Taste buds on strike from Peoria’s daily humdrum eats? Got a pocket-searing wad of money to burn? You just might find yourself at the door of Peoria Heights’ chic restaurant, Seven on Prospect.
This self-proclaimed cosmopolitan grill is lost somewhere in the bevy of boutiques and bistros in Peoria Heights.
As I called in for my Friday reservations, the host was energetic, rapid-firing out greetings and information at a pace that would put a seasoned auctioneer to shame.
Upon arriving, we were seated promptly, to our benefit, as the so-called waiting area were really only three single-person leather benches stuffed inside the doorway.
On a first sweeping glance at the restaurant’s interior, it was hard to ignore the decor, which felt personable, but slightly schizophrenic for this long and narrow layout.
The front of the restaurant looked more like an upscale pub, complete with flat screen TVs. The farthest back area is partitioned off by French doors, reminiscent of Mediterranean style.
Sandwiched in the center of the restaurant, I found myself sitting in an area with an eclectic collection of mirrors and artwork and contrasting dark wood accents and assorted wall decorations.
The open-air kitchen was incorporated into this section, presumably as an interesting focal point. However, as dinner progressed, I continuously had the image of a struggling chef with slippery fingers working behind the half wall. The constant barrage of pans clanging became an old soundtrack to the dining experience after about 30 seconds.
The selection on the menu was pleasing, but not overwhelming. I opted for the stuffed portabella appetizer ($7), eager to size it up compared to other eateries. What actually showed up to my table far exceeded my expectations for a mere appetizer. A plate-sized grilled mushroom, quartered and topped with herbed goat cheese, caramelized onions and red pepper coulis turned out to be my favorite dish of the night.
The plating of this dish had my taste buds in overdrive before the plate even hit the table. The dish was served fresh, cheese still bubbling, and when the first bite hit my mouth, the flavors of the bitter cheese and sweet onions were tied together by the rich mushroom flavor.
The only downside? The onions overpowered the red pepper sauce, but their decorative contribution didn’t go unnoticed.
While we were waiting for our soup and salad to come next, I took my second scan around the restaurant and noticed the most alarming detail for the entire experience: every table, though sporting a typical clean white tablecloth, had a cheap layer of torn white paper folded over the top.
The only other times I have seen restaurants do the cheap “throw away the paper, throw away the mess” act have been either finger-licking seafood shacks or the occasional family joint where children often seem on the verge of making their food airborne.
Appalled by the caliber of food and prices, paired with intended reputation, it blew my mind that someone opted to make cheap paper a part of the table setting.
Additionally, the restaurant staff wore simple black t-shirts with the restaurant logo.
Unsure if these two choices were to be lumped in with the novelty of an open air kitchen, it translated to 10 percent failed execution of fine dining on management’s part.
Fortunately, the food kept my mind off paper and shirts for most of the night. The seafood bisque ($8) and Seven’s House salad ($6), continued the pattern of excellent presentation and taste, but aside from fresher ingredients, they didn’t leave my date and I speechless.
I did appreciate the chef’s ability to craft a soup and salad that weren’t heavy and left room for the main course, but still tasted top-notch.
For the main course, I tried my luck with the scallop special ($25) for the evening, while my counterpart chose the 16 oz. rib eye with sauce and fingerling potatoes ($28).
The scallops were grilled to a tender sweet spot and didn’t disappoint, served over a bed of spinach and mushroom risotto, and garnished with a lemon pepper sauce. The sauce was wonderful, a tangy acidic mix that cut through the richness of the dish’s risotto. I only wish I had gotten more than just two drizzles worth.
The ribeye was perfectly cooked to medium, and was intimidating due to its thick cut. The mystery sauce resonated of horseradish and blue cheese, a refreshing tart flavor combination, but not strong enough to hold up to the steak’s juices. You really had to dredge the meat in the sauce to be able to taste and appreciate its flavor.
The accompanying fingerling potatoes sounded fancier than they really were. They ended up being glorified small purple tinted potato slices that were alright, but paled in comparison to anything else served.
By this point in the night, the crowd was beginning to thin out, and I had noticed how crowded all the tables were. Fellow diners were leaving with sated faces. Watching people leave, I noted the majority of diners were well beyond freshly graduated twenty-somethings.
With our cheerful waiter back at our table, I quickly digressed from people watching onto more important matters – dessert.
We ordered the triple chocolate cake (of death). It came as a pleasant surprise, as desserts weren’t even listed on the menu.
A playful crust of chunky chocolate shavings complimented the gooey texture of the cake’s filling. If the five layers of chocolate death weren’t enough for a sweet tooth, the chef even drizzled a warm caramel all over.
Despite the ridiculous amount of chocolate per bite, there was no child-like sugar coma after – another testament to the chef’s ability to fine tune his dishes well.
Going out on a sweet note might leave some diners in a dreamy state of content; however when the bill came for two, the $97 total, not including tip, quickly snapped us back to reality.
While Seven On Prospect held up its end of the bragging rights on cuisine, it felt a little overpriced for the restaurant environment’s shortcomings that ended up overshadowing some of the better things the restaurant had to offer. Better off keeping Seven On Prospect saved for the occasions to best impress or better yet, for payday.