Small Town Charmer Big on Flavor
Jun 24, 2014 12:00PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Two Tree Restaurant
401 Cypress Street, Millington
In early May, I had the pleasure of dining at Two Tree Restaurant in Millington, a small town just outside of Centreville and just a short drive off of Route 301. To be honest, I had never heard of Millington until this writing assignment, but after the amazing experience I had, I will be sure to tell everyone I know all about it.
I was absolutely surprised with this restaurant. Two Tree is exactly what you would imagine a small town restaurant would look like—on a quiet street, right next to a pharmacy and a general goods store. When entering the establishment it seemed rather small, but it’s divided in to three separate seating areas, so there is ample seating. We were able to get a large round table in the corner of the front room. After settling in, we were greeted by our server Mollie and talked with owner Dennis Hager, who also happened to own the pharmacy for 27 years. He even served as Mayor of Millington for a period of time. And I can see why, he really made us feel at home as soon as we met.
Our dinner began with Hushpuppies ($5) and Crab Dip ($8). The hushpuppies were six to an order, served on a round plate and neatly nestled atop a small bed of greens. They were fried to a rich golden brown and had a wonderful crunch outside with a contrasting moist interior—a great balance of sweet and soft cornbread flavor mixed with savory crunchy salt flavors from the frying. These came with two dipping sauces: King Syrup and creamy ranchero sauce, which added nicely to the flavor profiles.
The crab dip was served with several croustades and was piping hot. It was a very nice combination of cheeses, crab spice, and crabmeat. All the elements worked in harmony and one did not overplay the other. It also seemed like there was crab evenly distributed throughout.
Our next course featured soups: Crab Bisque and Creamy Mushroom and Truffle (both $5). The crab bisque was a very nice portion with brilliant color and aroma. It was nice to see bisque on the menu, rather than traditional options such as Maryland crab or cream of crab. This velvety soup had a wonderfully rich and flavorful seafood base with crab spice, lumps of crab, and gently cooked fine dice of mirepoix (carrots, onion, and celery). It proved to be a treat for my sister, having just returned from abroad with a craving for Maryland seafood. She was thrilled with this dish.
The mushroom soup was a wonderful bowl of assorted sliced mushrooms suspended in a creamy woodsy broth. The temperature was perfect and the soup was served with a croustade topped with a piece of melted brie, a fantastic addition. Dipping the crunchy, cheesy bread into the soup made for a fantastic flavor and texture combo.
Choosing our entrees was difficult, as the menu has many fine options. But the dishes that caught our eyes were: Filet Tips with Shrimp ($24); Filet Mignon ($25); and the Braised Lamb Shank ($28).
The filet tips with shrimp also featured mushrooms, shallots, plum tomatoes, and penne pasta finished with a vermouth-demi cream sauce and grated Romano. This dish hit the spot. It had perfect amounts of steak and shrimp. The pasta was cooked al dente and was the correct shape to hold the sauce in each bite. The sauce wasn’t overly heavy, yet it was rich enough to make this dish very filling.
The Filet Mignon was ordered medium. It was very nicely executed, with a good sear and well-rested. It was served with mashed potatoes that were of textbook consistency—not overly whipped or gummy and with just the right amount of seasoning, butter, and cream to give them a fluffy texture. The steak was also served with a seasonal julienne of vegetables, which included peppers, red onions, and small half wheels of zucchini and squash. All were cooked flawlessly.
The lamb dish was nothing short of outstanding. It consisted of a braised lamb shank medallion served with root vegetable jus, mushrooms, asparagus, and spatzle (a traditional German noodle). The flavors were very fresh and spring-like. The wonderful herb flavors with the vegetable jus were perfectly paired with the spatzle—a wonderful surprise to this dish. The lamb was fall-off-the-bone tender and the vegetable jus mixed with the natural juices from the lamb were delicious. What an amazing dish.
For dessert, we selected from the tempting list of house-made desserts: Lemon Chess Pie; two scoops of ice cream (one of Chili Praline Crunch and the other Sour Cherry Almond Crunch); and the Chocolate Hazelnut Pot de Crème. The lemon chess pie, which I had never experienced, had amazing texture and bold lemon flavor. The filling was similar to a custard. It was wonderfully zingy. The ice creams were off-the-chart, hold-on-to-your-seat delicious. The chili praline crunch had an amazing one-two punch of sweet and spicy, while delivering the smooth velvety homemade ice cream texture imbedded with a wonderful crunch of praline. The sour cherry almond was my favorite though, with the addition of chewy sour cherries. It was definitely something to slow down and savor. The chocolate hazelnut pot de crème was a dish that Nutella lovers would rejoice over. Imagine the same wonderful flavors of rich chocolate and hazelnut, but in an amazingly smooth custard form. All I could utter was “Wow.”
The care, thoughtfulness, and details that went into the dishes and the menu are evident. This small town charm has translated into a wonderful restaurant that delivers excellent food with apparent ease. And the yet-to-be-mentioned wine program is outstanding. Mr. Hager has a vast knowledge of all the wines served and would be able to pick a perfect pairing for those interested. Two Tree is absolutely a hidden gem that I highly recommend to anyone in the area or just up for a road trip.