Or should I sequentially say the bad (app.), the good (main), and the downright ugly (dessert)? Cress is a swank little place in downtown Deland. With deep blues and tasteful furniture, the décor of this place has a semi-formal feel that pleases the crowd with refined tastes.
Upon being seated, we were offered a watermelon Gazpacho amuse-bouche. With subtle tomato sweetness and a mild pepper finish, it was good. You would think that this would be a sweet version of a classic, but the watermelon wasn’t ripe- hence, I felt the watermelon crunch without the obvious watermelon flavor. It didn’t detract- rather, I thought it was smart.
For the appetizer, my companion and I simultaneously asked for the butternut squash “Ravioli” as it was clearly the most unusual. Supposedly stuffed with grilled fig (it was lost in the dish- more of it would have been a very good thing), the butternut slices were tough and very chewy. If it weren’t for the cheese sauce drizzled over it, the poorly executed dish of improper batter-and-fry would have failed completely. To scrounge for a silver lining, the fried sage and walnuts were sensible garnishes.
The tenderloin of Ostrich beckoned my tongue towards main course. With mushroom and thyme grits, blackberry demiglace, and parsnip crisps, the plate was replete with a kaleidoscope of flavors. The decadent grits were cooked perfectly and complemented the meatiness of the Ostrich by not only adding smoothness but also layering aromas. With seasonal pea tendrils as an added garnish, can we say this dish was DELICIOUSLY COHESIVE? The demi was not spicy and reminded me that this is one of those moments when you realize that one can be so creative with vegetables. The Ostrich was moist and juicy. For beginners, Ostrich tastes like a blend between chicken liver and beef. All the characters in the dish worked as a delightful symphony of color, texture, and taste.
For dessert, I ordered flan. What appeared before us certainly wasn’t. Seemingly cooked by an amateur, it was too-burnt and semi-sweet. Most awkwardly for a restaurant that takes pride in being chic, it was presented with a rounded edge (from the baking dish it was pried out of, presumably) still present. Cress, please specify that this is a savory version- else, you might get some very insulting looks from people that were expecting the sweeter Latin kind. Above all, exercise some continuity in your dinner and dessert presentations.
IN A NUTSHELL: The chef cooks Ostrich well. He also has a few standard Indian curry options (Tuesday night is ‘curry night’) when half the party wants Indian while the other doesn’t. The atmosphere is casual formal. The service is good but the food requires some double-checking before it leaves the kitchen. Bring your own fork- the fancy one they had isn’t very friendly to the fingers.