My SO and I took my sister, who was visiting from the East Coast, to Grace on Friday night. I posted previously that I was impressed by Grace on our first visit, but this visit was even better.
I must admit that the start was a little shaky - we had 9:15 reservations and we were not seated until about 9:45. There was nowhere to sit at the bar so we were just standing and were not offered a glass of wine during the wait (I always think this is a good practice for restaurants to adopt, but so few do it).
Yet once we sat down, my mood quickly changed.
First, I talked for a while with the sommelier, Michael. The interaction with Michael was wonderful, and brought our Grace experience up to a different level. For my SO and I, this was refreshing - we are in our 20s and from time to time have felt talked down to, or at least not taken seriously, by sommeliers. Another problem we encounter is that we are usually trying to stay under $40 and many times the waiter or sommelier acts as if this is a huge imposition. We had neither of those problems here. Michael is clearly passionate about wine and he definitely knows his stuff. He's also not afraid to put top-notch, reasonably priced wines on the menu. After some discussion, he suggested a great $33 bottle of Viognier and brought out a taste for us before opening the bottle. We all liked it and it paired well with our appetizers.
We started off with a half dozen oysters (a special). Not the best I've ever had, but still very good. Then I had the trio of raw fish (great, especially the halibut seasoned w/ sea salt), my SO had the scallops -I think there should be at least 3 instead of 2, but damn they were good, and my sister got the tuna carpaccio. All three appetizers held their own, and we debated who had chosen the best.
Then we had another conference with Michael. I had ordered the black cod (a special), but the other two entrees we ordered were the filet and the rack of lamb. Michael suggested a few wines that would pair well with the meat and not overpower the fish. He brought me a taste of an "earthy" Chateauneuf du Pape, but I then told him to disregard what I was having and pair for the other two dishes. He told us he had a wine - for $39 - that would knock us out.
Boy, did it. First, the three of us devoured the black cod, which was wonderfully seasoned in a saffron sauce. There were shrimp involved that seemed a bit extraneous, but the cod was to die for. Then we started drinking a Jaffurs 2000 Bien Nacido Syrah from Santa Barbara. I was in absolute wine heaven. It was full bodied and paired perfectly with the filet (this is a damn good steak) and the lamb (my SO was raving). I was sure we would not finish the bottle but I seriously underestimated that. The food was so good but we could not stop talking about the wine. It was one of those ideal food and wine marriages and we were reveling in it.
We ended with a dessert w/ banana that was not as tasty as the white chocolate souffle I had last time. Then after we paid, we went the bar and continued to talk to Michael and try a few different wines he had behind the bar. It was truly an amazing night.