Fine Dining reviews

Elm Street Grill splits the difference between fine dining, family restaurant and sports bar. The bar, where about a dozen television sets ensure you never miss a game, flanks to the left. Behind a divider, seating is quieter.

The entry way features a display of high-quality wines at grocery store prices. You can consume them in the restaurant with a modest $12 corkage fee. At the table, the restaurant’s wine list earns high marks for quality and value. An appropriate range of artisan beers is provided as well.

Food offerings are conventional, focusing primarily on widely popular items, plus a few dishes that reflect owner Ravi Khanna’s heritage. He is from New Delhi, India. Most things looked and tasted fresh, prepared from scratch. A lot of the menu development has grown out of ideas that originated in the context of wine dinners, held occasionally.

Chicken Wings can be ordered in varying degrees of intensity, Buffalo style, or treated with barbecue sauce or sweet chili, in addition to teriyaki-sesame. All arrived cooked through, appropriately hot. Firecracker shrimp are large, their crisp exterior yielding to good shrimp flavor, augmented but not overpowered by sweet chili sauce.

Fried Green Tomatoes are appropriately firm and tart, with crisp breading ladled with mellow ranch dressing. Onion Rings are cut medium-thick, fried crisp, oozing with cooked onion flavor. A Sampler Platter includes Mini Crab Cakes, not otherwise listed on the starter menu. They are OK, emitting mild crab flavor, but I would not rank them in the upper echelon relative to ones I’ve been served in other restaurants.

The highlight of the first courses was Chips-O-Boy. These are house-made potato chips, fried crisp, served hot, no grease, augmented with applewood bacon and melted cheddar cheese, plus a mellow ranch dressing. Talk about guilty pleasures. My wife and I felt like we ought to do some form of penance after eating these.

A large portion of the menu is devoted to sandwiches and burgers, the latter made with Certified Angus Beef. The Southern Comfort adds bacon, pimiento cheese and fried green tomato to the solid depth of flavor in the patty. The Bison Burger is inherently leaner, not as fully flavored (that’s not a criticism, it’s a characteristic of bison vs. beef), well-served by soft-cooked onions, cheddar cheese and spring mix lettuces. Burgers are served on brioche buns, which adds quite a bit of flavor.

From the entrée section of the menu, Jambalaya for Meat Lovers is an interesting variation on a perennial favorite. It combines andouille sausage, grilled chicken and shrimp in a gumbo base, with rice and tomatoes, onions and garlic. Chicken Kabobs are glazed with honey barbecue sauce, skewered with red onions and peppers. The chicken is moist, natural texture intact. A mint dipping sauce rounds out the conception.

Southern Fried Catfish is crisp and clean tasting, accented with remoulade sauce, joined on the plate by mashed potatoes and coleslaw. In Scallops Mornay, the scallops are tender, the sauce heavy on the cheese. Bacon and mushrooms join the scallops, the presentation flanked by grilled focaccia bread.

I ordered Salmon Steak medium; it arrived closer to well done, a little dryish, but still OK. This is glazed with honey and decorated with remoulade sauce. The augmentations provide most of the flavor.

Shrimp Coconut Curry turned out to be my favorite main dish. The shrimp are grilled and tender, and the curry is Indian style — sweetish on first impact, spicy-hot on the follow. Basmati rice, nutty in flavor and texture, hosts the presentation, supplemented by naan bread.

Most entrees are either matched with vegetables or provided with a choice of two sides. Fries are thick cut; I preferred the chips. Sweet potato tots are closer to dessert than a vegetable. Asparagus is grilled al dente, with a little olive oil.

A house salad of spring mix lettuces is included as well, at least for eat-in orders. I got take out one time, found no salad, called and was informed that to go orders do not include a salad. On another visit, I pointed out that the take-out menu clearly states that a house salad is included. The owner offered one as compensation for the omission, but that error needs to be corrected.

Ravi’s wife, Ruchi, is a language arts teacher at Mendenhall Middle School. She is a passionate cook, and he considers her the “brains” behind the recipes. She works with kitchen personnel to develop and implement the menu. They took over the property in 2011. It became Elm Street Grill in 2012.

On balance, my wife and I enjoyed our meals at Elm Street Grill, often quite a bit. Prices on the wine list are cut in half on Wednesday evenings. Given this enticement, I may never cook again, mid-week.

(See my blog for additional comments about Wednesday discounts elsewhere.)

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John Batchelor has been reviewing restaurants for 30 years. His reviews appear the first Thursday of the month. Contact him at john.e.batchelor@gmail.com.