Lamont Street Grill
4445 Lamont Street
"You should try Lamont Street Grill," a friend suggested. "It's cute."
"Cute" sounded appropriate for my latest non-date with Nutri-Girl, my ex-girlfriend and former nutritional consultant. God knows why, but she now meets me on a semi-regular basis to reminisce, fret about her myriad relationships and give me unsolicited new-agey advice. I suspect she's in it for the free meals.
I asked for a platonic table at the bar, but no luck: Lamont Street Grill is a renovated house, divided into several intimate rooms looking out on an intimate central patio. Even worse, the gregarious hostess guided us to the premiere table, in front of the outdoor fireplace. With a heat lamp on one side and the ruddy glow of the fireplace on the other, encircled by white Christmas lights, I was forced to concede that Lamont Street Grill is cozy, romantic and, yes, cute as a gosh-darn button.
This night was chilly, so we kicked off our comedy of errors with a seemingly simple request for two hot cups of tea. We quickly learned that our waiter was not qualified to heat water. All night, he sporadically appeared with one or two charming little teapots, each carrying a cup of tepid water, two darling little mugs and two delightful little saucers holding several herbal tea bags.
"Can we get some hot water?" Nutri-Girl pleaded as the clutter piled up.
"That wasn't hot enough, either?" he chirped, collecting a tray full of cool teas. "I'll nuke it a little longer!" Later, I found that he had charged $2.25 apiece for a few herbal teabags steeped in incompetence.
At his recommendation ("everything is so good!"), we ordered almond-crusted shrimp and sizzling bleu cheese mushroom caps ("excellent choices!"). The still-crispy mushrooms and acrid blue cheese inched across the line into decent, making them the best part of our meal. But they were by no means good: the whole mushrooms (not caps) were served alongside the cheese, rather than stuffed, and drenched in a greasy cream sauce. The squishy fried shrimp came balanced around a martini glass full of pink mayonnaise (the menu calls it, amusingly, "oriental sauce"). It was far better to look at than it was to eat, so I hereby christen almond-crusted shrimp the Lamont Street Grill "signature dish."
I ordered the grilled peppercorn steak salad with rare steak. Our ever-charming waiter flashed his smile and said, mysteriously, "I'll see what I can do." It was no surprise by then that he could do nothing, and the spicy peppercorn marinade could not hide the almost penal chewiness of the comically overdone meat. Likewise, Nutri-Girl was disappointed by the uninspired salad, mostly a jumble of sautéed onions over a large pile of romaine.
Unlike the steak, the firm and meaty Hawaiian tuna was prepared with admirable restraint. But the soy, honey and sesame glaze made for better reading than eating. Nuts and honey might work wonders for Brie or Cheerios, but there is a reason seared tuna is found in relatively few dessert recipes. On the bright side, the accompanying raw potato gave me a welcome excuse to spit theatrically into my napkin. Maybe if I had complained, Chipper would have "nuked it longer."
The desserts are all made in-house, we were told. I took that as a warning and ordered the seemingly failsafe chocolate-chip cheesecake. Looking past the slightly gritty texture and the sharply sweet taste typical of bad restaurant cheesecake, I threw down my fork at the last and perhaps most egregious offense: dollops of Cool Whip around the plate, and a layer of frozen Cool Whip on top. Did the pastry chef train in a trailer park? Either buy some heavy cream and a mixer, or go ahead and put Jell-O molds on your dessert menu so people know exactly what they're getting into.
So yet another plate of disappointing food stared me in the face. Still, the patio was cozy and romantic. I left my fork on the plate, sat back and basked in the glow of the fireplace, as Nutri-Girl enumerated her current beau's shallow charms.
Yeah, I thought. I know the type.
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