Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Grano? "NO!"

Grano is an Italian restaurant near the Yonge and Eglinton area. One day I met up with my friend Jean and instead of going to Grazie, which is also nearby, we decided to try out Grano, which is also in the neighbourhood. Before heading down, I took a look at their website. The restaurant seems to be very well established - according to the website, Grano will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2011. The restaurant also sells its own gift cards, does catering, and offers Italian lessons along with dinner (a 20-year tradition at the restaurant). They have also recently hosted the post premiere screening party for the film Letters to Juliet for 300 people. Sounds promising, right? All I gotta say is, thank goodness for the yummy desserts at Panorama afterwards or else it would've been a sad, sad night in terms of food.

Well, the front of the restaurant looks cool and stylish, I give them that.

Once you walk in, you will see this little table with a bowl of breads. I wonder how long they have been sitting there?

Walking down the long hallway leading to the dining area is an ice cream station on the right,

followed by some antipasto trays.

The dining area is towards the back of the restaurant. I do love the rustic feel of the place - the wooden flooring as well as walls that are plastered with endless artwork, posters, and photographs. 

Seems like there is a small courtyard at the back as well (the bright area beyond the door) but I am not 100% sure.

This view looks to the front of the restaurant. I like the large windows. By the way, you may notice that there seems to be nobody at the restaurant  but that's because it was only 5:30pm on a weeknight.

The dinner menu.

The breads came right after we ordered. They may look yummy here, but they were actually pretty hard and cold. I felt like I was eating cardboard. Considering that they were not even close to busy, did it hurt to maybe heat it up a bit? I wouldn't know! Honest! And since I'm at it, three pieces of bread for two people? If they had put the breads on a larger plate maybe they could've fit one more piece so we could've had TWO pieces each.

Then came the weird part. 

After Jean and I each had one piece of bread, there was evidently one piece of bread left. We weren't in a hurry to finish it since we were chatting away and sipping on our pinot grigio. But somehow, the waitress must've thought we have had enough bread (this was merely 5-10 minutes after she brought the bread over), and decided to take both our bread plates away. UMMMM...who said we were done with the bread? We were both too shocked to say anything when she was taking them away but when we got back our senses, we waved her back and asked if we can have our bread plates back since we weren't done. Her response? "Oh, OK". No sorry, no apology, just "Oh, OK", with an attitude that seemed like we were the ones being unreasonable for wanting our bread plate back. How odd is this? Again, I emphasize that there was still bread on the table at the time.

Moving on! Since we both wanted to make sure we had room for dessert, we skipped the appetizers and just ordered mains. Jean ordered the Orecchiette pasta in a chicken, mushroom, and wine bolognese from the menu, with penne instead of the shell pasta. Well obviously from the picture below, the pasta is not penne. Jean didn't bother asking it to be changed though because who knows how long that will take. She tasted the pasta and said it was bland and nothing special. I took a bite and I can honestly say that I can make better pasta at home. 

I had the Risotto del Giorno. On the menu it indicated that it is made with carnaroli rice. From this experience, I know now that I am not a fan of carnaroli rice. I did some research before this post and it seems like in North America, arborio rice is more commonly used than carnaroli for risotto. I usually love risotto so I guess I like arborio rice better. However, I'm still unsure though whether it is the carnaroli rice that I don't like, or whether it is Grano that made a horrible risotto.

I'm used to risottos that are much more mushy and thick, with grains that stick together, grains that are...hm... less "individually defined"? I don't know if you can tell by the picture, but each grain here is separate. I can chew and feel each grain in my mouth, and I'm pretty sure I can pick up each grain of carnaroli rice from the plate with a pair of chopsticks too. That's how the risotto was. I felt like I was eating Chiu Chow congee, which is a very watery Chinese congee (think rice in broth). Not only that, the tomato sauce is so bland and watery. I couldnt' believe I was going have to pay $17 for this.

The only good thing about this place was the tin full of cheese on each table. There was probably only 20% of cheese left by the time we were done. Yes, the pastas were that flavourless, and hey, we need to get our money's worth considering the pastas failed to excite our taste buds.

We didn't even bother with dessert there although from Grano's website, it seems like they have quite an extensive dessert selection. But really, after the poor service and the below-average pastas, I just can't imagine myself staying there a minute longer for dessert.

Jean and I headed downtown afterwards to do some shopping (kinda made me wonder why we just didn't have dinner in downtown instead). After shopping we went to Panorama for dessert. I was soooo glad we went. The desserts were fabulous! Although I gotta say that the service was not that great there either; not that they were rude, just that they were always nowhere to be found.

We shared the creme brulee trio, 

and a piece of chocolate cake.

Thank God for dessert!

I just want to end this post with a question: Has anyone been to Grano and had a better experience? I want to know.