Thoughtful dishes, inconsistent service at Grille 620

New Ellicott City spot will likely be a big hit

November 26, 2013|By Kit Waskom Pollard, For The Baltimore Sun

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A businessman, a Sardinian and a former Raven walk into a restaurant — have you heard this one before?

Jokes aside, that's the trio behind Grille 620, which opened in October in Ellicott City's new Turf Valley Towne Square. Ali Sadeghi, who also owns Clarksville's River Hill Sports Grille, is the businessman, former Raven Adalius Thomas is a financial backer and Fabio Mura, formerly of Chazz: A Bronx Original, is the Sardinian-born executive chef.

Grille 620 offers a lot to love but the restaurant is still finding its footing. But once the kitchen and wait staff work out all their kinks, they'll have a great restaurant on their hands.

Scene & Decor On a recent Thursday night just before seven, the bar at Grille 620 was buzzy and the dining room was half full. By 7:30 nearly every table was taken.

With large windows on two sides of the building, Grille 620 has a pleasant view of a central courtyard and outdoor fireplace. Decorated with distressed wood accents and moodily lit, the space felt modern. But the decor took a backseat to the food.

Drinks Grille 620 has a short cocktail menu that felt current but not too challenging. Our drinks — the Lady in Red ($8) and Hemingway ($8) — were both fun, pink and fruity.

Later, glasses of ripe Bodini malbec ($9) and grassy Fernlands sauvignon blanc ($8) did justice to a well-appointed, though not overly long, selection of wines by the glass.

Appetizers Mura has complete control over his menu, letting his Sardinian roots show in dishes like grilled octopus served over a salad of white beans and arugula dressed in lemon vinaigrette ($11.95).

Mura's octopus distinguishes itself from others with its smart salad and tasty char. Our only complaint was that the dressing was too light. We would have enjoyed more of its lemony flavor.

Entrees A gorgeous New York strip ($33.95), sourced from Creekstone Farms in Kansas, was a satisfying ode to hearty American appetites. With a rich red wine sauce and a side of pancetta-studded Brussels sprouts, the steak was well-seasoned and smoky from the grill.

However, it also arrived rare, though we requested medium rare. Fortunately, the meat's quality was excellent, so we didn't mind.

The Thai bouillabaisse ($25.95), a seafood stew including cod, shrimp, mussels, clams, and one large scallop, had the opposite problem. When it arrived, a pile of seafood sitting in a puddle of lemongrass-scented broth, it was just right, and our first few bites of scallop were glorious.

Unfortunately, as we ate, the fish kept cooking, so by the end, the cod was tough and overdone. That's often the case with seafood stews, but still not fun.

The broth was bright and full of flavor, though it delivered an occasional overly salty bite. But with a thick slice of grilled bread and more seafood than we could handle, it was an all-around good dish.

Service Our food was successful, with just quibbles here and there, but the service was less consistent. Early in our meal, our waiter was almost overzealous, going into great detail about our options and the fabulous menu.

Drinks, bread, appetizers and entrees arrived in a timely manner, followed by … nada. Our waiter, who had been so enthusiastic, disappeared entirely. He didn't check on us at all until after a manager cleared our plates. Finally, then, we were able to look at a dessert menu.

Dessert Unfortunately, by the time our dessert arrived (ages after we ordered it), we weren't in the mood for sweets. The s'mores in a jar ($7) — chocolate, graham crackers and gooey marshmallow sauce — looked cute but was actually a great example of what not to put in a jar.

The concoction was pleasantly sweet but cold and hard to scoop with our spoons. The constraints of the jar didn't help. We eventually gave up, thinking it might be time for the ubiquitous dish-in-a-jar trend to fade away.

But we ended on a high note, with a French press full of fresh coffee ($3.50), rich with flavor and aroma.

Fortified by caffeine, we focused on the highlights: expertly grilled octopus, interesting sauces and top-notch ingredients. The glitches will work themselves out with time. And when they do, Grille 620 will be a serious force in the local dining scene.

Grille 620

Back story: Grille 620 opened in the new Turf Valley Towne Square in October. The owners, Ali Sadeghi, the owner of River Hill Sports Grille in Clarksville (and dad to a daughter born on 6/20), and former Raven Adalius Thomas, gave Executive Chef Fabio Mura complete control over the menu, where he shows off his creativity with quality ingredients.

Parking: Lots around shopping center

Signature dish: White beans and arugula dressed with lemony vinaigrette make a great backdrop for charred chunks of grilled octopus.

TVs: four

Where: 11099 Resort Road, Ellicott City

Contact: 410-203-0620;

Open: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday (bar open later)

Credit Cards: All major

Reservations: Accepted

Bottom line: Despite inconsistent service, Grille 620's creative menu shines.

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