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Jan 21, 2010 08:36 AM

Current Favorites at Grill 23 - Food and Drinks?

I haven't been to Grill 23 in quite a while but always enjoyed meals there and am headed back this weekend (after a painful stop at the ATM...). I am glad to see recent comments that are generally positive.

What are YOUR favorite specific dishes (apps, sides, mains, desserts) you have had there recently? Are there any disappointments to steer clear of? Any that are "do not miss for any reason"?

Also, are the cocktails good enough (by this I mean comparable if not quite as great as Drink, Eastern Standard, Green Street, and Craigie on Main) to merit the premium tariffs I am sure are attached, or should I stick to beer/wine for the evening (which is fine - I just hate to miss a fine cocktail if it's to be had)?

I am OK with a $15 Manhattan as long as it's good bourbon or rye with fresh sweet vermouth (ideally more interesting than M&R but that will do), proper bitters, and served in a well-chilled glass (a tasty cherry is optional but desirable) - is this expectation reasonable?


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  1. Angostura shut the doors on its Trinidad bitters plant, so they're in tight supply. They expect production to resume in February or March. I'd ask before ordering a Manhattan, et al.

    1 Reply
    1. re: almansa

      Maybe they will have the Bitter Truth aromatic or something else interesting? It's a good point - and I will ask (and stop and buy some Angostura tio hold me over before it's too late...if not already)

    2. I like the dry-aged cuts (strip, ribeye) and the prime skirt steak frites (it's a bargain). Sides are friggin' enormous, so if you get one per head, you'll be wasting some food. I also like dining at the bar when Kevin Dick is behind the stick: he's really good.

      Understand the cocktail philosophy is luxury steakhouse, not craft cocktail bar. You'll get quality spirits and a well-made Manhattan, but I wouldn't order a 1794, Widow's Kiss or Rye Flip, or expect a house-macerated Marasca cherry. Prices are justified in part by enormous size: I think they're still using 14-oz cocktail glasses.

      6 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Thanks - very helpful (and now I have some new drinks to look up and attempt at home as well!) - there's a part of me that really likes 14-oz glasses of quality spirits...just not too often.

        1. re: rlh

          In deference to the great MC Slim JB, I have to say that many of the sides are enormous, but the last time I was there, the truffled tater tots came with about 10 tots. Pathetic for the price, I'd avoid those.

          1. re: kimfair1

            If "truffled" means "with fake truffle oil", probably a good idea anyway. I know there is actual organic truffle oil out there, but it's rare to see it used in a restaurant setting.


            1. re: MC Slim JB

              I ate here about a month ago as I have done about a dozen times over the years. I had the dry aged strip for the first time. While expensive at, I believe, $42, it was one of the best steaks I have ever had the pleasure of eating both in Boston and elsewhere.

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                It actually is organic truffle oil. I think the menu reads "organic truffle tots," but I'm not positive. Nope - just checked, but it used to. It doesn't since they got a new menu layout, but they do use Da Rosario organic truffle oil.

          2. re: MC Slim JB

            I think you're prpobably right, MC, but I've had one of the best mojito's I've ever tasted at Grill 23. It was particularly interesting because it was so much better than the one I had L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon just a few days prior to that. I'm sure they don't make their own bitters, or grow their own micro-herbs in the back to extract with a rotovap, but they seem to be very competent bartenders.

            So in addition to their mojito, I'd also recommend one of their bone-in sirlion cuts. The steak au poivre is very nice there as well.

          3. I really enjoy Jay Murray's seafood dishes. I've always had good luck with them. Sometimes a little off beat, but always delicious. Oh, they make really good Courvoisier Stingers (not too sweet, stir, don't shake) there.

            1. Enjoyable, festive group dinner there but definitely not a repeat or favorite for me given the price point:

              I was a little surprised that they stock NO rye at all, but ordered a bourbon Manhattan nonetheless - it was huge and cold and tasted OK, but it was shocking for it to be really FOAMY (as in shaken, most likely with some frothing additive or a little soap remnant...should have specified stirred, I guess).

              French onion dumpling starter was two (that's $6.50 each) small deep-fried (yes, that's right - and no mention of this unusual prep choice on the menu), salty dumplings in a sweet, sticky brandied cherry broth - icky all around - total and complete kitchen failure - it really should be removed from menu

              Aged sirloin strip was one of the finer steaks I've had in a long time, perfectly cooked and rested before serving - definitely the highlight of the experience (as I suppose it should be at nearly $50).

              The bread basket was varied, fresh and served with tasty butter properly softened.

              Sides were a mixed bag - truffle tots were tiny and kind of tasteless, blue mashed were tasty but gummy, spinach was good but a quite small serving, and asparagus was really nice and a generous amount.

