Tuesday, June 9, 2009

J. Gilbert's Wood Fired Steaks, Glastonbury, CT June 2009

Food: A+
Service: A-

Amy and Joanne write:

Joanne and I had planned some time ago to make J. Gilbert’s Wood Fired Steaks an RRC destination. We finally had the opportunity last night, as an end-of-the-school-year splurge. My husband and I have been many times, and we have never had a bad experience. The food is consistently great, I dare say outstanding, and the service is spot on. In fact, both have won several local “best of” awards.

I arrived first to this bustling and busy steak house and had a chance to peruse the menu while waiting for Amy. (Not that I hadn’t looked online!) In that time our server also brought me a sample of Malbec I was interested in trying. Satisfied, I ordered a glass, which was delivered just as Amy joined me.

I also ordered a glass of wine, choosing the J. Lohr cabernet. Since we were going “all out,” we decided to begin with a shared appetizer before moving on to our own meals. We chose the Shrimp Durango. Six large shrimp arrived, arranged like a sunburst around a heap of sauteed Roma tomatoes, spinach and basil. A sprinkling of shredded parmesan gave it bite. Below the shrimp was a puddle of orange-red ancho chili butter that added a subtle but pleasant heat to the freshness of the dish. I had no problem dipping my slice of sourdough into that sauce! It was a great start.

Next I moved on a Caesar salad, for which I requested no anchovies. A generous portion of romaine was presented with a parmesan crisp. The dressing’s first flavor to hit my taste buds was lemon, followed by Dijon mustard. I enjoyed this mild Caesar dressing that left me ready for dinner.

I tasted Joanne’s Caesar as well as the parmesan crisp. I liked both, but I’m not a big salad person, so I ordered the crab bisque. The bisque was presented in a large shallow bowl topped with lump crabmeat and a garnish of chives. A bit of fresh cracked pepper was all that was needed. Creamy and velvety, the bisque was both warming and satisfying. I could have eaten several bowls, but not with an entrée on the way.

When dinner arrived I was glad I limited myself to 2 shrimp and a salad, as I had every intention of eating every morsel of the 4-ounce petit filet and 4-oz scallop combination dinner I ordered, served with asparagus and chipotle cheddar mashed potatoes. While I enjoyed the asparagus and tasty potatoes, I focused on the protein. The scallops were outstanding. Cooked perfectly, soft and sweet with a balsamic glaze. For an extra 1.95 I asked that my petit filet be prepared au poivre. It was perfect. The sauce worked on this oh-so-tender filet that was cooked to a perfect medium.

Between the shrimp and the bisque, I had my fill of seafood and was glad I ordered just a steak, in particular, the six-ounce filet au poivre with the chipotle cheddar mashed and haricot verts. The filet was perfectly cooked and nicely coated with cracked and whole peppercorns. The cream and brandy sauce made the fork-tender mesquite-grilled filet taste extra special. The green beans were crisp while the potatoes were smooth and flavorful. I ate half of everything and packed the rest, which reheated well to make a nice lunch for the next day.

As full as we both were, we had to have dessert, in particular, their almond tuiles cannoli. Rich chocolate mousse filled a crisp almond cookie shell which rested over raspberry sauce and crème anglaise. A mix of sweet berries prettied up the plate as well as our palates.

Overall it was exceptional. Our server paced our dinner well, which was important for a multi-course meal. She was friendly, knowledgeable, and checked in appropriately to refill water and wine. With a variety of steakhouses in the area from which to choose, J. Gilbert’s is a great value. Think Capital Grille but less pricy and austere or Max Downtown but more homey and with more customers. The food and service will make future visits to J. Gilbert’s an inevitability.