Tuesday, 08 August 2017 12:24

Revue takes a sneak peek at what Restaurant Week GR 2017 has to offer

Written by  Revue Staff
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Rose's Thai crusted ahi tuna Rose's Thai crusted ahi tuna

Restaurant Week GR is a celebration of outstanding local food. It’s an opportunity to try something new while experiencing the best that Grand Rapids restaurants have to offer.

From Aug. 9-20 (you might notice that’s a pretty long week), more than 70 restaurants in the city will put out special, fixed-price menus. For lunch, it’s $14 per person for a two-course meal. For dinner, it’s a three-course meal coming in at $28 for either one person or two, depending on the restaurant — some of us are just a little fancier than others, OK? Either way, you’ll have a wide range of options to choose from as restaurants show off a little bit of everything.

In partnership with Restaurant Week GR, we sent out some writers to four participating restaurants for a sneak preview of what’s coming to your table. Check it out, and find more info at RestaurantWeekGR.com

 

Rockwell Republic

45 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids / rockwellsrepublic.com

Rockwell Republic is nothing short of unique.

While some restaurants happen to have two rooms or floors with slightly different feelings, Rockwell Republic has two entirely separate sides of the building, purposefully constructed to offer a different experience despite serving the exact same menu. Rockwell has more of a casual, brick-wall pub feel, while Republic is spacious, quieter and more upscale — not to mention the indoor bar/lounge area and outdoor beer garden, both upstairs.

But what has really drawn me to the downtown GR restaurant is the combination of diverse food and first-rate cocktails, so the opportunity to preview the Restaurant Week menu was enticing, to say the least. 

Chef Terry Ellison very graciously led me through the offerings, plate by plate (and bite by bite). We started with the appetizers.

The Tuna Poke was actually my first-ever experience with poke — a raw fish salad originating in Hawaii — but as a sushi lover I’m not entirely inexperienced. Rockwell’s take uses ahi tuna, marinated in a citrus vinaigrette, topped with seaweed and sesame seeds, and served with fried wontons. It’s subtle and elegant, putting the spotlight on the fish, which is exactly what poke should do. Meanwhile, the fried wontons would be a killer app on their own, but here they help balance the fattiness and the slight citrus bite of the ahi. 

What really blew me out of the water, though, was the Hamachi Crunch sushi roll. Inside, you get bibb, cucumber, avocado and habanero cream cheese, which already is a pleasant combination of comforting flavors and textures. On top of the roll is the tempura crunch and hamachi, a bold, firm fish with just enough flavor to cut through the rest while not being overpowering. And finally, the jalapeno pineapple sauce drizzled over the roll is one of the best sauces I’ve ever tasted. It’s a precisely perfect combination of citrus and heat, both flavors hitting at the exact same time and working in tandem. The sauce doesn’t just bring the roll together, it elevates the dish into a bold, unforgettable experience.

Then we moved onto the Salmon Satay, with skewers of bacon-wrapped salmon surrounded by romanesco, purple potatoes, broccoli raab, anise celeriac puree, and a grilled lemon maple creme fraiche. It may seem like there’s a lot going on here, but it all works together impeccably. 

I was impressed by the salmon’s texture, hugging the skewer tightly, while still coming off flaky and juicy as you pull it apart. And the fish’s more mild flavors are complemented by the bacon’s potency. The veggies are seasoned excellently and add some crunch, while the purple potatoes bring a touch of heartiness to the plate. 

As you might imagine, the anise celeriac puree and lemon maple creme fraiche are both unusual, but in the best way possible. I’ve never had anything that tastes like all of these flavors together, and I struggle to even describe it effectively. What I will say is that it’s wonderful. Once again, the sauce makes the dish.

We move onto the Drunken Duck, an entree built around Bell’s Amber Ale. First, the duck is marinated in the ale, which definitely comes through in the final product. The bird came out the perfect texture: juicy and tender, rich with the semi-Asian marinade’s soy and beer flavors. The same ale was reduced down to a drunken gravy and poured over the duck, which sits on a bed of broccoli and butterball mashed potatoes. The dish as a whole is savory and robust above all.

We ended the meal with dessert, as one does. Well, to be honest … I never do. And frankly, I wasn’t that excited for this part. To me, dessert is almost always just a waste of calories that could be better spent on some form of potatoes. But boy oh boy did the Curry Chocolate Pot de Creme make me a believer.

The “curry” flavors here aren’t masala or anything like that. Instead, they add more of an autumn essence to the chocolate. That’s not to say this is anything like a pumpkin spice latte either — it’s a delicately balanced blend of creamy chocolate lifted by piquant spice. Personally, I ate it by the spoonful until it was nearly gone, blinded by the revelatory tastes in front of me. Only then did I remember the tempura fruit served with the pot. These lightly fried strawberries added some nice texture to the creme, but I didn’t necessarily feel the sum was greater than its already delicious parts.