              Desserts were not enticing on the menu or as they went by to other tables- only two for our large table were ordered - both were declared "fine, but nothing special" - chocolate cake and deconstructed banana brulee sticky toffee pudding - I was left holding the dessert menu and never asked about my order (waiter neglect shouldn't happen at this kind of place IHO) which I took as a sign not order any or after dinner drink, either.

              The room was packed and noisy as usual and we had the added bonus of waiting 15 minutes past our reservation time to be seated in spite of seeing the ready and vacant table right in front of us - and it was too crowded to get to the bar area and add drinks to th tab - we were seated immediately when we asked why the waiting....

              Ultimately, I am reminded of the reasons I haven't been here in years...sigh. Maybe it's a great experience if you're a regular?

              8 Replies
              1. re: rlh

                Your post illustrates exactly why I have never understood the love Grill 23 always seems to receive. A shaken Old Fashioned? Made with bourbon? A bar that charges what it does without a single bottle of Rye? These are serious missteps. I like you found many of the sides lacking or small, especially at steak house prices, and honestly I've never even loved the steak that much, though I have never tried the aged strip. I've been three times, and the only time I really enjoyed myself was at a private function where we were served the flank steak.

                1. re: kimfair1

                  Just to clarify and be fair, I asked about rye which the waiter admitted they didn't have and offered Canadian whiskey as an alternative (maybe some rye in there...) and I CHOSE to order a bourbon-based Manhattan (not Old-Fashioned, which I would fear there) - the shaking and foaming was the real issue with the drink.

                  1. re: rlh

                    Yeah, but a restaurant of that supposed quality should have a bottle of rye somewhere.

                    1. re: rlh

                      In the US, before the mysterious resurgence of rye in the past 10 years, all bars made rye drinks with Canadian whiskey. It is rye.

                      1. re: almansa

                        Thanks! I like learning new things.

                        1. re: almansa

                          Canadian whiskey is not rye. Some Canadian whiskeys have a little teeny bit of rye in it, but is not rye.

                          To be fair to Grill 23, while it should have a bottle of rye, I'm not surprised they didn't have any. Most people think of Manhattans as containing bourbon. I'm not one of them, but most people do. So, even if they had some Old Overcoat back there, the bartenders would still be making 99.9% of the Manhattans with bourbon.

                          And there is nothing in a Manhattan which should create foam. That is not because of shaking. Something got in there.

                          1. re: Alcachofa

                            There are a very few Canadian whiskies that are like American ryes, i.e., straight, unblended whiskeys with the majority of the mash bill coming from rye, but most aren't, and aren't called rye. Most are pretty insipid blended whiskies, and all over the map in terms of their source grains.

                            Calling Canadian whisky "rye" is a holdover from Prohibition, when it was the most widely available import and thus most often used in place of rye, which had been America's most popular whiskey. Rye production never recovered after Prohibition, so bourbon stepped into the place of prominence it previously held, supplanting it in all the old cocktails that originally used rye: Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and so on.

                            I'm gratified to see real American rye making a comeback, but I'd guess that 70-80% of Boston's bartenders are still reaching for Canadian when you ask for rye, and don't understand that there's a difference. Most bartenders making Manhattans and such are still reaching for bourbon or Tennessee whiskey.

                            A heavy dose of certain bitters like Angostura can produce an unattractive foam when shaken, and produce cloudiness, too, which I believe are the two main reasons you stir some drinks instead of shaking them. This is really apparent in wacky cocktails like the Trinidad Sour, which uses an insane *ounce* of Angostura, and has a foam slick on it reminiscent of toxic waste. It's tasty in a really fierce way, but I wouldn't call it pretty.


                    2. re: rlh

                      i think the last 3 or 4 meals i have had at grill 23 have been the very similar food and service wise to your recent trip RLH. the steaks are good, not great. sides have been decent, nothing is ever spectacular. unless you order the tater tots, which suck more my than my step brother at the fritz.

                      this place used to be a favorite of mine and would give me a reason to come back. these days not so much.

                      one gripe i have always had at g23 is the bar. its never easy to get a drink and when it isnt packed ive felt like that if i dont look like a corporate shmoozer kevin dick can be a dick.

                    3. For recommendations, I'd suggest a dry-aged steak. I'm partial to rib eyes in general, and they are particularly excellent when aged dry and long. Last time I visited Grill 23, a dry-aged rib eye is what I enjoyed.

                      Sides are generally good, classic steakhouse affairs, but large portions.

                      I've tried their cocktails only once or twice, while waiting at the bar, but I remember them being solid, but certainly not craft--it is a steakhouse after all. If you want a Manhattan or a Martini, go for it.

                      Their wine menu is also quite good, but, of course, expensive. Value gets better as prices go up.