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East Coast Grill - Jumped the shark?

Bob Dobalina Mar 26, 2007 06:25 AM

I was a little less than enthused about this ECG visit -

Arrived at a 1/3 full restaurant and my buddy and I were initially relegated to the Lava Lounge, or whatever it is - that area of the restaurant behind the bar that is dark - the hostess tries to sell us on how great it would be to sit back there, all by ourselves, because we can get some drinks in a pineapple. Puhleeze! I picked up our menus, promptly brought them back to her and sat down at the bar.

Started with a half dozen Duxbury oysters - not that knowledgeable, but they seemed small to me. First one was right on - the second and third tasted a little off, but I am none the worse for wear.

Apps of #1 Tuna App and one wet bone - The wet bone was very good, meaty, a little bit of bite to the bbq sauce over the hoisin-y base. The Tuna app was quite boring - cubes of tuna, some sort of green underneath - some sort of oil with what looked to be cayenne sprinked within - basically no flavor - very underwhelming.

My pal got a rack of the dry-rub ribs - he was quite pleased, devouring most of them. It came without absolutely no sides and one of the bartenders must have heard him say something, because he fetched a side of slaw and a hunk of cornbread. I thought it was pretty unusual that it came without any sides, but kudos to the bartender to paying attention.

I had the "Monstrous" pork chop with sides of bacon-studded shredded brussels sprouts and pureed sweet potato. The pork chop was about 3 inches thick, but when I cut to the middle, it was very rare. I am not too knowledgeable about pork, but it looked raw to me. I asked the bartenders what they thought and they insisted that it was perfectly safe and reasonable to eat it at that level of doneness. I shrugged, ate around it mostly, and took it home - it will make a good leftover after I slice thin and cook it the rest of the way. The brussels sprouts were VERY salty - sweet potatoes were pretty ordinary but necessary given the salt of the other two parts.

I don't know why I am so down on the place the next morning - The bartenders were extremely friendly - I think they were bored. I ate well, but aside from the wet bone, there was nothing awesome, the food seemed a little ordinary. Maybe it was because of the Sunday night - maybe I ordered poorly. Just came away feeling not quite as pleased as I have been in the past. The whole thing sort of had a weird vibe about it. The banishment to the back room really set the tone, like we were undesirable customers - amazing how that can color an experience.

  1. yumyum Apr 29, 2007 01:59 PM

    Check out the review in the Full Comp about East Coast Grill. I thought it was surprising that a few things had to go back to the kitchen and the writeup was still as favorable as it was, although the take on TFC seems to be more focussed on the waitstaff and FOH in general than the kitchen. Nice shout-out to Slim, too.

    1. t
      tallullah Mar 26, 2007 09:47 AM

      I don't think I've ever been blown away by a meal at the ECG. Last time we were there, it was for one of the pig roasts, the jamaican one. I was wildly dissapointed. The pork was completely flavorless...no jerk flavor at all. My boyfriend makes better jerk pork at home. The sides were fine, but not remarkable or memorable. The food wasn't horrible, but it definately wasn't work the $45 price tag it came with.

      1. g
        Gabatta Mar 26, 2007 06:35 AM

        I prefer to sit in the Lava Lounge. It is a bit quieter and not as cramped as some other sections. It is all a matter of personal preference. Sounds like you had a bad experience as you were put off by that (which is perfectly understandable). However that is quite different from having "jumped the shark". I find ECG to be as good as ever on my last few visits.

        Also, despite what the bartenders thought. You should have felt free to send the pork chop back and have it cooked to your preference.

        16 Replies
        1. re: Gabatta
          Bob Dobalina Mar 26, 2007 06:48 AM

          If the place had been packed, I would not have had any issues with the lava lounge. But there was no one at the bar, no one at the two-tops near the front, only one or two tables in the back room outside the LL, maybe half-full was over-estimating. I felt like I was being put in the Loser's Lounge, in the dark, rear closet, hidden away...

          (And I thought I was concealing my humped back and masking my terrible b.o.... - ;)

          As for the pork, if it's ok to eat it that rare, fine. I eat beef that rare, but rare pork is still a no-no in my mind, even though I think I know better. I wanted to trust their opinion and did enough not to send it back - but in retrospect, I think it was just not properly cooked.

