All the stars were out on the night my dining companion and I were visiting. Grillfire Owner, George Korten, himself , showed up at our table and greeted us. We also had a chance to talk to Corporate Executive Chef, Frank Greco. Greco has launched each of Korten's restaurants in a business partnership that has lasted over 20 years. He admits that he's a lifer, so with all his eggs in this basket, he is very discriminating when it comes to what products are used and what will go on a Grillfire menu. Greco says, "This particular menu has been in development for a while because we have a couple of Grillfires in Long Island so we just took it for this neighborhood." Don't get him wrong...it's not a carbon copy by any means. Greco explained that the menu for the restaurants in Long Island are more casual, a little more fun and not as upscale. "...but we decided for this neighborhood, for this market we wanted to slightly elevate it a little bit. We wanted to elevate that American grill a little bit," Greco adds.
The Grillfire at Arundel Preserve took their example from Korten's other high-end steakhouses. Greco explains, " That's why we added the sushi tuna appetizers and we really embellished the surf and turf. We had a lot fun with it. It was a fun menu to put together." The restaurant also serves breakfast and will start offering daily specials.
Chef Greco will be at the Arundel Preserve location for about six months to get the ball rolling and then it's back to New York, where he jokes, he can get a decent bagel. Admitting he's not the authority on the crabcake, he defers to Grillfire's Executive Chef Marc Barber for his advice with this Maryland specialty. Chef Barber has over 19 years in the restaurant business, with five as the Executive Kitchen Manager for The Cheesecake Factory. Greco will leave Grillfire's kitchen in very capable hands. He is very excited about Barber joining the team.
Of course the proof is in the pudding as far as the food goes, so with a few recommendations, my dinner companion and I were on our way. Our appetizers were the Coconut Crusted Crab Munchkins served with spicy marmalade and the Chili Pop Shrimp tossed in hot and sweet chili sauce.
Both of the appetizers were delish, but I was so very impressed with the flavorful Thai influenced-Chili Pop Shrimp. If you are put off by the possibility of the hot and sweet chili sauce—don't be. The "hot" label was a little overstated. It was really not that hot at all. The Coconut Crusted Crab Munchkins were a pleasant surprise as well. I'm not a big coconut fan because of its texture; however, the coconut crusting did not have a distracting shredded texture and the subtle taste of the coconut did not overshadow the crab ball. The addition of the marmalade gave it an entirely different kick. Well done.
Now in the interest of full disclosure my dining companion, who is very well traveled, but is from Baltimore, where crabcakes are king, was not as impressed with the crab munchkins. I'm originally from New York, lived in the Hampton Roads area (where, by the way, crabs are pretty serious too) and then moved to Baltimore—I liked it. Yes, I'm calling Baltimore crab eaters picky.
For an entree, I decided to go with the Cowboy Cut Ribeye cooked medium rare. My companion ordered the Fettucini with Sea Scallops and Jumbo Shrimp and we also ordered the Cabernet Braised Boneless Short Ribs served with truffle scented mashed potatoes and pan jus. Our side was Sweet potato wedges. I agree... ordering the sweet potatoes was kind of random, but we wanted to try it. Since we are on the subject, it was not my favorite. I do get it...it's grilled and you want the natural flavor to emerge and it did. It was a sweet, full sweet potato flavor...still not my favorite. Now let's move on to my favorite...the Cowboy Cut Ribeye. I was dancing my "delicious food" dance in my seat (in a very reserved manner) as I ate my steak. Just a classically good offering with a tender juiciness that even the most discriminating steak connoiseurs would have to love. Isn't that right dinner companion who went back less than a week later to get that steak again?
The Cabernet Braised Boneless Short Ribs were just surprising as all get up. My goodness, I can certainly say I've never had ribs prepared like that before. It puts you in the mindset of eating roast beef. Paired with the smokey essence of the cabernet sauce, this dish is one to try.
Now there are not a lot of pasta offering on the menu yet, but the one my dinner companion ordered was a good old-fashioned plate of pasta. Don't overestimate the value of a good plate of pasta. Many restaurants don't get it right. At Grillfire the Fetuccini with Sea Scallops and Jumbo Shrimp was just right, in the ever-raging battle of too dry versus too soggy pasta. It is prepared in a in a light chardonnay, asiago & tomato cream. Per the name of the dish, the shrimp were jumbo and the scallops were huge as well, and "Hallelujah!" not the blandly seasoned variety of scallops that are offered so widely. The seasoning was tasted through and through.
Now to dessert...my dining companion ordered the Crisp Apple Turnover, which made him have to tag off on my "delicious food" dance. I heard mutterings of "This is the truth!" and other complimentary mouth-filled mumbles. I was about to try my s'mores but, I too, tagged back in for another "delicious food" dance when I tried the flakey, delicate dessert entrenched in cinnamon gelato and caramel. Oh yeah!
Last but not least, this a recommendation for those who have children or maybe a group that just enjoy having fun. This won't work for you if you are ashamed of a little "marshmallow face." You make the s'mores yourself with a little tabletop fuel-gel firepit. It is s'mores with Hershey chocolate, so you pretty much know how it will taste. It's just a fun experience and we all could use more of those.
Website: George Martin's Grillfire
Atmosphere: Upscale but casual
Dress: Casual, dressy, whatever!
Price: Reasonable. You won't break the bank.