"A place to lounge, listen and, yes, nibble"
New York Times
January 19 2003
Sometimes low expectations can work to your advantage when dining out. Such was my experience at Grand in Stamford.
I had assumed for month that this was a nightclub-cum-disco and steered clear. In fact, Thursday through Saturday evenings a disc jockey presides at a console on the upper level overlooking the lounge and bar. But instead of the fast food and bar food I half expected, Grand tricked me.
All of the dishes I tried were quite good, several were out-and out terrific, and everything tasted freshly made. So much for preconceptions.
Yet there is a disconnect here, mainly because the mood created by the food, which is expert enough to encourage lingering, conflicts with the atmosphere generated by the mostly under-30 bar-lounge clientele that seems intent on loud schmoozing and even louder music. This may be why the emphasis is on an abbreviated menu with little plates (appetizers) and bar plates (served late into the evening).
The appetizers, by far the most creative dishes, feature the likes of seared foie gras, mushroom risotto, steak or tuna tartare and bakes artichokes, a tasty casserole with olives, Parmesan and white anchovies.
Seared duck foie gras was lightly pink (as I like it) in a devastatingly delicious sauce with stewed sour cherries and pistachios, wearing a topknot of watercress
Shrimp kabob had a charred smokiness, contrasting nicely with a sharp yogurt-cucumber dip with a cumin undercurrent.
Lobster bruschetta three toast triangles topped with lobster bits and crisp panchetta, balanced on fresh tomato slices was a pleasing study in contrasts. Even the baked macaroni and cheese comfort food supreme had a sophisticated twist. Made creamily with gruyere and parmesan cheeses and truffles, it was sizeable enough to double as a light entree.
The few entrees were also appealing. The braised beef short ribs were falling-off-the-bone tender and as succulent as any I have had recently. The mashed potatoes made a soothing accompaniment to the ribs, even though the advertised horseradish had apparently galloped elsewhere.
Other worthy dishes were the honey-glazed duck breast with sour cherries, served on couscous; creamy-rich lobster fettuccine with diced ham, peas and onions; and slow-cooked lamb slices with caramelized onion rings, served over mashed potatoes.
Pan- roasted red snapper, not my favorite fish, was crisp-edged, buttery perfection, surrounded by chopped tomatoes, fennel, fennel and roasted red peppers. It would be difficult to improve on its sweet meat and texture.
Two of the handful of desserts were well above par, especially a seductive warm chocolate cake with a soft center, garnished with vanilla ice cream. Also winning was the caramel and apple dome in which half a cooked apple topped I thin cake slice on caramel, served alongside butter pecan ice cream.
An individual lemon tart had tangy citrus flavor, but a mundane crust.
One of several surprises at grand was the brewed loose tea, not the ubiquitous tea bag. As a devout tea drinker, I say "Hurray!"
Another "hurrah!" goes to the triangulated plate presented gratis, which consisted of ripe olives, cornichons and red pepper- flaked olive oil winsome companions to the crusty rolls.
Add a third "hurrah!" for Grand’s moderate prices. The honey-glazed duck breast at $25 was the priciest entree and foie gras starter was tops at $15.
The mostly American wine list, as brief as the menu, begins at $22 and tops off at $99 for a Cakebread cabernet sauvignon. Many of the wines are offered in oversized glasses at $6 to $10.
Grand's high level of cooking skills deserves a "Very Good" rating, but I can only give a passing grade to the impersonal high-tech setting and the ear-crushing decibel level.
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