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Omnivore

Yolk-o Oh-no

Eggspectation is Not All It's Cracked Up to Be


Uli Loskot

Eggspectation

This location is closed

By Richard Gorelick | Posted 11/6/2002

Remember a few years back when some artists surveyed Americans about their tastes in art and then produced a pair of paintings that incorporated what respondents said they most and least liked about art. The "most liked" painting, titled "America's Most Wanted," depicted George Washington (those surveyed liked historical figures); two deer, a hippo, and some trees (for wildlife); all against a background of mostly blue sky and water (the favorite color).

Eggspectation is the culinary equivalent of that painting. This restaurant, the southernmost link in a Montreal-based chain of upscale breakfast-centric restaurants, is not without appeal. Maybe if what the kitchen sent out to the table had been more flavorful, I might not have regarded the place so cynically. (As in, Surveys found that Howard County diners love to eat a middling breakfast all day long amid warm Tuscan colors, while watching line cooks sweating in an open kitchen. A children's menu and plenty of parking would be nice, too. . . .)

We arrived at Eggspectation, wanting it to be the one of those reliable, upscale chains that succeed by pleasing diners with large portions and a little bit of conversational gimmickry (something like the honor-system jug wine at Macaroni Grill)--the kind of place you'd be happy to tell your carpool about. Also, I got it into my head that the chain's origin in Montreal was somehow relevant to my meal, as though having had to first please the tastes of French-speaking people would have automatically made Eggspectation a better place to dine.

Even in its somewhat remote corporate-park setting, Eggspectation is an invitingly snazzy place, with a big-city feel about it, although the city it feels like is less Manhattan than Atlanta. The focal point is the open kitchen, steaming under an enormous copper hood. (The children in our party enjoyed spending time with the friendly kitchen crew.) It's a beautifully lit place, and we took note of how the variety of pretty contemporary lighting fixtures helped to make distinct the room's different dining areas and the bar. As it turned out, there was nothing we ended up liking better than the lighting fixtures.

Entirely apart from the numerous puns formed by substituting "eggs" for the prefix "ex-" (e.g., eggcitement, eggsiliration), the menu was somewhat hard to reckon with--I had trouble finding whole categories, like omelets. A small thing, maybe, but a sign to us that Eggspectation might not be a bit underdone. The friendly but under-trained server wasn't much help in shaping our meal, either. We ended up ordering both from the menu's traditional breakfast offerings (Benedicts, omelets, waffles, and crepes) and from its selection of casual dinner fare, ranging from burgers and pastas to filet mignon and chicken picatta.

Eggspectation offers nine variations on the classic eggs Benedict, with additions like guacamole, crabmeat, and salmon. We ordered the classic version ($8.99), which Eggspectation prepares with Gruyère cheese and Black Forest ham. Mixed reviews here--praise for the tart, lemony hollandaise but points off for not being an intense, glistening thing of beauty, the way eggs Benedict should be, particularly when it's a restaurant's signature dish.

The other breakfast items were executed with the same lack of surprise--of something special, delightful, or maybe just outsized. An omelet with asparagus and Swiss ($7.99) held up nicely vis-à-vis the vegetable, which looked very pretty and retained a nice firmness, but less well with the cheese, which ran oily. The grilled potatoes that came with the egg dishes were enjoyed for their peppery flavor but weren't served hot enough.

Nothing from the traditional dinner menu succeeded at all. For the record, the Parisienne burger ($7.99), topped with Gruyère and boiled egg slices, was served well-done although ordered (begged for) rare (the accompanying french fries weren't hot either). The Parmesan-crusted chicken breast ($12.49) was bland, the meat itself tough. Appetizers were worse. Fried calamari ($7.49), though served attractively in a fried crepe, were gummy and bland with a spiceless sauce.

And I admit, although it was rather madcap of us to order a mozzarella and tomato dish ($5.99) in deepest autumn, we were still hopeful. Maybe Eggspectation had connections to some fresh tomatoes. It didn't.

While researching the Americanization of Eggspectation, I did what any enterprising journalist would do. I Googled it. I found the following comment about one of the Montreal-based Eggspectation from a Google translation of a French-language foodie Web site: "It is not the place with going if eggs are not liked." It's barely the place with going if they are.

Pelt me: Omnivore@citypaper.com.

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