Puppeteers in the Bathroom – Grille 29

We decided to try out Grille 29 for my birthday dinner on Saturday night. I was a bit skeptical of the restaurant based on the description on their website. I was concerned that it might be too trendy for my taste, too loud and too bright. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised with both the atmosphere and the quality of the food.

I must admit that my first impression was negative. We had 6:30 reservations, but we were not seated until 7. They stated that they were overwhelmed with couples celebrating Valentine’s Day. Although this may not be typical, my understanding was that a table had been reserved for us, hence the term reservation. I was fortunate that a seat opened up at the bar since my back would not have been happy with me standing up for 30 minutes. This also kept people I don’t know from touching me {shudder}.

My impression of Grille 29 changed once we were seated. Our waiter was attentive and helpful with our selections. We browsed the extensive wine list but ultimately decided to just drink mineral water. Although we were seated in a high-traffic area, the tables were arranged so that no one bumped us as they walked by. The restaurant is dimly lit, and they were playing jazz at a low level. The cool thing about where we sat was that we could watch the ceiling over the bar, which has a comet that flies across a starry sky. Although the restaurant was packed, it was not excessively noisy, and I did not have to endure overhearing the conversation at the next table. (Why, yes, I do have sensory issues; thank you for noticing.) I felt that the pace of the meal was perfect. We were given enough time to linger between courses, but I never thought, “when is our food going to come?”

We ordered two appetizers (both of which I forgot to photograph): escargot and the cheese plate. Jewel fell in love with escargot when we were in France (at Epcot Center). Jewel had a bit of a meltdown over the children’s menu, which is pretty much the same nondescript food no matter which restaurant in which Disney World park you choose. When I told her to just order off the adult menu, like any 10-year-old American child she ordered the escargot, and it’s been one of her favorites ever since. The escargot was cooked in butter and served with a Parmesan bread crumb topping, but the topping was light enough that I ate it anyway. Jewel and I were very pleased with the escargot. The cheeses that evening were whiskey cheddar, blue Camembert and fresh goat cheese. They were served with dried cranberries and glazed walnuts, marinaded red peppers and olives, apple slices and toast. I thought the blue Camembert was especially tasty. The cheese plate was quite large. Even with all four of us working on it, we had leftovers to take home.

After we had had our fill of the the appetizers, the girls and I decided to use the ladies room to make the entrees arrive. The ladies room had a lounge area with a sofa and a chair, the type I always sought but rarely found when I was nursing each girl. Dora thought that it was so cool to be able to lounge on a couch in the bathroom, so we decided to hang out there for awhile. Jewel went back to the table and told Tom, “Dora and Mommy are still in the bathroom. They have comfy chairs in there.” Tom responded. “What? They have puppeteers in there?!?” After Jewel recovered from her fit of laughter, she started describing the puppets and what they were doing. I’ve taught her well. The important thing is to tell an interesting story. You might want to keep that in mind while reading this blog.

Our entrees arrived shortly and Jewel came to get Dora and me. The puppets were getting boring anyway.


    Jewel and Dora had both ordered the bacon-wrapped filet. Jewel ordered hers rare. When the waiter explained what rare meant (cool, red center), Jewel said, “yeah, that sounds good.” Dora leaned across the table to ask me if I thought our waiter would know what blue meant. Turned out he didn’t, but when he put in our order the chef said he would have to leave off the bacon if he cooked it blue. Tough decision for Dora, but she decided to go with rare. The waiter was quite complimentary of the girls for having sophisticated taste in food and ordering their steaks rare. Both girls were very happy with their steaks, which were on the blue side of rare and were tender and flavorful. Dora chose grits and garlic mashed potatoes as her sides. Jewel chose lobster mashed potatoes and creamed spinach (not pictured). The garlic mashed potatoes tasted like homemade full-fat holiday mashed potatoes, and Dora gobbled them down. She found the grits to be a disappointment. She told me, “Mommy, your grits are so much better!” (So I made her grits for breakfast today.) The lobster mashed potatoes were bland with no discernible lobster flavor. The creamed spinach was good, but it was drowning in the cream rather than the cream being incorporated into the spinach. Mom, if you’re reading this, your creamed spinach is so much better!

    Tom ordered the potato encrusted halibut. The halibut was moist and mild, and Tom felt that the lemon beurre blanc sauce complemented the flavor of the fish well. Tom liked the grits just fine.

    I ordered one of the specials, George’s scallops. They were served with a spicy tomato sauce which did not overpower the delicate flavor of the scallops. They came with steamed asparagus and grits. I wish the photo had turned out clearer because it was a lovely presentation. I actually ordered the sweet potato hash as a substitute for the grits, but they wouldn’t have looked as pretty on the plate. The sweet potato hash was amazing, much more than I expected for what sounded like a humble side dish. It was slightly sweet but not sugary, and the earthy flavor of the sliced mushrooms was a nice balance. I made the mistake of setting the dish within Tom’s reach, because he really liked it as well. I plan to attempt sweet potato hash myself in the near future.

    For dessert I ordered the Caramel Mousse Pyramid for all of us to share. None of us were very hungry by the time the dessert arrived, but you never would have guessed that by the way we all tore into it! The mousse was light and creamy and only subtlety sweet, and the chocolate was of high quality, rich and slightly bitter. This was nothing like a dessert at a chain casual dining restaurant. The waiter did give me a candle to blow out, but he spared me the embarrassment of having the whole wait staff sing to me.

    Overall, I recommend Grille 29 as a great choice for a fine dining restaurant for a special occasion. The prices are rather expensive, but you do get what you pay for. All the food was of excellent quality. There were plenty of meat, seafood and vegetable choices that fit with the Paleo and Primal diets. Once we got a table, the atmosphere was very relaxing. I don’t think they have a children’s menu, and I think the pace of the meal would be too slow for young children. There were very few children there that evening. There is a small bar area, but I would advise getting to the restaurant early so that you don’t have to wait as long. If you decide to check out Grille 29 for yourself, tell the puppeteers I said hi.