Restaurants these days are turning a bit frou-frou. They hire design consultants, feng shui artists, poodle walkers. While these touches can be cool and sleek looking, sometimes you just want a taste of the old school. Grill 23 provides that and then some.
When you heave open the heavy, wooden and glass doors (no automatic, cylindrical glass spaceships here), you enter a darkened, wood paneled dining room. There is definitely old world charm here, and you can see it from the first second. Wines are stored in meshed-in cabinets all around the room, the tables are heavy, immovable wood pieces of furniture; not just a wobbly platform. The chairs are plush armchairs that you would feel perfectly at home leaning back in smoking a cigar and sipping a glass of 30 year port. And if you do it right, you might just be doing that in a few hours.
Once seated, a waiter appears at your table as if he had been standing there all night just waiting for you to arrive. The rather new-school choice of waters is offered, and then food menus, wine menus, and cocktail menus are given out.
The meat is clearly the focus. This is a steakhouse. The name of the restaurant is Grill 23. Some may argue that “hey, you can grill other stuff, like fish!” No. Order meat for your entrée. If you wanted a girly piece of seared tuna you should have gone to your local avant garde place. Seafood is acceptable, nay, encouraged as appetizers. We indulged in the seafood platter.
After the delicious, simply prepared seafood, the appetizers arrive. The super-chilled iceberg lettuce was interesting, and I couldn’t really see what was “super-chilled” about it. It was cold.
Anyway, the kobe beef carpaccio was delicious, but the toughness of the parmesan basket sort of took away from the tenderness of the meat. The onion and mushroom salad inside was delicious though.
The tuna carpaccio was fine; it was the same as all the tuna carpaccios that appeared spontaneously on all menus across the country about three years ago.
Once the appetizers are cleared away, prepare yourself. The real reason you came to this place is about to be made apparent to you. They will take your chilled white wine away, and return with a bold, hearty red. Get ready to be taken back to the days of dinner in tuxedos and train travel. This is a man’s meal. An old school, aristocratic, powerful man’s meal. What could possibly be more masculine than drinking ancient wine, and chewing on a perfectly dry aged, amazingly flavorful cut of beast?
Not only is the meat cooked perfectly (Rare/Medium-Rare), but every single one of the side dishes is crafted with amazing care. The onion rings are shoestrings, and each one is perfectly coated with batter, and fried crisp. The hash browns are browned evenly, and entirely delicious. You can even get tobacco onions.
The desserts were uniformly excellent. The winner was quite possibly the “s’mores;” a chocolate mousse with marshmallows on top, and graham crackers stuck into it. Others included a black and blue shortcake, and a few others that were unfortunately not shared with the guy who writes about the food. *ahem*
As per Massachusetts law, cigar smoking is no longer allowed inside, so the traditional way of finishing the meal will have to stay at home. However, you may most certainly enjoy a fine glass of Graham’s 30 year tawny and go on your way.
Please note: This post is not trying to say that women are not allowed at Grill 23. In fact, I went with two of them and enjoyed their company very much. My point is simply that a lot of places have let the atmosphere get out of hand and become much less masculine. That’s not to say that for something to be good it needs to be masculine but a steakhouse has a very manly concept behind it, and the decor should, in my opinion, reflect that. The focus should be on the food first, then the surroundings. We have really lost a lot of what made our country the way it is. The days of grand train stations, fine steakhouses, and just being a man are slowly fading away to shopping mall airports, chain Cheesecake Factories, and metrosexuals. I could keep going on about how letter writing is a lost art and cell phones are starting to drive me crazy, but that has nothing to do with food. It’s nice to sometimes go back to the good ole days. I suggest everyone do it from time to time. Leave your cell phone, your blackberry, and your palm pilot at home. Go out to dinner with your spouse, your kids. Go somewhere independant. Go to a local mom and pop italian place. Go somewhere that the food doesn’t come in portioned controlled baggies. (Now I’m really digressing. I did have my cell phone on me at Grill 23, and I’m sure they portion control their meat, but I’m making a broader point now.) Think about how hard it is to find places like that these days. If you can do it, come back and tell me about it. I know you’ll enjoy it. Don’t do it for me, do it for your country.
Note number two: I have read this a few times through now, and each time it seems that what I’m saying is really sexist. I’m really not trying to be. What I’m trying to say is that a steakhouse should be manly like a nail salon should be womanly. A nail salon would not do very well if it had paneled wood walls, a humidor, and Playboy to read. At least I don’t think it would. Unless it was in Northampton.
(Just KIDDING. I love Northampton!) People get so offended over the silliest things. Here’s my final comment; Go eat at Grill 23 if you want a steak without frou frouieness. Take the rest with a grain of salt.