Sunday, March 8, 2009
Restaurant review: Samson’s Italian Restaurant in McKinney
Ladies and gentlemen, things are certainly looking up for Samson’s.
Chow Hound would like to issue a challenge: Step out your hovel, affix a blindfold tightly to your noggin, get in your car and drive thirty feet. Now, remove the blindfold. What do you see? An Italian joint, right? Well, of course.
(Before you start shouting profanity-laden remonstrations at your computer screen questioning the veracity of CH’s assessment of McKinney’s restaurant scene, please understand that the Dog is including the town's kazillion pizza joints in his Italian analysis.)
At any rate, this week, ladies and gentlemen of the culinary jury, Chow Hound made his way to yet another McKinney Italian eatery, a joint that’s been in operation for several months now. It’s called, interestingly, Samson’s.
Sitting directly off Virginia Parkway almost at the intersection of Stonebridge Dr., and apparently inspired by Samson’s (check your Hebrew Bible) Herculean strength (yes, never mind that Samson was born of Israelite parents…), the restaurant’s bold, pillar facade is hard to miss – unless, of course, you’re still driving with that dumb blindfold tied around your head.
Inside, the joint’s strength motif continues with rich, golden Tuscan walls playing supporting roles (pun!?) to thick, heavy curtains and a marvelously huge fireplace. Above Samson’s linen-draped tables, painted puffy white clouds float below an azure sky on a soaringly high ceiling. Outside, a spacious and covered patio awaited those intrepid enough to brave the blustery winds that swept into a space outlined by a tall, gray stonewall. Understandably, there were no takers.
The dining room itself is surprisingly small, given its impressive exterior and heavy-feeling interior. Or does the space merely feel small precisely because of the heavy, fortified feeling of the place? Whatever the case, small, as many of CH’s love interests have insisted throughout the decades, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, Samson’s dining room manages to pull-off a rather interesting emotional vibration: one of intimacy paired with strength. (Think about it: How many times does strength convey intimacy? Ask the guy at the gym.)
As many of CH’s faithful readers already know, Chow Hound scarcely raises his ear from the ground. Indeed, the Dog is always listening for word – good or bad -- about any given restaurant in town. And the words vibrating CH’s eardrum leading up to CH’s visit to Samson’s were not particularly good. As is often the case, giddy anticipation gave way, in numerous accounts, to dejected disappointment. “We thought Samson’s would be stellar,” one coupled confided in Chow Hound. “It wasn’t.” And on, and on, and on…
Frankly, though the Dog kept his mouth shut, he felt the same way. Before this week’s professional foray into Samson’s, Chow Hound sniffed around the joint off the clock multiple times, scarfing up a variety of Italian dishes. And what of those early experiences?
Well, let’s just put it this way: Unless this week was some sort of aberration, the chef in charge at Samson’s must have fired Chef Boyardee. Who knows? Perhaps Boyardee wasn’t fired. Maybe he was simply threatened with his life – as in, “start cooking some good food or you’re dead.”
Whatever the case, ladies and gentlemen, things are certainly looking up for Samson’s.
Take the joint’s lunch soup special, Fagioli soup ($4). Chow Hound prides himself on his own bean soup. But this stuff was freaking fabulous. Thick broth (the Hound thinks the chef must have blended a batch of beans to which whole beans were then added) harboring tender, yet firm, little white beanies and a few flecks of tender pasta – throw all this together with an obvious array of mysterious spices and you’ve got one helluva great dish. CH could have easily devoured a bucket of the stuff. Really. It was that good.
Chow Hound mowed through two other culinary lunch delights: focaccia pollo ($10.25) and Horiatiki salata chicken ($11.50). The Horiatiki (traditional Greek salad) was exceptional in that it wasn’t unexceptional in any way. Every ingredient was fresh and the chicken (additional) was warm and moist. The focaccia pollo was delightful, the surprise being the toasty lightness of the focaccia bread. All the usual suspects were present and accounted for: Brie cheese, zucchini and roasted peppers. There was nary a mistake.
For dessert, CH, ignoring the wisdom of his cardiologist (and dentist), indulged himself in a rapturous dessert experience by way of tiramisu ($4.95). Unevenly cut, somewhat bulbous and irregular in appearance – all this added to the psychology of dessert satisfaction. Come on, everybody knows that homemade – particularly when that homemade something includes a mascarpone cheese whipped into a heavenly froth of delightfulness – plays a huge part in determining one’s cognitive experience of any meal. If you didn’t get the hint, the dessert was excellent.
CH’s second visit to Samson’s was for dinner. The Hound, trying to contain his growing midsection, requested Pollo Grigliato ($17.50), a grilled chicken breast marinated with mustard, lemon, chili flakes and herbs. The tender chicken, served with an arugula and tomato salad, was exceptionally tender and exquisitely delicious, the lemon, mustard, and chili flavors complimenting one another in the most delicate of ways.
Finally, Samson’s service staff was quite pleasant: neither too annoyingly intrusive (Please leave us alone!) nor annoyingly detached (Where in God’s name did the waiter disappear to?).
This may come as a surprise, but due to time, financial and waistband constraints, CH couldn’t sample the entire menu. Please be warned: your mileage may vary. If you’ve had a different experience at Samson’s please let the legions of Chow Hound fans hear (or read) about it.
Until then, CH feels compelled to bestow 4 out of 5 Milk Bones (that’s like a “B+” for you teachers and students out there) upon Samson’s.
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