Signs of trouble in the kitchen

The waiter raves, but the chef says no


February 20, 2003|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A friend recently spoke approvingly of an experience at one of the area's better-known steakhouses. She told me that after she had ordered, the waiter returned to say the potatoes would not be served that evening because they were not up to the chef's standards.

When something like that happens once, it's a sign of a caring chef. But when it happens four times in the course of a single meal, it's a sign of problems in the kitchen.

That was our experience at the Grille, a restaurant and bar that opened in Canton last November.

With its industrial-chic decor and extensive bar-food menu, the Grille seems geared to a young, urban crowd. The concept is fine, but the execution needs work.

For starters, our booth was uncomfortable because the table was too low. Then our waiter told us the crab dip was too watery to be served that night. Little did we know his words would mark the start of a bad trend.

Over the course of the meal, our appetizers would be delayed so the chef could redo the calamari, the flounder would be deemed sub-par, and the tiramisu that our waiter raved about would be unavailable.

The menu was so lengthy - with lots of seafood, burgers, steaks, pasta and chicken - that we asked the waiter for some recommendations. He was clearly familiar with the choices and spoke enthusiastically about his favorite dishes, steering us away from ones he thought less special.

Unfortunately, the food did not justify the fuss.

We decided to try several seafood appetizers at once by ordering the seafood sampler, which, as promised on the menu, was enough food for two people. The fried calamari was chewy and decent, but the quarter-sized crab cake "sliders" were tough and almost burnt-tasting. The deep-fried Singapore shrimp had too much batter and were basted in a too-sweet sauce that looked and tasted like orange marmalade. The crab bruschetta paired crab meat and salsa on rounds of French bread. It was a combination I could have created in my own kitchen.

A crab dip pretzel, recommended by our waiter, was basically creamy crab dip slathered on a soft pretzel. It was unimaginative, but fairly addictive.

Chicken St. Michael's, another recommendation, consisted of chicken and ham topped with a healthy dollop of crab imperial, a fairly tasty mix of crab meat and stuffing that was, unfortunately, more stuffing than crab. Sides were diced rosemary-roasted potatoes that looked gray and tasted bland, and sliced carrots that were still firm and had a touch of sweetness.

The sausage and meatball marinara featured a huge portion of al dente pasta with chunks of meat on top. Although the rich tomato sauce was nice, the meat was not memorable.

We ordered the stuffed flounder imperial on our waiter's suggestion, only to be told that grouper would be substituted because the flounder was not up to par that night. The grouper was a touch overcooked, and topped with the same crab imperial and served with the same sides as the chicken dish.

Desserts change daily, and our waiter told us we absolutely had to have the tiramisu. We ordered it, only to be informed a few minutes later that it was not available. We doubt it was sold out, because it was early in the evening and the restaurant was nearly empty. For our troubles, the apologetic waiter brought us two bowls of rice pudding on the house.

The pudding was thick and sweet, with a dusting of cinnamon on top. The waiter didn't rave about it, and he didn't tell us of any troubles that the chef had preparing it. He simply put it in front of us, and it tasted just fine.

The Grille

Where: 2324 Boston St.

Open: For dinner seven days a week

Prices: Appetizers, $7.50-$9; entrees $5.50-$18.75

Credit cards: All major cards

Call: 410-327-3266

Food: * *

Service: * *

Atmosphere: * *

Excellent * * * *; Good * * *; Fair * *; Poor *

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