RESTAURANT REVIEW: Granville's 

Dressed down in the uptown

Granville's
American/Eclectic — Casual
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown
730 Rutledge Ave.
577-0486
Dinner (closed Sun.)

Even if your Bentley breaks down and you have to walk all the way from the Battery and play a real-life game of Frogger dodging giant SUVs on the Crosstown, it's worth the risk to sample the truffled beef tartare at Granville's.

Bright red beef spiked with the tang of real mustard and that ethereal miasma of truffle that crawls back up your nostrils, threatening to overwhelm olfactory communication and fry your quivering brain, requires an extra helping for full effect. And at five bucks a plate, you can easily afford to order two. Get a head full of the stuff, and the slow, inept service that seems to be the hallmark of Granville's won't seem so glaringly obtuse.

If raw beef isn't your fancy, you could order the raw fish — or at least little anchovies cooked only in an acidic broth of wine vinegar and white wine and called bocarrones, which should be washed down with a cold glass of wine. Fish like these are rare in town, known only to the coolest spots. I've found them only in places like Al di La, where the exploration of the palate sometimes trumps the profit motive of the chef — to the delight of serious diners.

It can take awhile to get those little plates from the kitchen, though, and sometimes the wrong ones fly out after a half-hour wait. But sit out on the covered patio facing Rutledge Avenue and watch the gentrification of the upper peninsula while eating rather upscale food at surprisingly affordable prices, and you won't mind the wait so much.

You can wile away the hours munching on a mountain of cream cheese with a faint whiff of nondescript seafood or a decent version of hummus served alongside toasted rusks of thinly slice baguette. A thin-crust pizza full of tomatoes, caramelized mushrooms, mozzarella, and pesto goes down easy among the well-heeled technorati — the parking lot features more luxury automobiles than one could count with a widescreen abacus, and the patronage leans toward well-dressed thirtysomethings.

When you're ready to move on to the entrées, the "specials" present a perplexing dilemma. Their quality is unmistakable, but their price is nearly double that of the most expensive plate on the regular menu. One night, you'll find a very capable preparation of lamb racks ($25), cooked perfectly rare in a roasted garlic and rosemary rub and splayed across the plate with big rounds of sautéed zucchini, half a tomato concentrated in a slow oven, and a fine demi-glace reduction. The triggerfish ($25) special rolls out in a sauce of creamed corn with little packages of bacon-wrapped fennel, slightly overcooked, but tasty and acceptable served alongside slivers of raw fennel salad. An awesome bone-in New York strip, seared with a crackling crust and leaned over a cheese-laden twice-baked potato will knock your wallet for a whopping 30 bucks, but despite the steep upcharge, it's clear that these dishes represent the best the kitchen has to offer. It's the first upscale fare to be found on the upper peninsula.

Granville's used to do a "family night" on Mondays with a $20 prix-fixe menu, but that seems to have been usurped by the place's popularity. Lots of people are willing to stop by and drop some bank, because who doesn't want a joint in their neighborhood with good food, a trendy atmosphere, and no tourists? Go for the food, schedule extra time for the bad service, and know that you will be doing your part to bring remarkable steak tartare to the "edgier" parts of town.

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