1837 W. Frankford
Stripped bare of its old Agave Azul comfort, the space housing I Orchid now looks like a warehouse which several unimaginative factory laborers engaged in a design on a dime feud, one intent on setting up a pub, another a white tablecloth restaurant, the third interested in the lounge scene and a guy who just wants performances.
To wit: there's the blank industrial floor, empty walls and open rafters. Into this, they've fitted a wood-finished bar with fiberboard (judging by the appearance) furniture behind it. Then there's the mismatched lounge seating along one wall and a staged sharing the dining area.
It all just seems like a mistake.
I Orchid pushes the nightclub theme. They host "Vegas Nights" every Friday, complete with acts that--according to the flyer--"rival Circe De Soli." Clever. On Wednesdays there's a bikini promotion backed by "Carrollton's Best Live Music"--which is really quite funny, when you think about it. I mean, these guys don't overreach.
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The bartender (doubling as server) looks as if he hitched from lower Greenville. But he's cordial and effective--perhaps not enough to put you completely at ease if you came for a quiet dinner, but a solid professional, nonetheless.
I Orchid's menu attempts to trot at least part of the globe and smash some of it together. So there's tandoor chicken stuffed jalapenos, which they could call 'uncrusted gator tempura' jalapenos if they wanted. They may have the proper oven, there's just no way to really tell once the furnace of surprisingly intense peppers turns your palate into a smoldering stretch of deforested Amazon land. Really, if you like heat and fried food, this is your dish.
Their version of chicken biryani tries to avoid the cultural collision, leaning on the traditional flavoring of cardamom, cumin and such to create a light, bright yet earthy entree. Oh, the rice can be on the dry side and the play of spices lacks balance, running up and down in volume like a seesaw. Given the setting, however, you'd expect far less.
The restaurant feels unfinished. Probably worth a happy hour peek, although not for a full dinner. But at least it is interesting, in the 'just what the hell is going on here' sense.