          It just seemed boring and lazy - the funky and small oysters, the flavorless tuna, no sides for the ribs, mashed sweet potato and brussels sprouts - not that interesting, like the things I have there in the past, which have showed imagination and creativity.

          There is no place in Boston that I know that you can get an excellent raw bar, authentic barbeque, awesome fish, etc., but I just hope ECG is not beginning to rest on its laurels.

          1. re: Bob Dobalina
            k
            kate used to be 50 Mar 26, 2007 07:49 AM

            I wonder if the focus has shifted to the All Star Sandwich Bar and the quality control at ECG has suffered.

            I LOVE ECG, so I hope this is just a blip and not a down-turn.

            1. re: kate used to be 50
              d
              DoubleMan Mar 26, 2007 08:16 AM

              My recent trips to ECG have all been consistently great. My trips to ASSBAR, however, have not. I think the place is getting progressively better.

              As far as a shift in focus---I have never seen Schlesinger in ASSBAR, but see him every time I go to ECG.

              1. re: kate used to be 50
                b
                Blumie Mar 26, 2007 09:48 AM

                I've seen absolutely no change at ECG as a result of the opening of ASSBar. Kristy and Becky are still running the front-of-house operations, the wait staff is al the same, and although I don't know the kitchen staff as well, they all look familiar to me when I'm there.

                Although I love the place, ECG always has had the ability to disappoint. That's not a criticism: it's the same at virtually any restaurant that's as willing as they are to mix things up, try new things, and keep moving forward.

                As for Bob's review, I understand that the Lava Lounge may seem like Siberia, but many of us do prefer to sit there. And on a slow night, I'm sure the hostess was trying to spread customers among the waitstaff. That said, when I go, I usually survey who's working and specifically ask to be seated in someone's section, if possible (the wait staff is wonderful at ECG, but my 7-year-old prefers to sit with Jess or Meaghan, and I also like Sharon and Arthur), rather than going where they otherwise tell me to go, and they've never been anything other than very accommodating of my request.

                As for the raw tuna, that's one of my favorite aps, but it's a far more subtle taste than most of their other dishes. If, like me, you're gonna coat your tastebuds with inner beauty over the course of the evening, be sure to eat the raw tuna first while you can still taste anything!

                1. re: Blumie
                  b
                  BJK Mar 26, 2007 10:01 AM

                  My wife and I love the Lava Lounge for one reason and one reason only ... the pupu platter! Talk about putting ECG's best foot forward, it's about 6 appetizers in one, usually including a couple of ribs, some wings, some shrimp, and some kind of spring roll, all with interesting rubs, sauces, and/or fillings.

                  BK

                  1. re: Blumie
                    v
                    veryveryrosalind Mar 26, 2007 04:47 PM

                    Blumie is exactly right--the hostesses at the ECG (like hostesses everywhere, I imagine) try to spread the customers over the different areas of the restaurant so that each server can be equally busy (and make equal tips). Early in the evening or on a slow night, the Lava Lounge can feel dull--empty and a couple of degrees colder than the main room. Some people do prefer it, but if you don't, just say so--if there are other tables, they should be willing to re-seat you. It's not a judgment. Even a restaurant that popular has to please people to make a profit--they can't afford to act like bouncers at a club and intentionally piss customers off.

                2. re: Bob Dobalina
                  ChefJune Mar 26, 2007 08:35 AM

                  It's okay to eat pork fairly rare these days. I say "fairly," because it's the only meat I don't prefer "seignant." "The new pork" is so lean that if you cook it to well done, it will be dry inside.

                  1. re: ChefJune
                    Dax Mar 26, 2007 09:58 AM

                    I agree it was probably safe to eat, although I don't like the texture/feel fleshy pork, basically because I still associate it with the trichinosis scare. I much prefer my cooked pork to be medium rare and a nice rosy pink.

                    The CDC indicates that on average, there were only 12 reported cased of trichinosis per year for the years 1997-2001 because of legislation basically outlawing raw garbage feed in commerical hog production.

                    1. re: Dax
                      Bob Dobalina Mar 26, 2007 12:33 PM

                      For the record, the middle was translucent and clear, not pink. Almost like the inside of a tuna steak that is seared on the outside. Anyway, if I come down with the rare case of trichinosis, at least I have it well documented in cyberspace on who to blame. :-X

                      FYI, it was Sunday night - much quieter than Saturday.

