We went to Grace for the first time last night. The place was about two-thirds full when we arrived at 7:30 and was packed by the time we left. The atmosphere was, well, I'm not sure what -- it wants to be very atmospheric, but lacks a defining quality.
We were seated at one of the banquettes to the side, and were one of the few man-woman twosomes in the place. We had been there for about fifteen minutes before our waiter came by to offer ice water (a much better term than "tap water"). Bread came five minutes later in the form of a dinner roll with uncommonly good butter.
I like to order a half-bottle of wine on occasion, but Grace offered only four half-bottles, none of them within my price range. So my friend and I limited ourselves to a glass each of Sancerre, which went down nicely. I had been told to look for a tasting menu on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but none was on offer.
The menu features a wide range of appetizers -- maybe a dozen or so, which is commendable. And most of them sounded better than the entrees, so we decided to split four of them and the salmon entree.
We started with the roasted baby beet salad with goat cheese. It included a fair number of green beans, giving it a sort of Nicoise-y touch. You can't go wrong with this salad (it's the only thing I liked at Jar), and this one is good and reasonably priced.
More goat cheese in a salad of greens, goat cheese and potato, also yummy. Next came a crab salad with peas and sprigs of mint that S. Irene said taste like "the first day of spring," and that's exactly what it does taste like. It's unusual, memorable, and very good.
The last appetizer, a risotto with pumpkin, shrimp and sea urchin, came out with the salmon. The risotto was heavy -- almost like a corn chowder -- and couldn't help but remind me of the divine sea urchin risotto Masa served at Ginza Sushi-Ko -- an unfortunate comparison for Grace. The salmon with some steamed spinach, peppers and brandade was flavorful.
Dessert selections were highly limited, and included another warm dish with some pumpkin flavoring and a boring-sounding chocolate souffle tart. We had no trouble passing. Our bill came to $106 and we were certainly full by the time we left.
Almost everyone is serving this same sort of menu, though the wide selection of appetizers (they didn't have the skate, which we had wanted to try) is nice. It's further east down Beverly than a place I tried more recently, Em Bistro at Beverly & Sweetzer (where Atlantic used to be), and truthfully I'd go back to Em first. Everything was not bad, a lot of it was good, but there's nothing to rush back for. -- Jordan