Enjoy Steak with a Side of Sushi at Lafayette Hill’s the General
Bob Devine and Nick Ciaffone’s restaurant boldly—and appealingly—mixes American classics with Japanese cuisine.
The General's Wicked Tuna Special. Photos by Steve Legato.
Bob Devine and Nick Ciaffone’s From the Boot restaurant in Lafayette Hill became so successful that the two were compelled to open three more in Ambler, Blue Bell and Wayne. So we already know this duo can rock a great penne Bolognese. But can they pull off an authentic yellowtail tuna sashimi? And are they more than just OK with poke?
As it happens, they’re more than OK. The General is a bold dual culinary concept formulated within the impressively restored 300-year-old Lafayette Hill landmark that most recently housed the Barren Hill Tavern. Half the menu honors the inn’s roots with American classic and comfort-food interpretations. The other offers well-composed renditions of Japanese and Hawaiian fish dishes. Two menus, two chefs, one restaurant. “The American menu aligns with this historic building,” says Devine. “And the rest is for a neighborhood craving fresh sushi.”
Pork chop with bacon-and-potato hash, poached apples
Sea scallops with risotto, Swiss chard,
Skilled longtime chef Michael DeLone’s French onion soup pays brothy homage to the palate of the Marquis de Lafayette (once a guest at the inn). Vermont cheddar cheese ribbons submerged within the crock’s bottom meld with the soup’s airy croutons, creating a lighter upside-down version of the original. Shareables and main courses include a crispy-creamy pork belly appetizer; a juicy beef burger atop a seeded brioche bun; a savory herb-soy-glazed Niman Ranch pork chop; a hearty Barolo-glazed meatloaf; and a buttery, succulent bay-meets-ocean crab-and-lobster cake.
Also of note: DeLone’s Lancaster County-raised airline chicken breast, with baby squash, diced ham, green beans and a plentitude of rich mushroom-pepper pot gravy. The homespun dish is as relevant today as it would’ve been in 1818. Tip: Don’t be shy about asking for a second helping of the warm, crusty brioche bread and sweet butter—it’s a worthwhile splurge.
New York strip steak with pearl onions,
Another glimpse of the sea scallops entree.
From behind the main dining room’s newly constructed sushi bar, chef Eric Chen and his able brigade handcraft enticing sushi, sashimi and classic rolls. They also have fun with poke, the healthy and colorful Hawaiian rice bowl. The General’s version glistens with slivers of salmon, yellowtail, white tuna, tempura shrimp or barbecue eel.
The warm, convivial space retains the inn’s 18th-century flooring and beamed-ceiling backbone while adding contemporary touches and nautical overtones to each of the dining rooms. The restaurant’s third selling point is its bar and lounge, where you’ll find red, white, sparkling and rosé wines, along with sake, a rotating selection of seven drafts, and a strong commitment to the American craft cocktail and certain local spirits.
A few issues in the main dining room should be addressed, like the hard, bolt-upright black chairs and the noise level during peak times. And there were a few too many maki rolls and poke bowls lingering on the sushi bar on a busy Friday night. (Ours arrived at room temperature.)
But one can rightly assume that the service blips are temporary, especially with Gen. Devine overseeing the troops in the front of the house.
646 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill, (610) 234-6189, www.thegeneralnow.com.