Biking past the brown paper pasted glass every day, I really developed a sense of anticipation for the grand opening of The Combine. I could never see what was happening behind those obfuscated windows, but everything I heard was tense with expectation. One day the paper was down and the door was open, and I knew my waiting was over!
I am not as interested in having a dining place look like a million bucks so long as it's comfortable and easy to navigate (and clean). I think The Combine is a little crowded (at the end of the night when leaving our table, I practically had to duck under to leave from the bench side). All of their benches are old church pews, which aren't easy to lounge in. The rest is lovely. There's a mix of 20's speakeasy style (oxblood coloured embossed tin wall, art-deco white lamps), as well as a reno'd barn-yard feel, a style I've noticed in a lot of new restaurants. It's decorated with old things, wood beams, made to look new again. There's a shelf with electric green bonsai- it's a combination of influences as varied as the food.
To start I jump on the lobster fritters (15.95) and it's no challenge to get my seafood-loving friends to split them with me. There's six to a plate, and they're a nice plump size. Basically the fritters are hush-puppies, carefully created deep fried dough balls. They're crisp all the way through, only a bit spongy at the middle and taste like corn and white wine. The lobster is not very strong, just adding a taste of fresh fish to the golden-fried, spiky dough. They came with a firm sour cream, and chipotle aioli, which tasted strongly of paprika. The smoke went well with the corn and hint of sweet pepper in the fritters.
Dessert was debated for a while. We were all pretty satisfied from the food we'd had. It was the display of blueberry beignets (7.95) steadily marched to each other table at the end of their meals that convinced us to eat once more. A big disk of chewy fried dough sat on a throne of blueberries. The crown was a ball of soft vanilla ice cream rolled in crushed pecan. The beignet was very tough- it wasn't easy to split, and we didn't have any knives! Chewy as jerky, the flavour was wonderful, like a more confident doughnut with fresh berries, but it was a challenge to get through. The ice cream melted over the hot dough quickly, and the shallow square dish meant we had to abandon the creamy juice after the first couple bites. The mix of salty and sweet, chewy and soft made for a fun dessert, but maybe more of a challenge to eat than I would want to handle regularly.