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Upscale Excellence

Acacia mixes elegance, splendid service and delicious--if sometimes small--dishes

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Acacia is the newest upscale resident in St. Philip's Plaza. What a nice neighbor! Elegant surroundings, a unique menu and impeccable service all add up to a wonderful dining experience.

Acacia offers a great patio for dining or live music (Wednesday through Saturday). A three-piece combo was playing jazz the night we visited, but since it was damn near 100 degrees, we headed indoors to the lovely dining room, where our friends Barry and Susan Frank met us moments later.

The server gave us plenty of time to talk and look over the menu, yet still kept an eye out just in case we needed anything. That is a mark of well-trained staff. This quality work prevailed through the evening--the servers seemed to float around us, meeting our every need.

The wine list has enough selections by the glass or full bottle to please any taste and wallet. Susan and I each found a reasonably priced glass to our liking. The guys stuck with mixed drinks: a rum and Coke for Barry and a vodka martini for John. As an aside, the martini glass was beautiful. Heavy to the hand with yellow and orange swirled throughout the glass, it was the perfect foil for the well-built drink.

When we were fully settled in, we ordered dinner. Susan ordered the caramelized onion brioche with baked brie and Fuji apples ($7) for an appetizer, and the grilled breast of duckling topped with a huckleberry and apple mint-relish and served with a mascarpone polenta ($23) for her entrée. Barry chose the pan-seared divers scallop appetizer that was served with a ruby grapefruit buerre blanc ($12). For his entrée, he ordered a bacon-wrapped delmonico rib eye steak in a wine-black pepper glaze served gratin dauphinoise and braised spinach ($32).

John went with the Acacia's version of the Caprese salad--hand-pulled mozzarella and tomatoes topped with a basil/white balsamic infusion ($9). His entrée was the double-cut pork chop served up with Yukon gold mashed potatoes fluffed up with crème fraiche and a baked apple ($21). My choices were the steamed chicken and havarti dumplings in a Thai ginger sauce ($8) for a starter, and the grilled pailliard of veal in a lemon-thyme jus, served with fettuccini, was my entrée ($26).

The dining room at Acacia is both elegant and relaxing. The walls are a warm golden taupe. French doors are trimmed out in matching fabric with floral valances that add a touch of class. Lighting is gorgeous. The ceiling fixtures are large drum-like creations, glowing with just the right amount of subdued light. Blue glass scones light up the corners.

Art is a mixed bag. Colors (mostly deep reds and blues) seem to be the theme rather than any style of artwork. The colors are even brought to the tabletop with heavy glass chargers, again in red and blue set against white linen tablecloths. But the centerpiece of the main dining room is a lovely waterfall. Water flows over a wall of different colored tiles; it's pleasing to the eye and the spirit.

The servers graciously placed our appetizers in front of us, and we couldn't help but notice the beautiful presentation of each one. John compared his salad to my version, and while he claimed mine was better, the freshness of all the ingredients was remarkable. The brioche in Susan's appetizer was buttery rich, as was the cheese: a warm treat. My dumplings would've been divine standing alone, but the soy/sweet pool of Thai ginger sauce (and a bit of wasabi) took this dish over the top! The only downer was Barry's scallops. They were delicious--nicely pan seared with the inside cooked to perfection, but there were only two of them. For $12, mind you! Too much for too little!

After the appropriate span of time, our entrées arrived. Again, we were all impressed with how beautiful the food looked. The colors of the spring vegetables on all the plates included a little green (some of the tiniest, most tender asparagus and green beans I've ever had), orange (a perfectly cooked baby carrot) and yellow (some type of grated squash).

Susan's duck was sweet and tender, with the fruity relish adding an extra layer of flavor. The polenta was outstanding--creamy and light, thanks to that wonderful mascarpone. It would've been a fine meal all by itself. Barry's steak was a good-sized rib eye, which had been wrapped in bacon. The steak was encrusted with a freshly cracked pepper mix. The peppercorns were coarsely cracked and added a crunchy bite to the full meaty flavor. His sides (the potato and the spinach) worked well with the hearty entrée.

My veal was delicious, too, but again, it suffered in its size. The slices were small, and there couldn't have been a half-cup of the pasta. This was a great dish! The sauce was smooth and savory, but I wanted more.

John's pork chops were the hit of the evening. A hefty portion of two chops had been cut from a well-cooked rib roast. The meat held a deep, smoky flavor and was so tender and juicy it practically melted. And those mashed potatoes? A notch above, thanks to the addition of the crème fraiche. Ditto on the baked apple.

Desserts (all $7.50) followed in short order. Barry ordered the toffee and gingersnap cheesecake. John had the crème brulee. Susan went light with the house-made mango and herb tea sorbets, and I opted for one of my favorites--shortcake--this time served with three types of berries.

The desserts were a perfect ending. Susan's sorbets complemented each other: the mango being lightly sweet and the herb tea bright and aromatic. John's brulee crackled at the touch and was smooth on the tongue. My shortcake (actually a sponge cake) was topped with raspberries, blackberries and blueberries in a magenta colored fruit sauce. Fantastic! The cheesecake was almost too pretty to eat, but once we did, we all agreed it was tops. The toffee flavor was a nice touch to what sometimes can be an overly cloying dessert.

We had a wonderful evening, with terrific food, outstanding service, a beautiful setting and wonderful company.

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