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Grasshopper, Waraji, Magnolia Grill and Tyler's Taproom reviews

Sant | Aug 18, 200502:59 PM

My mom is in town this week so she has been watching the kids so we can check out a few places.

Couple of nights ago we went to Waraji. We had uni, toro, volunteer roll, crunchy roll, and the suzuki 500 roll. It was my first time trying uni and I didn't care for it. The toro was sublime! The volunteer and crunchy rolls were delicious but I was underwhelmed by the Suzuki. Service was excellent. I don't know if it's the best sushi joint in the Triangle but it gets a thumbs up from me.

We went to a movie and then on the way home I got the sudden idea to pop into Magnolia Grill to see what Karen Barker had concocted. My choice was a brownie with chocolate ice cream, sliced bananas, and caramel sauce. It was okay but didn't bowl me over. My wife's choice, however, was pure brilliance. Two crepes with sweetened goat cheese (very similar to marscapone) and caramelized figs. Outrageously delicious and the best value on the menu.

Yesterday we went to Grasshopper on its opening day. It is a beautiful restaurant, especially considering what the space used to look like when it was a run down pizza joint. We sat in the garden outside. I had the shrimp and pork dumplings, and because I didn't find the entree selections (labeled "large") particularly intriguing, I ordered two items from the "small" section: salmon wrapped in banana leaf with tamarind and basil, and sliced beef with cucumbers and peanut sauce. My wife ordered the vegetable dumplings, and two "smalls" also: watercress salad with duck, and coconut-rice crepes with vegetable filling. The food was good but not what I was expecting. When I think of Asian food I expect bold flavors but this place puts a premium on subtlety. I think this worked well for the dumplings but not for the salmon. Here are my main observations, comments and suggestions:
1. When you go, you must order a "large" dish because when they say "small" most items are quite small. While the prices are fair, I think the food/price ratio greatly favors the large items compared to the small items. It may be more informative to just label them as appetizers and entrees.
2. Larger water glasses and water with ice in it. Otherwise, the water gets warm rather quickly.
3. As typical of most new restaurants, service and speed of food preparation needs much improvement. I had to ask the waitress "is that our cocktail sitting at the bar?" and my glass sometimes went unfilled (again, could be mitigated by using larger glasses). We got our dumplings in a timely manner but it was a long wait to get our "small" plates and the check. However, the folks were apologetic about the long waits and asked for our understanding.
4. Did not like the Grasshopper martini (citron vodka and midori). Frankly, it tasted like cough syrup or that blue mouthwash stuff-- and $8 to boot. Think I'll get a beer or wine next time.

So, in short, Grasshopper is a hip place; the food shows promise and imagination, but I'm going to have to try more dishes before I can give in an unequivocal endorsement; it's got some kinks to work out interms of service.

Lastly, we went to the new Tyler's Taproom and Speakeasy at the American Tobacco building. For drinks I had a Chimay and my wife had a honey mead, both on draft. Matter of fact, they have 50 beers on draft at any one time. As a beer lover I was grinning ear to ear. For starters we has smoky bacon blue crab dip. Oh my, was that good! I had a shrimp po boy and my wife had their burger. Both came with garlic fries. This is probably the best pub grub I've ever had! [Good call on the burger, David A.] Move over, Federal, there's a new kid on the block.

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