Our meal at Grotto tonight was a bizarre mixture of the fundamentally adequate, the woefully misbegotten and the just plain freaky.
My main question: does anyone know if the chef at Grotto was perhaps badly frightened by a Maillard reaction as a child? I was served a side dish of wild mushrooms that were as limp, bland and flavorless as a plate full of limp, bland, flavorless things. As for my entree, I'm perfectly willing to admit that it was potentially a major mistake to order steak frites at a putatively Italian restaurant, but come on, this is a standard restaurant item that any decent chef should be able to put together. The fries were adequate, but the thin-sliced steak seemed to be carefully drained of anything resembling flavor, and I'm fairly certain that the sauce on top consisted entirely of water and red food coloring thickened with a little cornstarch. The brussels sprouts were also cooked by whoever was responsible for the mushrooms, I'm afraid. (Seriously, Grotto folks: caramelization be tasty. You might wanna look into it.)
That said, the opening dish of mussels with tomatoes and bread crumbs was quite lovely, and the dessert was...interesting. The menu said it was chocolate pudding, but for some reason, I was served about three-quarters of a cup of ice-cold ganache. If you've ever dreamed about eating the inside of a chocolate truffle the size of a softball, head over to Grotto. They can hook you up.
So is this what Grotto is always like, or do they just not bring their A game whenever Restaurant Week comes around? Can't imagine why, because I have little if any desire to go back now.