                      Thanks for all the feedback on the lava lounge and the pupu platter. I will definitely reconsider the next time I stop in.

                      1. re: Bob Dobalina
                        yumyum Mar 26, 2007 12:37 PM

                        No. It shouldn't be that rare. I am eating pork (at home and out) more pink than the old days, but it shouldn't look like black n blue tuna by any stretch. Next time, send it back, no matter what the waitrons say. They usually are very chill about that kind of thing.

                        1. re: Bob Dobalina
                          k
                          katzzz Mar 27, 2007 06:01 AM

                          The pupu platter is great. It's big enough to be a filling dinner for 2. But why is it only served in the Lava Lounge, I wonder? Maybe to give it drawing power on slow nights? I dunno, Gotta ask next time I go to ECG. I will say the Lava room is perfectly swell on a busy night.

                          1. re: katzzz
                            b
                            BJK Mar 27, 2007 06:33 AM

                            It is a strange policy, eh? I've actually attempted to convince a waitress to let us order it when sitting at one of the tables right NEXT TO the lava lounge, albeit unsuccessfully.

                            BK

                            1. re: katzzz
                              b
                              Blumie Mar 27, 2007 10:08 AM

                              I have asked that very question and have been told that preparing them is too labor intensive to do for the whole restaurant.

                              I also wonder if perhaps they view the Lava Lounge as somewhat Siberia-ish and thus feel the need to do something special in there.

                      2. re: Bob Dobalina
                        MichaelB Mar 26, 2007 10:07 AM

                        It does sound like you hit them on a slightly lackluster night -- the oysters, the missing bbq sides, etc., and it's odd that those things would happen on a slow night. That said, I wouldn't interpret them seating you in the lava lounge as an attempt to relegate you to Siberia. I actually have a faint recollection that they have some dishes or drinks that they only serve in that section -- not sure if that's still the case. Or maybe that's what the hostess meant about the pineapple drinks? Regardless, it's good you moved to somewhere you actually wanted to sit, but I don't think they view it as their last-resort section.

                        Re the pork, it's safe enough to eat rare (trichinosis is mostly a thing of the past) but I don't find it appetizing at all if it's still raw at the center.

                        1. re: MichaelB
                          b
                          Blumie Mar 26, 2007 10:20 AM

                          As BJK noted above, they serve a fabulous PuPu Platter that is only availble in the Lava Lounce (no exceptions). They also serve drinks in pineapples.

                          1. re: MichaelB
                            k
                            katielp Mar 26, 2007 11:34 AM

                            I was also there on Saturday night, but perhaps a bit earlier than you. We were also seated in the Lava Lounge, but the restaurant was fairly busy. I had no complaints with the table. IMO the worst tables are the ones right by the grill: hot, loud and cramped.
                            After 10-15 visits, I like but don't LOVE the ECG and thought this meal was representative of a fun, very good, not great restaurant. If I didn't live near Inman, I'm not at all sure that I would have eaten here so many times. Had an amazing striped bass special, which was the highlight of the evening--a beautifully cooked, moist piece of fish, with fabulous sides (including a rich smoky baba ganoush like aubergine salad, and an onion salad). Like the OP I thought that the oysters we ordered as an appetizer tasted a bit off--but I'm not a huge oyster fan, and only had a couple. DCs were pleased with the BBQ platter (always reliable) and a stuffed trout (in a sort of curry sauce, not a super appetizing presentation). The margaritas that we ordered were poorly made and light on tequila. We tried several kinds. The restaurant redeemed themselves with two solid slabs of chewy caramelized pecan pie, with excellent vanilla ice cream, and very courteuous service.
                            I think the ECG has probably received a little too much praise on this board over the years--perhaps it's time to scale back expectations slightly?

                      3. MC Slim JB Mar 26, 2007 06:32 AM

                        I've had the usual high standard of food over my last few East Coast Grill visits (we inevitably end up with some mix of raw bar, barbecue, and grilled fish), but we both noticed a significant downturn in the bartending on each visit. Specifically, our up Margaritas, which we once called the best in town, were horrible. These were “Martin’s Magnificent” and “Real Deal” Margaritas up, the two versions made with 100% blue agave tequila, and they tasted mostly of lime juice and sugar. Very disappointing, and essentially the same experience on three successive visits in the last six months, so not a fluke, I don't think.

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