Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Monterey Grille, 9175 Cherry Valley Ave, Caledonia - 9/13/11

Edit: The restaurant has closed as of June 9, 2013.

Looking for new places to try via the Grand Rapids Press restaurant guide, we were brought to Caledonia today. It was very pleasant weather and we were happy to see an outdoor patio with only one other table occupied. We walked inside and waited about ten minutes for a person to appear.
We peeked into the dining room and into the bar but nary a soul was around. Finally a waitress appeared and when she started to seat us in the dining room, we asked if we could sit outside. She said certainly and then handed us our menus and silverware and said to seat ourselves and she’d be out there to serve us shortly. Weirdest thing ever.
She took and delivered our beverage order promptly and then didn’t return for 20 minutes. We just wanted to start with an appetizer and finally walked inside to get this accomplished.

The only interesting-sounding appetizer was firecrackers (7.95): hard-twisted eggroll shells stuffed with southwest chicken, cheese, black beans and sweet corn. Promised to be served golden brown with ranchero salsa, it did not disappoint.
We were a little dismayed when they first appeared as they looked over-cooked and dried out. But one taste proved us wrong. The shells were crispy but the contents were moist and full of flavor. The accompanying salsa was house-made and nicely spicy.

The menu is huge and obviously trying to be all things to all people. Breakfast alone covers two full pages and it may be worth a breakfast stop sometime. The rest of the menu consists of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, salads, pasta, entrees, seafood, ribs, and six chef features.

Although we were there for lunch, we both chose dinner selections and first up was the florentine chicken dinner (12.95). The grilled chicken breast came with spinach and house alfredo sauce, and was topped with mozzarella cheese. For our two side selections, our choices were redskin mashed potatoes and a side salad.
The alfredo sauce was good but overwhelmed by everything else thrown at it. The potatoes were excellent but the gravy was way too salty. And the chicken? Chewy and underdone; very disappointing and throw-away quality. The salad was fine. We like to order the house dressing when possible but theirs was ranch and we both took a pass and ordered Italian.
Next up was the ribs and shrimp combo for 15.95 and these sides were not optional. It came with the side salad and fries. The aforementioned salad was fine and the fries were nicely seasoned. The slow-braised pork ribs were basted with house-made barbecue sauce but were cooked too quickly and were not falling-off-the-bone tender. The shrimp were hardly to be found anywhere under the breading.
All in all it was a disappointing dining experience but we can see how the cozy bar and nice outdoor patio will have their local fans. The restaurant has been in business since 2001 but no internet presence could be found. 
Monterey Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nu-Thai Bistro, 2055 28 St SE - 8/18/11

This fairly large retail, strip center has housed a great variety of businesses over the years, and this Thai restaurant is a wonderful addition. Thai restaurants are springing up all over Grand Rapids and this is one you should visit.
The restaurant is small, and has a smaller menu to match, which is very refreshing. Five booths and four tables populate the space, and the booths have divider curtains for a sense of privacy. Unfortunately, mirrors on the walls defeat the privacy curtains. Heavy plastic is placed over the tablecloths but the setting is otherwise very pleasant and comfortable.
From the four-page menu, we ordered Shumai Pork to start but were informed that it wasn’t available today. So we opted for potstickers that were served with Shumai sauce. They were perfectly prepared for our tastes, very lightly fried, and the sauce was tastier than the usual soy/ginger sauce that accompanies potstickers.
Before they arrived, however, and immediately after ordering, we were served Tom Yum soup that was soon followed by a Spring Roll for each of us, complimentary.
The soup was a Thai hot and sour broth that contained mushroom, onions, basil, tomatoes, lemon grass, and lime leaves. The taste was very interesting with a subtle but distinct citrus flavor. The vegetarian spring rolls were nicely prepared as well.

Our first main selection was from the curry category: Panang with chicken, green and red peppers, string beans, broccoli, basil, and baby corn, with coconut milk and Thai Panang curry. We like spicy and this dish came as ordered. The vegetables were all there as promised and the chicken was tender.
Our second dish came from the Nu-Thai specials, Sesame Chicken. The fried meat had a thin coating of breading and was served with red and green peppers, white onions, peapods, and carrots, and it was all stir-fried with sesame sauce. Of the two dishes, and although the curry was good, the Sesame Chicken was the favorite.  
Instead of having to choose between spice levels of one through ten, we had only to select from four. We both went “three” and were very satisfied. Our server did not try to talk us out of it but did confirm that we like our food spicy.

Service was perfect, prices are reasonable (we came in under $26.00), the atmosphere is not quite intimate but close to cozy, and the food is very good. Menus are online and the owners have no visible facebook or twitter presence. And don’t bring your American Express card.
 Nu-Thai Bistro on Urbanspoon