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Gia had high expectations for the crab-stuffed chicken, but it didn't live up to the menu description: "oven-baked chicken breast wrapped in puff pastry dough, stuffed with crab, sautéed spinach, caramelized onions, Monterey Jack and grated Parmesan cheese topped with provolone and braised artichoke cream sauce." I tasted the pastry-wrapped dish (it was neither puffy nor flaky) and found it rich but bland. "It looks like it was made with a bunch of leftovers," Gia said. There was barely a stingy spoonful of the artichoke cream sauce drizzled on the dish, so she asked for more.
The oven-baked Tom's Mom's Meatloaf I ordered was superior to my own mom's meatloaf -- which isn't saying much. It wasn't as good as mine, though the creamy Yukon-gold mashed potatoes were fabulous. The more simple dishes are the better choices at this restaurant, because culinary creativity in the wrong hands can be dangerous. That night's soup du jour -- "creamy pepperoni" -- was a case in point: a thick, orange-colored bisque loaded with paper-thin circles of soggy, greasy pepperoni slices. It was hilariously awful.
A longtime Tomfooleries dessert standard is the Dirty Dump Truck, a mess of vanilla ice cream, crumbled brownies, chocolate sauce and whipped cream served in a plastic toy truck. We ordered the dessert for Johnny because we were going to deny him the gory pleasure of Alien vs. Predator; the truck arrived at the table attached, by a steel cable, to a chilled brick. "Is the brick to keep the ice cream cold?" I asked our server. "No," she said, "it's to keep customers from stealing the truck." We proceeded to steal the dessert from Johnny, eating most of the fattening, gooey stuff ourselves.
A couple of nights later, I returned with Ned and Chester, who were eager to see the much-touted Zona Rosa for themselves. "The architecture is pretty ordinary," Ned said. "But it's nice and clean."
Ned rolled his eyes at some of the more oddball dishes on the menu, such as the spinach salad doused in a Red Bull vinaigrette, and the ramen noodle dish served in a "sweet and spicy pineapple cilantro sauce."
"These are gastronomic mutations that you won't find anywhere else," he said, laughing at a description of a sandwich served on "ciabatta focaccia" bread. Yes, those are two Italian words for two different kinds of flat bread.
And Ned wasn't impressed by our appetizer, the heavily breaded, deep-fried kosher dill pickles (more garlicky than sour). "A ridiculous novelty," he said, though he ate more of them than I did.
Chester didn't mind the pickles and gave high points to his dinner, a moist hunk of grilled salmon doused in a sleek butter sauce and served over a bed of sautéed spinach, mushrooms and those ubiquitous caramelized onions. And to our amazement, the acerbic Ned confessed that he actually loved his Black-Jack Strip, a decent cut of grilled strip steak glazed with an ancho-chili butter. "I'd even come back and get it again," he said.
I had ordered the Thai chicken pizza, hoping it would be as good as the excellent ones served at the California Pizza Kitchen or the Classic Cup. Alas, it wasn't.
We bickered over a dessert selection but stopped in our tracks when our doe-eyed server, Brandy, leaned over the table and suggested having a three-way. "What?" Ned sputtered.