Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Mattison's City Grille - Refreshingly Al Fresco
If it's a Friday or Saturday night and you're downtown on Main Street, chances are Mattison's City Grille is packed. Actually, it's generally pretty full any day of the week, but on the weekends it gets particularly crowded. Hubby and I decided to go early at 5:30pm and catch a 7:00pm movie afterward. When we arrived, the joint was only half full, but by the time we left, people were waiting in line to get in. Our early exit also prevented us from the excellent people watching that occurs when all the pretty (and pretty tipsy) people forget that they actually can't dance, but attempt it anyway.
It's not hard to see why Mattison's is so popular. With open air dining (don't worry, a plethora of ceiling fans keep the place rather cool), live music every night and a menu that features everything from good ole American fare to Asian, Italian and Mediterranean inspired dishes, Mattison's has something for everyone. From Classic Meatloaf to Linguini Frutti di Mare to Sashimi and Sushi, your choices are plentiful. Usually, this would worry me - as I've found that restaurants who try to do EVERYTHING usually end up doing NOTHING WELL (see: Cheesecake Factory - uh, with the exception of their cheesecakes). But the genius of Mattison's is that instead of trying to replicate the dishes of other cultures exactly, they give you their own little twist on that culture.
To prove my point, see exhibit A above: Shrimp Rangoon. No, you didn't read that wrong, it's Shrimp Rangoon. Now, the customary dish is Crab Rangoon - deep fried wontons filled with a combination of cream cheese, crab meat, scallions and/or garlic, usually served with soy sauce, plum sauce, sweet and sour sauce or spicy mustard for dipping. But Mattison's didn't try to replicate that. Oh, no! They did something completely unique and original. They take 5 Gulf Shrimp, tempura fry them and serve them atop a pillow of fresh herb cream cheese. A Thai chili sauce is poured between the shrimpies and then they're drizzled with a sweet soy sauce. And VOILA - Crab Rangoon is deconstructed and reincarnated as Shrimp Rangoon! This is absolutely my favorite dish at Mattison's. It's ingenious, unexpected and absolutely delicious.
After wolfing down those bad boys, we ordered our entrees. I opted for another of their tapas - the Grilled Petite Filet Mignon and hubby went for their Main Street Sterling Burger with American cheese. I was really pleased with my selection. Four ounces of juicy filet was piled atop a portobello mushroom and both orange and red tomatoes, then garnished with some bean sprouts. The plate was drizzled with a bit of olive oil, aged balsamic and dotted with sour cream. Usually steak is served with a baked potato or french fries, which makes for a very heavy and filling dish. The use of tomatoes and mushrooms was a light, fresh alternative and the balsamic added a nice tang. My only complaint was that I wish I had more of that balsamic glaze to dip the steak in!
Hubby's burger didn't go over as well. While the ooey-gooey cheese makes it look A-OK from the outside, he ordered his burger medium rare and that sucker came out well done. Now, medium vs. medium rare is a forgivable offense, but medium rare to well done? That's going from soft, juicy and tender to eating shoe leather. But again, here's the Mattison's difference. When our server came over to check on us, I mentioned that hubby's burger was overcooked. She took one look at it and said "Yep, you're absolutely right. Do you want me to get you something else?" Hubby doesn't really like to make waves (and pretty much eats anything), so he said "Naw, that's alright." Next thing I knew, the manager of the restaurant was at our table and asked if she could buy us dessert. Hubby again declined, and explained we were trying to catch a movie. The manager apologized profusely for the mistake, and we assured her that we enjoy dining there and will continue to do so. When the server brought our check for the meal she informed us that the burger had been removed from our check. Now, that's customer service! I've been to restaurants where the same thing has happened and when we point out the overcooked steak or burger to the server they just say, "Oh, sorry about that," and that's as far as it goes. Mattison's tried not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES to make it right. And because of that, they get high marks in my book.
Atmosphere - B+
Taste - B+
Presentation - A
Service - A
Price - $$
Mattison's City Grille
1 North Lemon Ave
Sarasota FL 34236