If you’re like me, visiting a new restaurant is a bit like going on a blind date. You dress up, hold your breath, and hope the experience lives up to your (high) expectations. Often there is a let down. Perhaps it’s a decent place, but the two of you just aren’t a good fit. On occasion, when the spot turns out to be the restaurant equivalent of the date from hell, you vow never to return. And once in a while, things click. You have a great interaction and almost feel giddy thinking about the next opportunity to spend quality time together. That’s the experience I had during my first visit to The Grape Leaf Restaurant and Wine Bar.
The Grape Leaf Restaurant had a soft opening in October and continues to undergo some gentle tweaks. Designers completely revamped the interior of what had once been the old Greek Corner, and in its place they crafted a warm, comfortable spot dressed in an inviting autumn palate. The bistro vibe encompasses some of the best attributes of Italy, Spain, and Argentina, the countries which provide the main influences for the menu. A mix of small and mid-size booths, along with a smattering of pedestal tables, provides seating in a space that feels both intimate and upscale. Gentle flamenco drifted from the speakers during my visits.
Dining Room, The Grape Leaf Restaurant and Wine Bar
No single cuisine dominates The Grape Leaf’s international menu, but inspiration is definitely drawn from Italy and Spain, the historic homes of the chef, Franco Magrini, and the owner, Hugo Gimenez. Hugo’s formative years were in Argentina and Franco’s family lived there when he was young, so it, too, is represented. A variety of pasta dishes and other Italian fare immediately catch the eye, yet other menu headings include Spanish “Tapas” and “Postres” for starters and desserts. Within the Tapas section alone you’ll find Spanish croquetas de jamon, Greek gyros with tzatziki, Middle Eastern falafel, pinchos with Argentine chimichurri, South American empanadas, and Italian dishes such as fried polenta. The remainder of the menu also touches many bases. Even the dessert wine pairings are multinational, with a Hungarian tokaji appearing alongside dulce de leche and a Portuguese port recommended with the arroz con leche.
With such a diverse menu, I knew it would take several visits to sample a variety of dishes. I began by visiting The Grape Leaf for dinner. A friend and I started our meal with the small Plato de Fiambre from the Tapas section of the menu. Although the name in Spanish literally translates as “lunch plate,” the dish was an Italianesque antipasto of cured meats accompanied by fresh mozzarella and – to keep things truly international – a French inspired pate made from chicken livers. Smooth mortadella was counterbalanced by the rustic, coarser textured sopressata. Delicate shavings of Prosciutto di Parma also graced the plate, as did a few bits of (more…)
Read Full Post »