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The Grape: DFW

vktp Jan 6, 2008 01:15 PM

Between the new ownership, recent DMN review, and the fact that I had actually never been, it was about time I paid a visit to the Grape. We made Saturday night 8:00 reservations. As reputed, the space is incredibly intimate. At 8:15, we were still lounging in the tiny bar area; without any prompting whatsoever, a hostess/manager-type came by and apologized for our wait, promised she was doing what she could to turn over our still-occupied table, and comped our drinks. Once seated, our waiter was equally accomodating, friendly, and professional. I was impressed.

The December menu is still being offered, as of last night. I started the meal with the requisite cup of mushroom soup that people have raved about for years. Not that impressive. Thick, creamy, with sizeable chunks of mushroom. But the treacherous thought that this wasn't THAT much better than Campbells in a can flitted through my mind.

For my entree, I opted for the ribeye, medium rare. The slab was the size of my head. The experience was entirely forgettable. There was nothing distinctive about the flavor profile, and it wasn't particularly tender.

My companions had essentially the same assessment of their hanger steak, monkfish, and kampachi. The servings were humongous, but the flavor was lacking.

The wine list was indeed affordable, and we were pleased, though not blown away, by our selection.

I had really wanted to love this place. The service and atmosphere were wonderful, but all in all, last night was ultimately a disappointment.

  1. b
    BradT Apr 22, 2008 06:08 PM

    I really like The Grape especially since the new chef took over. He is extremely talented and my experience is that the food has always been great!

    1. e
      Epicurious Esquire Jan 8, 2008 09:37 AM

      I eat and/or drink at The Grape at least once a week. I think it is one of the most delightful neighborhood bistros in Dallas. I would agree with your assessment of the mushroom soup, but then again, it's the same mushroom soup I ate there for the first time 7 or 8 years ago.

      I've had the kona kampachi several times and I thought it was absoutely delicious. Perfectly grilled, and the macademia nuts were a delicious and unexpected twist. I would agree with your assessment of the wine list, but hey, it's not a multimillion dollar steakhouse, it's a neighborhood bistro. It's more than fine for what it is.

      You should have tried the croustade/lamb flatbread (wow!) or the mussels (best in Dallas??).

      On top of always enjoying the food (I think Mr. Luscher has a smack-you-in-the-mouth approach to flavor), I think The Grape has one of the most underappreciated bars in Dallas with several AWESOME happy hour specials. $4 glasses of wine and a fun little cheese selection make for a perfect after-work escape. If you ever walk in at 530 and see a strikingly handsome, athletically built, impeccably dressed power broker sitting at the bar, it's probably me. Well, me as I dream of being.

      If you haven't been to The Grape since October (when Mr. Luscher took over), give it another chance. The quality vis-a-vis the price point makes it one of my favorite little spots in town.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Epicurious Esquire
        d
        dalaimama Jan 8, 2008 10:40 AM

        Heh, I've probably seen you in there. We looove the happy hour.

        To expand on the happy hour offerings in the bar, there are usually at least one white and one red on special. There are also discounts on a couple of the appetizers (the last time we were there I remember it being on the lamb flatbread (now croustades and even better on the crunchy toasted bread!) and the calamari as well as a cheese selection of the day and you can also get the five-item cheese and charcuterie board for the price of the three-item board. The cheese board is an incredible value with a very large serving and a wonderful array of garnishes. The selection isn't necessarily daring, but it's all very, very good cheeses such as Humbolt Fog. The meats and pates are incredible.

        1. re: dalaimama
          e
          Epicurious Esquire Jan 8, 2008 11:41 AM

          Next time I'm in The Grape, I'm going to repeatedly scream Dalaimama!!!!

        2. re: Epicurious Esquire
          adkim Apr 21, 2008 01:58 PM

          I had The Grape for the first time a couple of weekends ago. The vibe and decor make this a great neighborhood restaurant, one that is within a 7 minute walk form my front door, but I felt the price for the quality of food was a little too high from me to make this place a regular on my rotation list. I had the salmon with a parmesan risotto. The risotto was soupy and had no parmesan flavor whatsoever. The salmon was cooked well, but the sauce, I believe a balsamic reduction, completely overpowered the dish. They were too liberal with it. The cold julienned vegetables was a nice touch to the warm dish.

          My girlfriend's dinner (the special) sea bass with spinach, avocado, and crab was a pretty tasty dish, but not 30 dollars tasty.

