187 Rue Principal opened in Emmaus in November of 2014. It took us entirely too long to get there. This review is actually based on two visits- one for a random post-farmer’s market brunch, and the other for a delightful birthday dinner. The two experiences were quite different because of the type of food, but the warmth of the space, the amazing service, and the deliciousness of everything placed on our table was identical.
When you first enter (provided that you enter from the door on Main Street), you walk into a room with red
cloth benches, a bar with a shiny espresso machine, golden-handled beer drafts, and a wall of windows into the kitchen.The room is painted in a soft blue, which, combined with the red, takes you out of downtown Emmaus and into a quaint bistro.
On our brunch visit, we were greeted immediately upon entering. We decided to go with one sweet and one savory dish. Deciding was a bit difficult, as the entire menu looked amazing. Their brunch includes sweet and savory crepes, special plates, and tartines (french open-faced sandwiches)- as well as a soup and quiche of the day. We opted for the Croque Madame crepe and the Pain Perdu. The crepe was light, airy, and flavorful- made of buckwheat, it had a pleasant nutty flavor and delightfully crispy edges. The ham, egg, and cheese were perfectly gooey and in proportion to the crepe. The egg could have been a bit runnier, but I won’t hold it against them 😉
The Pain Perdu (french toast) was also amazing. It was sweet, but not cloying. Made with a pound cake soaked in creme brulee batter, it was remarkably light and fluffy, practically falling apart as our fork touched it. It was served with sous vide pears, dried cherries, and a PA maple syrup. The pears were refreshing, almost a bit bitter in a way that nicely countered the toast. There was also a crunchy sugar crust on the edges of the toast that was delightful. Unless you’re good with rich food, this dish should probably be shared- or at least eaten with a good cup of coffee.
Regarding the service, from the moment we walked in, the staff was attentive, helpful, and pleasant. Also, we went from seated to being done eating in 30 minutes. Super efficient, but we never felt rushed.
Now, let’s talk dinner.
We decided to check this place out for my birthday. Interestingly, three other people that were in the restaurant that night also had birthdays! What a popular day for babies. I was excited to check out their dinner- our biggest concern was how we were going to narrow down what we wanted to eat. The menu is unique, sophisticated, and a very interesting mix of classic and modern. We started with a couple of cocktails. I got the seasonal sous vide eggnog- the rum was heated in the sous vide, the waiter said, to bring out the caramel flavors. Sous vide or not, it was delicious. We also tried a bourbon drink called the Orchards. Both were smooth, seasonal, and downright tasty.
They started us off with a neat little amuse bouche- an apple cider sphere. It was basically apple cider encased in a gelatin sphere roughly about the size of a quarter. It was fun and refreshing, although not super exciting or mind-blowing.
We then ordered the cheese plate- it had three types of cheese, including a D’glae dewdrop from Lancaster, PA that was our favorite. The plate also came with verjus encased grapes (grapes in a type of gelee)- fun textures, not too sweet, as well as three types of honey- bee pollen, honeycomb, and the usual liquid form. We usually aren’t huge fans of just cheese plates- we
prefer full charcuterie that comes with good pairings of meat and cheese. However, this was delightful and a great start to our meal. We also ordered the octopus starter. I love octopus, so had high hopes for this dish. The dish consisted of sous vide baby octopus, tumeric roasted cauliflower, vaccum preserved lemon, nicoise olive, arugula pistou, white anchovy, roasted pepper fluid gel, and harissa bubbles. Whew. That sounds like a lot. But…. it worked. The perfect bite consisted of a piece of cauliflower, a piece of octopus, a slice of the beautiful white anchovy filets, and a dash of the olive. But what about the foam? Let’s be honest- foam is cool, but unless you really work at it or the chef really piles it on, there isn’t much flavor. So it was fun and the idea of a sea foam-type accompaniment to an octopus dish was cool, but didn’t really taste like harissa. But other than that, the dish was a mixture of perfectly cooked octopus, briny accompaniments, and a great variety of textures. Oh- and that spoon and sphere you see in the background? I forgot to ask what it was, but when popped open, it tasted like green olives. Yum.
For our entrees, we chose the beef cheeks and the duck. The beef cheeks came with sage and garlic whipped potatoes, sous vide baby beets, and a horseradish compound butter. The portion was surprisingly large. Beef cheeks are a very rich and fatty cut of meat, so I had assumed the portion would be somewhat small. I actually was a bit overwhelmed by the time I got about halfway through. Something acidic to cut the fattiness would have been much appreciated. I would guess the beets were intended to do that, but they were more sweet and earthy as opposed to fresh or acidic. The horseradish butter may have also been intended for this purpose, but I actually couldn’t taste the horseradish at all throughout the dish. The cheeks were fatty, the beets had those sweet and earthy tones, and the potatoes were thick and rich. As a final note, the potatoes were also quite thick- gluey and starchy. They were piped onto the plate in a very nice upward swirl.
The duck was an “induction seared” duck breast with roasted yam, sous vide fennel, “rosemary variations,” and a pomegranate fig gastrique. The duck fat was rendered beautifully- the skin was super crispy and flavorful. The meat itself was tender and juicy. The roasted yams were blended into a luxuriously velvety puree. I kept stealing it off of T’s plate- although I did like the beef cheeks, we decided he won the ordering competition this time 😉
The sous vide fennel was ok- not my favorite part of the dish, but certainly not bad. The “rosemary variations” included a rosemary powder- kind of like those things you see on cooking shows that they refer to as “snows”- a white powder that actually tasted very strongly of rosemary. It was potent and a little bit fascinating…
Also, when I went to the restroom early on, T asked whether they did anything for birthdays- he was able to choose a dessert that they would bring out with a candle. He was rushing to get it before I got back, so he chose quickly… he saw a dessert with Bosc pears and thought it was a cake, so he chose that over the crepe…it ended up being a very light and healthy dessert 🙂 with caramelized pears, maple sugar, meringue, and an anise whip. Side note- he did get charged for the dessert, so be aware that this isn’t one of those “free dessert for your birthday” kind of situations.
Whew- long review! But it needed to be long and detailed, because 187 Rue Principal deserves to be lauded for everything they do- the food was delicious, and the service was delightful. Actually, a note on service the night we went for dinner: the server was kind and very knowledgeable about the menu. Every time we ordered, he complimented us on our choices, and every time we finished something, he said, “excellent work”- without seeming obsequious or annoying. Who doesn’t love being complimented for choosing and eating food?? Top to bottom, 187 is an excellent experience and I would strongly recommend people try it- whether it be for brunch or dinner.
Food/Drink : 19/20