Grotto, RW--is it always like this?
Our meal at Grotto tonight was a bizarre mixture of the fundamentally adequate, the woefully misbegotten and the just plain freaky.
My main question: does anyone know if the chef at Grotto was perhaps badly frightened by a Maillard reaction as a child? I was served a side dish of wild mushrooms that were as limp, bland and flavorless as a plate full of limp, bland, flavorless things. As for my entree, I'm perfectly willing to admit that it was potentially a major mistake to order steak frites at a putatively Italian restaurant, but come on, this is a standard restaurant item that any decent chef should be able to put together. The fries were adequate, but the thin-sliced steak seemed to be carefully drained of anything resembling flavor, and I'm fairly certain that the sauce on top consisted entirely of water and red food coloring thickened with a little cornstarch. The brussels sprouts were also cooked by whoever was responsible for the mushrooms, I'm afraid. (Seriously, Grotto folks: caramelization be tasty. You might wanna look into it.)
That said, the opening dish of mussels with tomatoes and bread crumbs was quite lovely, and the dessert was...interesting. The menu said it was chocolate pudding, but for some reason, I was served about three-quarters of a cup of ice-cold ganache. If you've ever dreamed about eating the inside of a chocolate truffle the size of a softball, head over to Grotto. They can hook you up.
So is this what Grotto is always like, or do they just not bring their A game whenever Restaurant Week comes around? Can't imagine why, because I have little if any desire to go back now.
I've had a handful of good meals at Grotto - none restaurant week. Admittedly, I tend to go there when I'm craving Italian food and stick to the pasta dishes or specials. For some reason I can't seem to not order the gnocchi every time.
I'm sorry you had such a bad experience.
Several years ago, I had a string of really horrible RW meals and have since decided not to participate (like Aquitaine - great food typically, horrible food RW). To me, the "cost savings" just wasn't worth a crummy meal and rushed service.
I don't think it's always like that, maybe just an off night. I've been to Grotto during RW (which was the 1st time I tried it) and had a great meal. I have been just as impressed on subsequent visits. I'm surprised that your meal was so bland. If anything, the dishes I have had seem over the top with flavor and richness - the gnocchi w/ short ribs for example.
If you choose to give them another shot, try some of their pasta dishes. I've always had luck with them. The osso buco last year was great, but enormous.
I've actually been there on a no-no night--V-Day--and still had a terrific meal. And I agree w/ Ali G that if anything they err on the side of OMG-this-is-just-too-much-richness.
Based on my experiences, that sounds like an off night.
I had dinner there quite recently, and it was very fine: steak/mushroom fondue, buffalo mozzarella "carozza", spaghetti with meatballs, cavatelli with sausage, side of Brussels sprouts (which I thought were great, nice and roasty). Found a modest bottle of red (Spanish, I think), had some banana bread pudding afterward that we didn't really need. Very good service on a packed night (late-ish on a weekend night). Had started with cocktails first at No. 9. A near-perfect evening out.