Grillfire Arundel Makes a Great First Impression
Jul 27, 2011 03:59PM ● Published by Anonymous
The restaurant officially opens on Thursday, July 28, but they've had two events to help train their staff. On Monday night, the restaurant held a pre-opening cocktail party, and then Tuesday and Wednesday were Friends and Family Night (which Executive Chef Marc Barber was kind enough to include us in).
We arrived Monday night after getting a little lost. Grillfire Arundel is attached to the Hotel at Arundel Preserve, and it's all new construction. So my phone's GPS didn't quite know where to take us, and we did a few U-turns around the Arundel Mills Mall before realizing that it's actually located about a mile PAST the mall. Our initial impression of the restaurant was good -- the lighting is dim, the wooden tables are shiny, and the leather seats on the booth are impossibly soft. Stone columns dot the restaurant, and the tables are a mix of booths and small two-tops closer to the bar.
I "borrowed" this photo (as well as the image above) from the Grillfire Arundel Facebook page. It was taken before the tables were installed, but it gives a good indication of the decor.
Monday's cocktail party was rather informal, with waiters passing glasses of red and white wine (which I had wished were in real wine glasses, but were instead served in plastic), as well as small samples of specialties cocktails. We hopped from table to table, kind of going where the food was (I referred to it as "stalking" the servers).
The food was served in true cocktail party fashion, as most of their appetizers had been shrunk down to one-bite servings. In some cases, it was completely modified to make it easy to eat. For example, the jumbo shrimp and crab cocktail with mango salsa was miniaturized onto a soup spoon, while the spinach and artichoke dip was wrapped in puff pastry. Others were already suited for cocktail serving, such as the coconut-crusted crab balls, the seared tuna, or the short rib quesadilla.
My absolutely favorite, which I'm devastated to say isn't actually on the menu, was the strawberry halves filled with whipped goat cheese, candied walnuts, and a balsamic drizzle. Overall, my husband and I had a very nice evening, mingling with the guests, meeting the chef, and enjoying the decor.
We returned last night for a 8 p.m. reservation for Friends and Family Night. We arrived a little early, but were seated right away (that's when I discovered how soft those booths are!) A card on the table explained that we were encouraged to order a variety of dishes, but they requested we did not order duplicates for the table. Well, how often do you get that request? We went for it ... and ended up having to take a lot of food home because we were too stuffed to finish it all!
I took some pictures, but the lighting is very dim so they really aren't the best to highlight the food.
We started by splitting the "Japanese Peanuts," which was edamame with a chili oil sauce. I enjoy edamame, but my husband just wolfed these down! We also ordered the "over the top" mac and cheese (we were going the healthy route, clearly) off the "For the Table" section of the menu, not realizing that we were just going to receive a huge, decadent plate of macaroni and cheese.
I know, I know -- horrible picture. It was around this time that my husband decided that the light fixtures reminded him of bug lights. What can I say? Can't win them all.
The macaroni was rich and decadent, and I was happy to take three bites and then let them wrap it up for my husband's lunch today. I turned my attention to the tomato and blue cheese salad that was put in front of me.
This, I loved. It was made with chopped lettuce, bacon, cucumber, and red onion, plus tomatoes and blue cheese with a tasty dressing.
We still had our entrees coming, even though we were already full. Oh, the sacrifices we make.
I had studied Grillfire's menu earlier in the day and was having a tough time deciding on my entree. However, in the end, I went with Cabernet Braised Boneless Short Ribs served with truffle-scented Mashed Potatoes. Those mashed potatoes were. to. die. for. Delish!! The short ribs were good, but they could have been a bit more tender. My husband chose the Steak and Sushi, described as wok charred ﬁlet & crunchy sesame tuna. The steak was cooked perfectly, but he wondered why seared tuna, as good as it tasted, was called sushi. A bit of a misnomer, but that's OK -- we weren't disappointed.
During all of this, I also tried two of their specialty cocktails. The Black Cherry Whiskey Sour, well...it tasted like a whiskey sour. So I passed it over to my husband after a couple of sip. I also tried to Pom Collins, made with pomegranate liqueur. It was good, but sweet, and I was happy to switch back to cabernet when my meal came.
After dinner, Chef Barber came out to speak with us, so we could say thank you. He told us that he had just sold out of steaks, so we were happy that my husband had snagged one!
Overall, we had a great experience at Grillfire. The kitchen service was slightly slow, but we can't put too much emphasis on that because it was the very first night. We look forward to going back -- the Fettuccine with Sea Scallops & Jumbo Shrimp is calling my name!