While I “only” got to try half the menu (I know, my job sucks), I’m convinced these offerings alone necessitate a visit. Credit must be given once again to Chef Ellison for creating such an impressive showcase of Rockwell Republic’s offerings. —Josh Veal

 

Rose’s 

550 Lakeside Dr. SE, East Grand Rapids / thegilmorecollection.com 

East Grand Rapids is more than just a great place to picnic, take walks and do some serious puppy watching. Right in its heart, you’ll find the historic landmark that is Rose’s on Reeds Lake. If you want a good meal with an exceptional lakeside view, this is the place to be.

Revue sat down with General Manager William Koski and Executive Chef Armando Suarez to talk about the dishes they’ll be featuring for Restaurant Week GR 2017. 

Suarez, who’s been a chef for 24 years and has been with Rose’s for 17 of those years, prepared four mouthwatering plates to try.

“I started with my mom in the kitchen,” Suarez said. “She’s a great cook; my inspiration always comes from her.”

Lunch features grilled cheese and a bowl of soup, a classic with a bit of a Rose’s twist: Creamy white bean soup with chive oil drizzled on top and a sprinkling of spicy Italian sausage. The perfectly toasted grilled cheese features three different cheeses on Italian bread: gouda, chèvre and white cheddar. 

You know you’re feasting on a good grilled cheese when it has that satisfying crunch. The cheeses worked well together and didn’t overpower one another. The soup had a nice mild flavor and the creaminess paired excellently with the texture of the sandwich.  

The entree is a Thai crusted ahi tuna with a jicama, lime and cucumber slaw, paired with a sriracha orange juice aioli and persian lime oil.

The ahi tuna was packed with a lot of great sweet, spicy and citrus flavors. Stacking the tuna, slaw and adding a bit of the sriracha aioli made for more than a satisfying bite.   

For dessert, because no meal would be complete without it, Rose’s has roasted banana panna cotta with caramelized sugar and bourbon sauce.

The dessert was the perfect balance of sweetness. The bourbon sauce was a dream that went well with the smooth creaminess of the panna cotta. The crunchiness of the caramelized sugar and the banana chips gave the dish some nice textures. 

“Panna cotta is a classic Italian dessert,” said Suarez. “When you combine the panna cotta with the sauce and the crispiness of the sugar, it reminds you of bananas foster.” 

When it comes to the deciding process, Suarez likes to let the dish ideas come to him.

“I like to create stuff that will make people happy,” he said. “It’s just a matter of deciding what I want to do. I like (dishes) to be simple, but tasty.” —Elma Talundzic

 

Iron

25 Ottawa Ave. SW, Grand Rapids / irongr.com

I may have tasted nothing but deviled eggs and braunschweiger (just eat it — it’s Iron’s equivalent to Osteria Rossa’s octopus) on my visit to Chef Chris Perkey’s second restaurant, but Chef de Cuisine Jody Grenier was able to hand over a Restaurant Week menu. 

Iron, open for lunch, will offer a special lunch menu in addition to dinner fare, but lest this portion of the article become a listicle fit for Buzzfeed (and the menus are available online anyway), I’m going to tell you what I would have enjoyed at dinner had I the option, rather than telling you all of the options available to enjoy. It’s for your own enjoyment, believe me. 

First course, oh, the Deviled Eggs are here ... look, we may be listing after all. Brighter and lighter than those dense little convex critters that you’re used to seeing at family gatherings, the eggs come with a zippy little horseradish mustard and some brass-knuckled pickled onion to cut the heat. Although, how could you pass up a summer salad featuring Vertical Paradise greens (if you’re not familiar, get familiar), roasted corn, red pepper and smoked cheddar.

Second course could include an olive burger, a Michigan specialty that I have spent months researching. There isn’t room in these pages to gush about the olive burg and its roots, so I’ll just have to highly recommend you try Iron’s version while they’ve got one. Grenier told us their burgers are made from a custom grind by Country Dairy farms that includes beef heart. With love, get the Olive Burger.

Because how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat? Dessert features a choice between a variety of Palazzolo’s gelato or a house-made chocolate chip cookie bar, doused in caramel and piled beneath the aforementioned Palazzolo’s Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla gelato. Now, you’re going to choose the cookie. But that’s not such a bad ending. —Nick Macksood

 

The Sovengard

443 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids / sovengard.com 

Chef Patrick Conrade’s dilemma this year, and forever, we presume, when putting together a set menu for the future is thus: He’s a chef, not the Oracle at Delphi. He might be a wizard when he enters a kitchen, but he can only order his food fresh from farmers as it becomes available to him. 

Be that as it may, Chef Conrade’s fingers are crossed in the hope that when the second week of August rolls around, the weather will have bestowed upon him the first batches of that red blessed late summer fruit: the tomato. 

Expect symphonies of sweet onion and corn to make an appearance, as well as radishes — according to Conrade it’s been the summer of radishes. Stone fruits such as peaches and plums could grace the menu, possibly cherries, and always abundant in these warmest of months: greens, greens and microgreens! Get ’em while they’re not growing under an LED light. 

That’s just what Rick Muschiana and Patrick Conrade are after at their bubbling nascent restaurant: To celebrate each season’s offerings a week at a time. Father Time may stand in the way of seeing what’s on the menu for this year’s Restaurant Week, but we already know that Mother Gaia saves the best stuff for August. —Nick Macksood

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