Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A bit more than standard at Primebar & Grill

It's always tough to choose what to eat the few days after Thanksgiving. Ostensibly, you've been doing your civic duty by trying to eat your way through the leftovers in the fridge to the extent you can, but once you reach Saturday afternoon or so, you usually run out of steam-- either you can't stomach the idea of another turkey-and-stuffing sandwich, or you're left with an obscure combination of leftovers that doesn't really lend itself to a meal (canned cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, and wilted green bean casserole, anyone?). Regardless, it's usually time to venture back out to the restaurant world, if only to get a respite from your own kitchen.

This year, my parents and I took the Saturday evening meal at the new-ish Primebar Grill in Wayland, MA. This location used to be home to our favorite local Italian joint, Luigi's, so the existence of Primebar will always be slightly bittersweet. However, good food is always welcome, so we went into dinner with an open mind.

The owners of Primebar surely spiffed up the joint; it's now a welcoming, casual place, filled to capacity with groups and couples enjoying food and drinks (and reveling in the turkey-free atmosphere). We settled into a spacious booth and ordered from our friendly, obliging server, who fielded our laundry list of special requests with aplomb.

Bread is brought only upon request, but be sure to request it-- it's quite good. It's much better than it needs to be, actually: warm, yielding ciabatta rolls with a yielding crust and a tender interior. The ice-cream-scoop of butter is just what you'd expect.

Mmmm bread

Mom started things off with a side Caesar salad; she enjoyed it, but it surely didn't impress on looks alone. Romaine, a few shavings of parm, five croutons, check.

Straight out of a Dole Caesar Salad kit

Then the main courses: Dad went with the warm steakhouse salad, with sirloin, greens, red onion, mushrooms, and tomatoes. It's a good portion, for sure, and Dad gobbled it down. The ingredients, however, seemed to suffer from the same problem my salad had...

'Shrooms & beef

...Which was that they seemed to be straight out of the mid-90s. The "mixed greens" in my Mediterranean salad were iceberg and more iceberg. A few chopped bell peppers and some halved cherry tomatoes provided some vitamins; the three or four segments of beets added sweetness. The feta cheese was the only ingredient present in both ample quantity and above-par quality, creamy and tangy in all the right ways. There was nothing wrong with the salad, per se; it's simply that there were so many easy ways to make it a little better, a little more upscale, without too much trouble. And for $11.95, I'd expect the kitchen to have seized at least some of those opportunities.

Is Full House on tonight?

Mom's crabcakes were a winner, however. They were lightly done, not heavily fried, as requested, and they were mostly crabmeat rather than filler-- impressive. The only curious element of this dish was the "seasonal vegetable" side, which that evening was butternut squash. While we were all expecting something roasted, or perhaps baked, or maybe even pureed, what arrived was seemingly deep-fried (and frankly looked like plantains). That's the most unusual preparation of butternut squash I've ever seen. I think Mom was a little disappointed.

Trio of large cakes. With plantains.

One Thanksgiving foodstuff we hadn't yet tired of (and still had ample supplies of at home) was dessert, so we finished our meal at that point and headed home for some sweets. Overall, Primebar is no Luigi's, but since it's not an Italian restaurant I suppose it doesn't try to be. I like the restaurant's atmosphere, and there are definitely some highlights on the menu, but for the prices (substantial even by NYC standards), there are some easy quality improvements the kitchen could stand to make. That said, Primebar has the makings of an occasional family standby, so I suppose that means it earns three Offset Spatulas. Here's to hoping the kitchen upgrades some ingredients in the future.

Primebar Grill
131 Boston Post Road, Wayland, MA

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