It didn't take long after reaching our table to sense that Farradday's - in the Isle of Capri casino in Bettendorf - wanted to be noticed. The place settings alone would have screamed "First impression!" if decorum allowed. The silverware was polished to such a mirrored shine that I was embarrassed to leave a fingerprint. The stemware was likewise spotless - nearly invisible. Even the water tumblers were as finely crafted as an eggshell. I appreciated seeing a sea-salt grinder on the table that matched the brushed-stainless pepper mill.
Looking outward, a curtain of heat lamps bathed the serving area at one end of the dining room in a startlingly radiant orange glow. Beyond these, in an open kitchen, Chef Shawn Timmerman and crew were preparing the evening's meals with a practiced choreography under contrasting cool fluorescents. His entrées include chicken breast stuffed with Boursin cheese over mushroom, seared sea bass with sweet chili sauce and leeks, and cioppino: a seafood stew of sorts with shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, and sea bass in tomato sauce.
Beef, rack of lamb, and pork grace the menu also, with the chef's suggested toppings optional. Among these are sweet lump crab, Parmesan and mushroom crust, bleu cheese and peppercorn, and Béarnaise sauce.
Lamb also makes an out-of-the-ordinary appearance as appetizer on Farradday's menu. The lamb lollipops in dried fig balsamic reduction join blue lump crab cakes with mustard remoulade and other selections. We shared an excellent shrimp brochette: gulf shrimp filled with jalapeño pepper and Swiss cheese, bacon-wrapped and Cajun-spiced. The shrimp were large and tender, and the mellow Swiss-and-bacon combination softened the heat of the Cajun spice and jalapeño.
The pork loin I ordered and the filet mignon (with no toppings) for my wife were brought to us on warm plates with enough room on them for the potatoes and cauliflower we ordered, as well. Soups, salads, and sides are ordered à la carte at Farradday's, with portions generous enough to serve two.
An intriguing preparation of apricot chutney, cashews, and wilted spinach adorned my pork. Flavors and textures were distinct without overpowering, and the combination was delicious. The filet was served with a small garnish of mixed greens and a dollop of butter topping it. It was moist and tender, but because a filet is not the most flavorful steak, I would have chosen to add something other than butter to finish it. But my wife moved even that aside.
The garlic mashed baby red potatoes on one side of our entrées were curiously slightly sweet, and the roasted cauliflower with bacon and Parmesan on the other was cooked to perfection. My wife takes overdone vegetables (and especially cauliflower) seriously, and she made a point of complimenting Chef Shawn when he visited the table.
It should be mentioned that the management of Farradday's graciously offered us and other members of the media complimentary dinners for the purposes of review. It was a memorable evening, and I was impressed.
We did not have wine with dinner, but one probably should. Farradday's wine list boasts an "Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator, with more than 100 wines divided into roughly a dozen categories. If you wish to trust the house, Farraday's will pour flights of three different wines for you to enjoy. Prices of $18, $27, or $36 will determine which bins are selected for sampling.
So no wine, but I did order coffee as soon as I could after being seated. I was served a cup the size of a small soup bowl, brought with a delicate creamer and another mirror spoon no bigger than a thimble. My empty cup was never refilled. Rather the cup was replaced, as though to refill it from a decanter or one of those fishbowl-like pots was something that just shouldn't be done.
Farradday's entrées begin at $28, and soup or salad or side dish will cost extra. Averages for those items hover around $7 but, again, will serve two. Expect to pay around $11 for appetizers. I would suggest that the prices for the main course are a bit inflated; it strikes me that similarly priced and prepared dinners elsewhere in town would include other courses. It also strikes me that this may be my only criticism of the restaurant.
Should you visit, I would strongly recommend an enthusiastic sampling of the fresh breads brought to your table. Our basket contained beautiful sun-dried tomato, raisin walnut, and asiago varieties, and panini rolls, with garlic and herbed butters to spread. And between courses, my wife and I also ordered French onion soup baked golden brown, the beef stock savory and swimming with onions, and Caesar salad - a hillock of Romaine lettuce tossed and topped with snowflakes of buttery Parmesan cheese. Unadventurous to be sure, but classic.
The full menu can be viewed at IsleOfCapriCasinos.com/bettendorf/dining-farradday-dinner.aspx, but we are told to expect a menu change in the not-too-distant future. Chef Shawn will introduce another collection of upscale preparations in American cuisine - a new suit, so to speak, for Farradday's to wear.
Chris DeWilde spent more than 25 years working for restaurants in and around the Quad Cities, from busboy to management.