Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Glenview House Restaurant Review

Glenview House Then and Now - The third floor burned down in 1923.

The cuisine at Glenview House is simple: fresh, locally sourced, organic and delicious. The menu features beautifully presented, upscale American comfort food with French, Italian, and Asian influences. The bar specializes in craft and imported beers with over 100 different beers available on draught and in bottle. The selection itself includes over 30 styles of beer from over 60 brewers and is always evolving. Glenview House has one of the North Shore's best whisky collections and offers over 60 scotches and 50 North American whiskies. In 2010, the building was extensively rehabbed, with care taken to ensure that it had modern amenities, historic charm and remained a place where friends could get together for drinks.

First Impressions:

Ever have mixed impressions about a place? When I started looking for others' views on this restaurant, there seemed to be some negative opinions mixed in with glowing reports, with nitpicky complaints balanced by gushing over the food and ambiance. Then, about half a year ago, the reviews slowed down, which is also somewhat strange.

Chef Grant Slauterbeck has helmed some impressive kitchens (One North Kitchen and Bar, Pinstripes, D.O.C. Wine Bar), so my thought was that the food should be pretty good. When I spied sweet potato gnocchi on a special Rosh Hashanah menu the restaurant served, I hoped for the best.

An initial worry was that, perusing the online menu, there seemed to be little vegetarian or vegan fare, apart from some appetizers, salads, and a wrap - nothing on the entree section. This has always puzzled me when it happens, as a vegetarian pasta dish can always have the option to add protein of the diner's choosing. This is also a simple way to make non-meateaters feel welcome. Chef Grant, when he came out to talk to us, explained that in the past, when these options were featured, they were not big sellers, so faded from the menu. He did say that the kitchen would always be happy to accommodate special requests. To balance my vegetarianism, I brought my wife Laima, who is our designated carnivore when we eat out and happily sampled plenty of meat and fish options.

The entry to the restaurant is like stepping into someone's house, with the living room (bar) on the first floor and the living quarters (dining area) on the second. This restaurant has the feel of some serious money being put into the fixtures and decor. The tile in the ultra-clean bathrooms (thank you!) continued onto the landing, before giving way to carpeting and dark furniture. Though 2 of the walls are heavily fenestrated, no sound from the outside comes in, making the dining area a clubby, relaxed, and safe-feeling atmosphere. We visited on an early weekday evening and, while the room started off somewhat empty, it was basically full by the time we left.

Understated, comfortable interior
 The Wine:

As always, I take a look at the wine list, with the hopes of 1. finding interesting varietals to try out and 2. finding local wines. Glenview House has a simple wine list, divided into Sparkling (3), White (16), and Red (16) options. Some familiar names bracketed by complete unknowns, from here, there and everywhere. As an aperitif and to drink with my appetizer, I chose the Simonsig Chenin Blanc from South Africa, while Laima opted (at my urging) for the Louis Laurent Rose from the Loire. I also requested our reds towards the end of the first course to get a chance to try out those food pairings: Spain’s Luzon Verde for me and the Uppercut Cabernet Sauvignon from California for Laima. On the drinks menu was a special wine, the Skouras Moscofilero from Greece, so I had to try that as well. Overall, I’d say that, while the wine list is not extensive, it seems well-planned and fits the food, which, in my opinion, is most important.

We talked to Grant, the chef, about adding local wines to the list and he wasn’t sure if that would happen anytime soon. It turns out that we both vacation quite a bit in Harbor Country, Michigan, so he’s aware that they are making better wines there. Crossing my fingers that something like the Old Shore Vineyards Sofia Rose shows up on their list – a nice, safe addition to any Midwest wine list!

If you’re a beer drinker, plenty of local beers available, so no worries there.

Beautifully plated, great taste

The Food:
  • Appetizers:
    • Ahi Tuna and Wontons (pickled jicama, cucumber, wasabi caviar, ginger soy emulsion) which were, in Laima’s opinion, “refreshing.” My Stuffed Jalapeños (housemade with cream cheese, Japanese bread crumbs, fried, herb ranch dressing) tasted somewhat bland initially, but much improved with the dressing – I would have liked to see a bit more seasoning in the breading, to make them better on their own.
  • Entrees:
    • I opted to pair a Root Salad (house mixed greens, beets, celery root, rutabaga, carrots, lemon pine nut vinaigrette) with a Grilled Vegetable Wrap (seasonal vegetables, goat cheese, pesto, grilled pita bread). The salad was outstanding, a great mix of vegetables combined with a surprising lemon vinaigrette, the pine nuts adding an interesting nut flavor as well as complementary crunchy texture. The Grilled Vegetable Wrap was equally flavorsome, with the thick pita bread enveloping julienned vegetables. At the waitresses suggestion, I added some mushrooms to the mix, which, with the goat cheese, completed the package. Laima’s Char-Grilled New York Strip (paired with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, and a red wine demi-glace) was cooked to her order and apparently very good. The green beans were nice and crunchy, which is always a sign the kitchen is paying attention!
  • Desserts:
    • We consciously left room for dessert, though it was hard to let the waitress take our plates, and we were both really glad we did. Of the 3 options, we chose Roasted Banana Bread Pudding Bites with Lavender Honey and the Chocolate Wedge. The former reminded me of French toast, while the latter is possibly one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve had in a restaurant. No, really. Addition of hazelnuts(one of my favorites) was the pièce de résistance. Both highly recommended.

Save room for dessert!

Amazingly and unfortunately, the Glenview House does not have an espresso machine, depriving us of a much-desired after-dinner cappuccino. Definitely a needed upgrade!

It really is after the meal that one can make sense of it all. As Laima and I strolled around the Christmas-lighted downtown of Glenview, we both agreed that it had been a great meal, from start to finish. Service was professional and unobtrusive. To me, of course, the lack of more vegetarian entrees was a disappointment, but the food I did have was truly tasty. Hailing from Downers Grove, a suburb not so very far from here, but far enough, we both wished that we had a gastro-pub like Glenview House to call our own.

Glenview House on Urbanspoon

More information can be found on the Glenview House website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Disclaimer: This meal was comped for me for review purposes, courtesy of Glenview House. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the restaurant a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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1 comment:

  1. Very tasty and pleasant dining experience!

    You can bring me along anytime as your designated carnivore:)