Friday, August 26, 2011

Restaurant Week @ Grotto

Summer Restaurant Week has been good to me; so good, in fact, that I find myself looking back on restaurant weeks past, wondering if certain meals were deserving of as much praise I gave them. All comparisons aside, the two weeks of prix fix menus are a great reason to check out new prospects and old favorite dining establishments throughout the city. I'm not sure how any RW appetizer, city wide, could stack up to the Chilled Local Corn Soup that kicked things off last Monday at Mistral. That meal went unphotographed, but the sheer brilliance of that first course can not go without mention. Over a week later, I'm still savoring the velvety smooth with just a hint of cream soup, which was ladled atop a mountain of shredded lump crab surrounded by thick bites of soft avocado. A finishing swirl of Jalapeno oil lent a slow heat, in lovely contrast with the sweet corn flavors. It was truly a standout of soups I've tasted. The rest of the meal continued in fine form (Mustard Glazed Salmon, Chocolate Cake with cappuccino sauce) and tonight, the meal at Grotto, an unassuming subterranean spot located on a quiet street on the back side of Beacon Hill, was just as poignant.As I descended into the tiny cave like space where exposed brick and stone walls are met with black shelving housing rows of wine bottles; I spotted my dining companion, Lindsey of Beantown Eats sipping Chardonnay at a cozy two top. The cavernous dining room is characterized by sweeping floor to ceiling red curtains and industrial ceilings with exposed piping, dangling from them two small ornate chandeliers. After soaking in the atmosphere, I turned my attention to the wine list. Lindsey remarked the Chardonnay was a little sweeter than she expected, which was helpful since I was in the mood for a crisp, dry white wine. I opted for a Quartino of Sauvignon Blanc ($12). I appreciated the reasonable price point of this small caraffe (about two glasses worth.) Why settle on one when you can get two for just a few dollars more? With soft bread and a plate of olive oil served shortly after, we were off to an impressive start. Grotto's Restaurant Week menu presents you with nearly all the same dishes as their regular menu, surpassing the typical three choice dishes that most restaurants are accustomed to offering. It proves for some difficult decision making, our waitress happily weighed in on her favorites. For the Primi course I settled on the Mare, essentially a grilled calamari salad, while Lindsey chose the Fontina Cheese Foundue served with beef tenderloin, aged balsamic, truffle oil and portobello mushrooms. Drastically different appetizers, mine light and summery, hers exuding a cold weather heartiness; both were solid. Under a bed of lemony dressed greens specked with red peppers laid tender coils of grilled calamari, elevated by a smooth white bean puree. The calamari preparation exhibited a level of finesse akin to the avocado corn soup at Mistral, I'll be savoring it for days to come. Off all the secondi courses listed, the Potato Gnocchi with Short Ribs, Mushrooms and Gorgonzola caught both of our attentions first. This also happened to be one of the waitresses top recommendations and neither of us could pass it up. A generous portion of smooth as silk, fluffy as clouds, grooved potato dumplings were paired with fork tender shortrib cubes in a deeply flavorful brown sauce laced with slippery shitake mushrooms and just a dusting of sharp gorgonzola cheese. Trusting our initial instincts paid off. This was absolutely phenomenal. Lindsey and I both agreed we had to spare a few bites for leftovers to take home to our significant others. Aren't we thoughtful?! For dolce, I chose one of the lighter options to follow up a hearty entree, one of my all time favorites, Panna Cotta. Grotto's lemon version is bright and refreshing with a decadent balsamic raspberry sauce and a crispy pizzelle cookie. Lindsey chose the Banana Bread Budding with a double dose of caramel in ice cream and sauce form, with a finishing touch of candied spiced pecans. Restaurant week dessert courses sometimes feel neglected, leaving a lot to be desired; but at Grotto, that is entirely not the case. Both of our desserts were outstanding and especially so because we paired them with a dessert wine, the Falchini Vin Santo ($9) which offered a balanced sweetness and pronounced nuttiness with a sharp clean finish. After reviewing the website, I realized Grotto serves a restaurant week-esque menu all the time. A three course menu option is available seven nights a week for $34. No wonder they excel at this. I'm just happy to have finally discovered this neighborhood hidden jewel. An intimate and cozy space tucked inconspicuously underneath a Beacon Hill brownstone at 37 Bowdoin Street, I highly recommend Grotto for comforting, contemporary Italian dishes at a reasonable price point.
Grotto on Urbanspoon

19 comments:

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

I had the chilled corn soup at Mistral over the weekend - OMG. I am still salivating over it and our entire meal. Grotto looks like it was pretty amazing also!

Jodi said...

I went to the Grotto last summer for restaurant week and the meal was outstanding!!

Elizabeth said...

I love how tiny and tucked away it is! I'm pretty sure I need Lindsey's bread pudding. It sounds amazing.

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

I love, love, love Grotto! Their gnocchi is always fabulous!

Kim said...

while i enjoyed the food the two times i was there, i cant get over something i saw the second time - so needless to say, sadly i will not be back to grotto. im heading to umbria today for restaurant week lunch!

MOLLY GALLER said...

So fun to read your review after having done Restaurant Week there myself last week! You two got totally different menu items than we did. Sounds like it was a fantastic feast!

Jaime @ La vie...J'aime said...

my friends went here last week! 2 got the gnocchi and LOVED it. Wish i could've gone..the menu looks amazing. Def need to get there eventually!

Amber Blue Bird said...

well you cant argue with their prices. It seems reasonable and very cozy. I need to find a CT food blog so I can actually try out some new restaurants....the places you feature all look so good.

kitchenmisfit said...

My husband and I went here for restaurant week a few years ago, and have been meaning to go back ever since!

Megan said...

Wish I could have come! The gnocchi sounds incredible! I'm glad you ladies were still able to get together and experience this gem. I will have to check it out one of these days.

melissanibbles said...

I want to steal that red bike!

I'm glad you had a good experience. Restaurant week is very hit or miss. The gnocchi sounds delicious!

Lazaro Cooks said...

Fantastic review. Love the dessert line up. Nice.

Kerstin said...

I almost went to Grotto the other day - can't wait to check it out! And what a good deal with that 3 course menu all the time :)

Jennifer said...

We met a friend of mine here for dinner a few years ago, based on a recommendation on Chowhound. OMG - it was unfreakingbelievable. I'm glad to see the short ribs still on the menu as they were divine. And the gnocchi was incredible too.

Katherine said...

yummy !
i often find small, hidden, nonassuming places have the best food. and that's whats most important!
i'd take that over an 'all-for-show' fancy type place with high prices and mediocre food.

Elina (Healthy and Sane) said...

I actually had reservations at Grotto a few weeks ago and last minute changed it to Upstairs on the Square (heh, just saw Kerstin's comment above... we were going to go there togheter!). The appetizer at Mistral also sounds amazing. I wonder if they serve it regularly because I live dangerous close to the place and may just need to try it myself.. asap ;)

Shannon said...

adding grotto to my list! but wow, i want that corn soup from mistral. like, now :)

Alicia said...

I LOVE grotto. Such great food and a really good value.
That short rib dish is my absolute favorite!!

Simply Life said...

I just at there for the first time last night and LOVED the meal!