Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bloom, 40 Monroe Center - 7/14/10

Update:  Bloom closed its doors, effective 11/1/10.

We’ve dined here at least four times previously and always love the food but hate how long it takes to arrive. It’s never been crowded, which makes the delay inexplicable. But the food is relatively creative and we think it's worth the wait. Located on a corner, the restaurant has an open design with exposed round duct work, wood trim, and warm colors. It’s not a cozy or intimate setting but it has an attractive, trendy atmosphere.

There were ten appetizers offered and the pressed quail stood out among them. Accompanied by peas, almonds, and drizzled lemon vinaigrette, the dish had a nice interplay of flavors. 

Next up was crispy pork belly, served with lentils, glazed turnips, mustard, and red onion/honey jam; a little heavy on the lentils but otherwise beautifully presented. The pork belly was done well with a crispy top but still retained great taste.

Our second main dish was seared whitefish, paired with crispy bacon, raisins, and multiple carrot preparations. This was interesting and so creative; carrots came pureed, marinated, and sauteed, and one cooked carrot was on the plate with a slice of bacon resting in it perpendicular. Who does that? Just the people at Bloom. We don’t know exactly what the “whitefish” was, but it was expertly seasoned and delicious.

Because of our past experiences, this time we checked the timings. Our appetizer arrived in 25 minutes and our server let us know after 20 minutes that it would be up shortly. The main dishes arrived 40 minutes after ordering. If you’re not in a hurry, enjoying your conversation and some bottled beer, this wait time is acceptable. But we did order our main dishes before our appetizer arrived, which we usually don’t do. There was only one server tending the tables but with just three or four tables filled at one time, no additional servers were needed. She was friendly and efficient.

Bloom offers a weekend brunch that is rumored to be excellent. Multiple menus are posted online. If you like a pleasant environment, are not in a hurry, and enjoy original, innovative cuisine, visit Bloom.
Bloom on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 12, 2010

Six One Six, 235 Louis St, NW - 7/7/10

Located on the ground floor of the J.W. Marriott, Six One Six swirls around the front of the building and overlooks the Grand River. We’ve been here several times before and it’s always been a positive experience.

The restaurant is horseshoe shaped, and the decor is warm and tasteful. Open lounge seating along the windows greets customers first. From here, one moves into the bar or down a short hall, both of which coalesce into the dining room. The bar faces the river and has a few high tables for two right at the windows. It moves seamlessly into the dining room, which continues along the windows, contains a few center booths, moves past a chef’s counter with an open kitchen, and circles back to a small semi-private draped dining area. In addition, outdoor seating is available on what they call the “jdek”. The entire atmosphere is sophisticated and swanky.

From our table we could see the river and the restaurant’s garden. Like several other restaurants in Grand Rapids (e.g., The Winchester, Blue Water Grill), Six One Six emphasizes buying and serving local food, and this philosophy carried them into growing their own. At each of these restaurants, one is free to walk about the garden and look at the soon-to-be ingredients in your next dish.

The lunch menu is small, interesting, and creative: seven appetizers and eight entrees. We started with California Rolls: dungeness crab (west coast crab named after Dungeness, Washington), cucumber, avocado, and lemon mayonnaise. It came beautifully prepared and presented. The flavors combined wonderfully and the crab tasted fresh.  

Our first main dish was the brick oven grinder: smoked ham, spicy coppa, sopressata, oregano aioli, and provolone, accompanied by a very attractive spring market salad. The sandwich arrived smoking hot and delicious. It had a subtle salty/sweet taste and was enthusiastically consumed. The salad was fresh and flavorful.

Our second selection was the wild ramp and morel quiche that was prepared with dancing goat creamery chevre. When asked where they were getting morels in July, our server thought that they had been preserved in some way, maybe pickled (I guess we could have asked the same thing about ramps). Accompanying the quiche were some mixed greens: mud lake cress, trillium petite lettuce, and icicle radish, with a little balsamic dressing. (If you’re unfamiliar with some of these descriptors, it’s because they are names of local farms, noted for chemical-free product.) The quiche was exquisite. The fresh goat cheese blended superbly with the eggs and it was cooked to perfection. But the mixed greens were made too bitter by the cress; cress tends to become that way during the heat of summer, and we’ve certainly had plenty of that recently.  

