Monday, October 15, 2012

New Kid in Town - 360 American Grille

When you live in a town where new restaurants seem to open every week, it is inevitable that you will eventually see some unfortunate turnover. One of the casualties was Piri Q.

I did like Piri Q, but I also admit Sir Pickypants and I rarely went there. It wasn't that we didn't like the food. It was that they never obtained a liquor license so it was strictly BYOB. That meant every time we considered going there, we would have to deliberate:

Let's go to Piri Q
Okay. Do we want to drink wine?
Then let's go to Piri Q.
Do we have a bottle or can we easily procure one?
Then let's go to Piri Q.
Let's go somewhere else.

This would look much better as a flow chart, no?

I suspect this might have been a problem for other potential patrons as well. Also, it seems opinions were split on the food. There were skeptics who said the place wasn't really authentically Portuguese.  I'm not a huge stickler for authenticty in most cases. If the food tastes good, I don't worry if the original cuisine is tampered with a bit.  Since I didn't go there very often, my opinion wasn't going to keep them open.

Anyway, the space once occupied by Piri Q did not stay empty for long. It seems that as soon as it was closed, signs were coming up for a new restaurant called 360 American Grille (named after it's address of 360 Mamaroneck Ave.)  "American Grille" implies many possibilities, so we watched the place with some caution and much anticipation. Would this new restaurant be very different from anything else on the strip?

We finally tried it this past weekend. It was a Sunday night and the place wasn't crowded at all. That always makes SPP nervous. He always wants to know why restaurants are empty.

Piri Q had a very simple decor, so the new owners didn't have to change much. The colors in the 360 were warm, but dark (I couldn't help but draw comparisons to Hash O'Nash - the color brown seems to be the in thing in restaurants these days). I liked the lighting a lot. Best of all was the music. I joked that it was the "Ultimate Aging Gen-Xer Playlist" as we were serenaded all night by Ben Folds, DMB deep cuts, acoustic Counting Crows and plenty of Talking Heads.

We were greeted by an overly enthsiastic hostess who, in a manner typical of employees in brand new restaurants, came across as desperate to please. Once we were seated, our server Chris was right there to wait on us. Like the hostess, he was extremely friendly in that nervous, I-really-hope-this-restaurant-succeeds way. He was not in our faces all of the time though. He handed us a wine and beer list once we were settled. Score a point for the new restaurant over the old one.

SPP called the menu "fun". The food on the main menu I would describe as "classed-up basics". For example you could have regular meatloaf, or buffalo chicken meatloaf. There were two steak options and two fish options along with a vegetarian tacos made with sweet potatoes, black beans, and butternut squash. The nightly special was fried shrimp or spaghetti with chicken meatballs. Specials were announced on a blackboard when you walked in and were also written on a large whiteboard covering one wall.

It's hard to see here, but in the lower left corner it says, "Jenna loves her 360 family." That warmed Kevin's heart for sure.*

Garlic bread started the evening.  I didn't eat it, so I don't know if it was good or not.

I didn't initially intend to order an appetizer, but I found myself drawn to the heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad and ended up ordering it. The fig balsamic dressing was outstanding. The tomatoes themselves were a bit lackluster. I don't blame the restaurant. We're beyond peak tomato season now and I should have known better. The cheese was creamy and perfect.


Next came our entrees. I ordered pork chops with an apple-onion-raisin compote. SPP opted for the fried shrimp.

I don't know what happened to the fried shrimp picture.  It was of fried shrimp and french fries. 

French fries are a harmonious accompaniment for fried shrimp, but as a woman who is watching her weight, I wasn't too thrilled to see them on the side of my pork chops. Rather than fill plates with french fries, I would prefer they add some smashed potatoes, or sweet potatoes, or some sauteed spinach, or even some steamed green beans. They did have vegetable sides on the menu, but they were $4 extra.

On the good side, the french fries were really really good. They were perfectly crispy on the outside and were pillowy soft on the inside. I wasn't all that sorry to eat them.

The pork chops were perfectly cooked.  They were tender and juicy and not dried out at all.  The sauce could have used a little more...I don't know what.  It was very sweet.  It needed something more than sweetness because it was a little flat.  Perhaps a shot of liquor like bourbon or brandy would have done the trick.  Maybe some rosemary, or even a few more onions, could have jazzed it up.  Even an extra pinch or two of salt might have helped it.  It lacked a certain depth of flavor. 

There was nothing but praise for the shrimp on the other side of the table.

After snarfing those french fries, there was no way I'd be eating dessert, but pecan pie was on the dessert menu that night and that's one dessert the other side of the table couldn't resist. 

This was more tart than pie with a sturdy, rich crust.  That puff of whipped cream on the side - homemade, undoubtedly, 100%.  The chef was most certainly whipping up fresh cream in the kitchen. 

We had a visit from the chef at our table.  He seems like a young, enthusiastic guy, who understandably is eager to see that diners are happy in his restaurant.

Despite the minor flaws in the food, this seems like a really good restaurant.  The cooking is simple, but it is solid, and clearly the chef is skilled in the basics.  There are three other dishes on the menu I look forward to trying. The service is quite friendly and efficient and our dinner was perfectly paced.   360 American Grille will definitely have a place in our weekend restaurant rotation.

*For those of you who are not regular TERP readers and may not be familiar with the Pickypants-(dis)Order family, Jenna is the name of his beloved. horse.


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Emily said...

Those fries do look good. I couldn't resist them either! This sounds like a good restaurant. I hope they make it!