When you want fine dining but want to forgo stuffiness, you go to Grace. It’s your no-fail, go-to date night, touring out-of-town guests site or client-wooing spot.
For starters the Organic Local Greens ($8) feature Tassione Farms greens, where the peppery arugula is allowed to speak for itself, is not overly dressed but simply features a clean-tasting salt and pepper vinaigrette. Crispy fried potato dices add interesting crunch, and ruby-colored, citrus-marinated beet halves pop. The salad is garnished with a spoon of tangy Texas goat cheese and a few strong red onions.
The menu is high end, featuring items like Striped Bass with pancetta and little neck clams, Imperial Farms Kobe Pot Roast, or Colorado Rack of Lamb (which looked impressive when served to a nearby table).
We were won over by one of the nightly specials, Spotted Skate Wing ($38). This unique fish is shaped like a fanned wing with a texture that is light and fleshy, rather than flaky, not unlike lump crabmeat. It was lightly floured and pan-fried, served alongside buttery fingerling potatoes and baby artichoke hearts. The plate was finished with an expert truffled emulsion. The artichoke hearts were a little bland, perhaps just the season, but the rest of the dish was very enjoyable.
The 8-ounce Filet ($37) topped with caramelized onions and mushrooms ($8) was also amazing. Served medium temperature, it was fork tender with a beautiful char and simply melted in your mouth. The topping was carefully prepared with the chef taking the time to achieve a deep color and rich flavor. It was one of those steaks you dream about, the kind that, by comparison, make most other steaks a disappointment. Grace also offers a Meyer Ranch All Natural version, but I can’t imagine it being any better than the one we had.
Save room for dessert. The Chocolate Walnut Milkshake ($9) is a crazy creamy indulgence with the strong flavor of vanilla bean, spiked with a touch of Nocello (walnut liqueur) and dark Crème De Cacoa. Or how does the Bruleed Lemon Pistachio Tart ($9) sound? The crust was layered with ground pistachios, followed by a lemony brûlée filling complete with a crispy torched sugar crust and studded with homemade pistachio brittle and fresh vanilla bean whipped cream.
Elegant surroundings — including a glass enclosed wine room with bright pops of stainless steel — are central in the dining room. The entire restaurant is enclosed with floor-to-ceiling glass that provides the contemporary exterior. A definite European influence can be seen throughout with hardwood veneers in medium tones and glossy Venetian plaster behind the hostess station.
Chef Blaine Staniford is still at the helm and obviously still having fun. He’s an award-winning chef who, at age 17, was one of the youngest students to graduate from The Culinary Institute of America.
You can expect the wait staff to be knowledgeable and friendly and stocked with true professionals, not just college students on their way to somewhere else. Ours was fabulous and able to demystify every aspect of every dish.