Situated in a strip mall packed with an inordinately large number of dentists and a few inexpensive eateries, Erie's Injoy is a more rarefied venue than its surroundings would indicate.
Inside, a modern European interior heavy on white tones and expansive windows, makes for a casual, yet elegant, ambience.
For a weeknight dinner, my dining companion and I opted for patio seats, a scenic spot with a pleasant view of a neighboring golf course's greens. Of course, I resisted the temptation to taunt passing players by shouting out "Miss, Noonan!"
Echoing the decor, the menu is heavy on Mediterranean influences — and Injoy's definition of this region is more inclusive than most. It's easy enough to see European flourishes in such menu items as Bistro steak and tomato gnocchi, but it's also apparent that this eatery, to its considerable credit, also looks to North Africa for uncommon and bold flavors.
Our server informed us that the restaurant strives to draw upon local and ethically sourced ingredients. Selections are meant to be shared, and the menu is divided into tiny, small and large dishes. It's worth noting that while our server was engaging and friendly, there were a few gaps in service that may have been attributable to the kitchen. Granted, Injoy has only been open since spring, and one can hope that this issue is resolvable so the quality of service matches up to the fare.
Two starter courses were darn-near perfect. While the term "farm-to-table" is perhaps bandied about loosely, my initial reaction to both of these dishes was that these, in a good way, epitomized the spirit of this term. From the "tiny" category came the $9 marrow bean hummus, a highly successfully and fresh take on this meatless starter (and a larger portion than its characterization would indicate).
Compared to versions heavy on garlic, tahini and lemon, this dish featured a more mellow, but no-less compelling flavor profile that was both buttery and smooth. A lower-key drizzle of garlic-laced oil rounded out the flavor, and crisp, farm-fresh vegetables including carrot and diminutive radishes, as well as delicate lavash, made for fine accompaniments.
Warming spices, with hints of perhaps cinnamon and cumin, evoked African cookery, brought a distinctive note to the small $8 roasted beets, a delight for the eye as well as the palate. Orange juice played well with the spices, as did a sprinkling of tangy feta. The beets were perfectly prepared with respect to texture, and the earthy savor was ably complemented by sharper greens.
A $27 large plate of skewered lamb spiedini came atop a compelling bed of plump green lentils. While this namesake's dish was Italian, the seasonings were both warm and bold, evoking flavors one would associate with Morocco or Tunisia. Chunks of lamb were lean and packed with flavor, indicative of high quality, but overcooking stood in the way of perfection, making for a chewier than desired consistency.
The prawn farfalle, priced at $27, was a more successful endeavor, as the domestically sourced seafood was spot-on when it came to clean flavor and meaty consistency. Fresh and silky pasta was also a highlight of this dish, and the farfalle was hearty, but not too heavy, characterized by optimal al dente cooking. Kernels of Olathe corn contributed buttery sweetness, an appealing element to set off the prawns, as was green escarole.
House-made gelato, at $4 a scoop, was disappointing. The vanilla ricotta wasn't as deeply flavored as one would have hoped, and the olive oil selection lacked the peppery fruitiness found in other interpretations. Regrettably, the olive oil scoop also possessed the crystallized texture of a gelato that had melted and refrozen. On the other hand, a $8 budino delighted, with custardy vanilla accented with a berry coulis and topped with ripe strawberries and a crunchy chocolate crumble.
The star of the sweet show, though, was the $8 strawberry angel cake, a traditional interpretation showcasing first-rate fruit, straightforward whipped cream, and a light, homespun cake.
For a newer eatery, Injoy shows great promise, and could grow into being the premier East County dining spot. Improvements to timing of service and consistency of quality when it comes to the courses would go a long way in boosting this venue to the next level. Even now, though, the fresh and original flavors drawing upon high-quality ingredients give Injoy a solid foundation.