          The mussels. Oh, the mussels. Yeah, they are definitely on the short list for best mussels in town. Almost identical broth like the one at the Idle Rich Pub, (lemon, garlic, white wine) but, the addition of red pepper flakes gives them the nod. Cafe Italia's shiner bock mussels are also on that short list, but their use of the steroid, super sized mussels gives that dish a disadvantage.

          Their complimentary sourdough was also very,very good.

          All in all, I am definitely going back for the mussels. Oh, the mussels.

          1. re: adkim
            e
            Epicurious Esquire Apr 21, 2008 03:12 PM

            I had the pate a couple of days ago. I think the sous chef Karen created it. It had a little layer of fat on top and had an almost frothy texture. It was light, decadent and delicious. My grandmother is French (as in still-has-a-funny-accent-at-the-age-of-88 French), so I started eating pate and foie gras while I was still in diapers. The pate that is currently on the menu is fantastic.

            To me, The Grape defines a good neighborhood bistro. It's small and comfortable, has a knowledgeable staff, the menu changes regularly, the wine list is affordable, the happy hour menu absolutely kicks arse, the chef is in there every day and I can walk to it from my house.

            I was going to type "Just my .02", but then I realized this post is worth at least .05. At least!

        3. d
          dalaimama Jan 7, 2008 07:13 AM

          We were there Friday and, as usual since Luscher bought it back in October, we had a delightful meal. It's too bad your experience wasn't up to par. Even the half servings seem large to me, so I'm with you on that.

          The Grape is a neighborhood joint with good food and good wine. There are very few options like that in the area. There are many fine dining places and lots of casual places, but it's hard to find someplace where you can have a bistro-type meal at a reasonable price, particularly when you want someplace that isn't ethnic (I love Taverna, but I don't always want Italian.)

          The mushroom soup is a menu stalwart, but it's never been that great, even back when the restaurant opened.

          The osso bucco is always excellent. Pastas are usually very good. I had the chicken and gnocchi which I enjoyed quite a bit, even though it's just chicken. The lamb flatbread appetizer (and the one they have now where it's on toasted country bread) is wonderful. I love the mission fig salad and I adore the fact that it's lightly dressed rather than swimming in glop the way most places serve salads.

          Overall, my experiences have been quite different. I'm not saying it's the best food I've ever eaten in my life, but it's a great place for a nice meal at a reasonable price.

          4 Replies
          1. re: dalaimama
            jinet12 Jan 7, 2008 10:21 AM

            I have absolutely never had anything but wonderful food at The Grape...It is amazing to read a review like this...had to have been an "off night"...

            1. re: dalaimama
              Scagnetti Jan 7, 2008 12:03 PM

              Maybe we have a different understanding of what constitutes a "bistro-type meal" and "reasonable prices", but I don't think you can get out of The Grape for less than $100 a couple (wine, starter, entree, gratuity).

              1. re: Scagnetti
                d
                dalaimama Jan 7, 2008 12:46 PM

                My terminology is probably not the best. It's nice dining, but not special event dining.

                On Friday, between the two of us we had three generous glasses of wine (they've upgraded their stemware as well), a martini, an appetizer, two half entrees (which were plenty big), and dessert and it came out to around $100 with a 20% tip, which I consider pretty reasonable given the amount of food and alcohol consumed.

                1. re: dalaimama
                  jinet12 Jan 8, 2008 07:58 AM

                  That is absolutely reasonable...

            2. Scagnetti Jan 6, 2008 08:08 PM

              Well, whoever told you to go to the Grape are the same people who suffer from good-old-days syndrome and send you to places like Sonny Bryan's Barbecue and Campisi's. Be satisfied that you can always tell someone you ate their once. I try and make it there once a decade just to remind myself of what I'm not missing.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Scagnetti
                s
                sl1 Jan 7, 2008 06:24 AM

                The Grape has gone through a change of ownership in the last few months. The new owners have really livened up the place. Next time you go try something more original than the mushroom soup and steak. The have a lot more creative options like Pork Osso Bucco and fresh pasta's. Most entree's can be served as half portions. This is not the same old Grape.

                1. re: Scagnetti
                  kuidaore Jan 7, 2008 06:49 PM

                  Scagnetti, EXACTLY! Those two were also on her list!! She's a Dallas native.

                2. kuidaore Jan 6, 2008 05:58 PM

                  It squares with our experience. We went there soon after we moved to Dallas a couple of years ago, recommended by someone who used to be a chef at several Dallas institutions. The food was nothing impressive, certainly not worth the money, and we've never gone back.

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