Iowa City’s Orchard Green Restaurant and Lounge

Orchard Green is located on the far south end of the Iowa City’s downtown. Orchard Green offers a white table cloth dining experience with a solid meat-heavy menu. It is located in a very large brick building with very high, open ceilings, classy spare-little-expense fixtures and highly finished carpentry work. It obviously cost a small fortune to build the place out. There are a limited number of parking spots behind the building but valet parking is available.

Service was unobtrusively good and the staff moved with a purpose and intent that suggested that the boss was watching. Thankfully, the waiter did not try to be our best friend, which is good if a restaurant wants to bill itself as a “premier fine dining” establishment. Service was quick and accurate. The menu is not an overly vegetarian-friendly restaurant but it did have a few selections, including a vegetable risotto (more about that later). The breads that we chose were very solid, including foccacia bread with oil and hummus and baba ghanous.

Several in our party are flexitarians on a good day (and vegetarians when acting pouty) but two opted for seafood. I guess that crustaceans are not as sentient as other creatures. As with 801 Grand in Omaha and Des Moines, nothing was included with the entrees. All sides are a la carte. However, the entrees we tried are all complicated preparations featuring a lot of other items as part of the entree, whether sauces, greens, ginger, polenta, or other accoutrements. The wine list is sophisticated and on the expensive side, though the “by the glass” prices are reasonable.

While the wine list showed a huge amount of thought, we stuck with the low end of the wine list. Even those selections are not inexpensive. The Australian Ring Bolt 2007 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) was very solid without the overpowering tannins and oak common to some California Cabs. The fruit tastes were present without the plummy excess of a Pinot. The minerality, licorice and anise were also pronounced, making this an easy-drinking Cabernet that could complement several of the dishes. The Gordon Brothers 2007 Columbia Valley Chardonnay ($36) was a good fit for the rich seafood dishes. It was a solid chardonnay without being overly buttery.

We had a large party, so we were able to sample much of the menu. Two of us tried the scallops and spinach on polenta and they both agreed that it was very, very good. This dish featured fairly large scallops which were seared and tender. The sauce was olive oil-based and very straightforward.

One in our party had the bouillabaisse with mussels, shrimp and scallops. It certainly looked fabulous. The mussels were fresh-tasting and firm was the shrimp and scallops that were mixed into the bouillabaisse. The bouillabaisse itself was very rich and spicy, maybe a tad spicier than our fellow diner had anticipated; but then again none of us are experts on bouillabaisse.

I tried the pork scaloppini saltimbocca and it was excellent. It featured sage, prosciutto, shallots, and sherry on a bed of asparagus, polenta, and veal au jus. It was tasty without being cloying as some of those preparations can be. The polenta was an excellent starch to balance the pork and veal au jus.

The vegetable risotto featured grilled asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, steamed broccoli, carrots and haricot verts, reggiano and Parmesan risotto. This was the only veggie dish that any in our party tried.

The Alaskan halibut was soft and had a great flaky texture, evidence that the fish was excellent and well-cooked.
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$$$$ (out of 5)
Hours:
Dining Room:
Wednesday through Saturday 5-10 p.m.
Sunday through Tuesday 5-9 p.m.

Lounge:
Open at 3 daily.
Happy Hour Monday through Thursday from 4-6 p.m.

521 S. Gilbert Street
Iowa City, IA, 52240
319-354-1642

Orchard Green on Urbanspoon

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