Service was satisfactory. When our server figured out that we were leisurely diners, she stopped coming by every five minutes but remained professional and friendly. Park in the J.W. Marriott parking garage and the restaurant will validate your ticket. Multiple menus are online along with additional information about the restaurant. But you should sample this ambience in person.


Six One Six on Urbanspoon                   

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Winchester, 648 Wealthy St SE - 6/30/10

We’re fans of this restaurant but haven’t been there since 12/30/09 (see previous review). We’ve attempted to have dinner there many times on various weekends, but could never get in. (If by some chance you would get in, you won’t be able to hear over the din.) It’s a popular spot, no doubt about it. So lunch is a better bet, and a later lunch time is all the better. Today was a sunny day in the 70's and we wanted outdoor dining. It was time to revisit The Winchester.

The patio alongside the restaurant is long and narrow; it holds four tables for 4 near the front and another three for 4 in the rear. Four small tables for 2 are attached to the exterior wall and a long counter runs through the middle with about two dozen bar stools facing each other. There’s also a counter along the parking lot side with about eight bar stools. Although that counter was in the sun, diners face the small parking lot; not so great. The sunny tables for 4 were all occupied so we opted for a table for 2 against the wall. After about 10 minutes, one table was freed up and we quickly moved to the sunny side of the patio. From our point of view, adding more tables and reducing the counters would be an improvement, but claiming to be more pub than restaurant, the Winchester is probably fine with how things are.

The menu doesn’t match the online menu but we enjoyed the humorous preface to the undercooked food warning, “the legal stuff.” (They really should say, you won’t get anything medium-rare, sorry.) The menu isn’t very large but for us that’s a positive; they concentrate on making a few dishes really well.

We started with the Pierogies: handmade, containing butternut squash and goat cheese, and served with braised cabbage, drawn brown butter, and Sobie Meats (local producer) bacon. You may have had Pierogies during Pulaski days or otherwise, but these are the Winchester version and are incredibly delicious. The dough was perfect - thin and not overdone. It was a real taste treat.

Our first main dish was Surf and Turf: grilled tri-tip steak, handmade crab cakes, avocado puree, and smoked paprika aioli. In our experience, when we order beef medium-rare, our odds are less than 50% that we’ll get it. Today was no exception. The steak still retained flavor but was medium at best, and closer to medium well. Tri-trip steak was an interesting offering (see hanger steak at Blue Water Grill); it’s a part of the cow that used to be consigned to ground beef or soup meat. The trick is that it’s so lean it is easy to overcook, as it was today. The avocado puree was a little overwhelming for the very good crab cakes but was easily corrected by portion-control.

Our second dish was Chicken Bhuna: blackened chicken breast with red curry spiced tomato sauce, haricot verts (french green beans), and basmati rice. A few minutes after we  ordered, our server returned to offer an alternative for the rice: mashed potatoes or a vegetable medley. The chef had informed her that the rice would be 13 minutes to prepare. We’re fine with 13 minutes (and loved the specificity) and it was definitely worth the wait. The dish was great - nice spice level, tasty chicken, fresh beans from their garden across the street, and perfectly prepared rice. It was a wonderful combination and blending of flavors.

Each dish was beautifully presented, and service was prompt and friendly but not rushed; our tab was under $40.00. If you appreciate creative cuisine based on fresh, locally produced ingredients, you will love The Winchester, particularly on a nice, sunny day on the patio.

And one last note: the owners took the name of the restaurant from the hilarious, zombie cult classic, “Shaun of the Dead,” which is a wonderful touch. "Come and get it -  it’s a running buffet!" "If we hole up, I wanna be somewhere familiar, I wanna know where the exits are, and I wanna be allowed to smoke."

It’s not a buffet, and you can’t smoke, but you can quite comfortably hole up here. And don’t say the zed-word.

The Winchester on Urbanspoon