisted of four mini shots of an interesting spread of whiskeys, the high point being the unique Wild Turkey American Honey. It’s a cool happy hour idea that appeals to the whiskey connoisseur or the causal happy hour-goer, and the price is right — $8. After the dinner crowd dies down, the staff pulls out some of the seating and the free games — darts and pool Ã¢â‚¬â€œ take center stage, giving the space more of a lounge feel.
The prices on T. Burke’s menu demand a certain level of quality. And executive chef Jeffrey Power — you might recognize the name from his stints at Le Bec-Fin and Blackfish — delivers with relatively straightforward dishes featuring a few innovative twists. Take the house salad, for example, spruced up with sliced pears and a creamy herb dressing, or the lightly fried crabcake appetizer –with 100 percent crab — served with a tangy cole slaw and a red pepper sauce. The braised short ribs with pappardelle was the highlight entree of the night, with tender bite-size chunks of ribs in a sweet, smokey, au jus that mixed well with the broad pasta. A hearty portion of peas gave the dish a nice home style touch.
Our second entree, the well-executed, if a bit predictable, half chicken, or “roasted yard bird,” was dwarfed by the unbelievably creamy and deliciously flavorful grits beneath it that were even better when mixed with the chicken’s tangy barbecue sauce. Dessert was also almost predictably delicious — a warm berry cobbler with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and huge blackberries hidden beneath high-quality vanilla ice cream. The more creative dessert was the chocolate terrine, served with bright green unsweetened pistachio sauce, providing a great color and subtle flavor addition to the sultry chocolate.
T. Burke’s may be slightly off the beaten path for the average Philadelphia diner, but its comforting and creative additions to more traditional dishes — and a major focus on flavor — make it more than a run-of-the-mill hotel restaurant and a place well-worth visiting for hotel guests.
Dolce Valley Forge
301 West Dekalb Pike, King of Prussia, PA 19406