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Monday, August 15, 2011

Next Door Bar&Grill - Rochester, NY

I am going to include Rochester in this blog as a potential component of the North Country - Rochester is certainly part of the Northern/Central NY region that those in NYC consider "up there."  I also really thought this was an interesting restaurant.  Mom and I stumbled upon it after Rochester for a wedding errand for the afternoon. We were looking for an easy but interesting place to eat an early dinner, and at first I was excited to just go to Wegmans (I LOVE Wegmans) and get something from the deli section there...  but then I found out that not only was there was the flagship Wegmans down the road, but there is a restaurant owned by them across the street.  I was intrigued.

The menu was a bit all over the place but had some very interesting options.  There's a mix of European appetizers and entrees along with pizza and then there's a sushi bar and Robata grill (a Japanese technique which uses a special charcoal).   There are a lot of interesting options on the menu and they also have some options for hosting parties there.  They have a test kitchen where one can host a party and have cooking demonstrations.  They have have smaller private dining rooms for smaller private parties too.  This would definitely be an interesting place for an adult birthday party or other celebration.  

They have a weekly fixed menu suggestion which did look very interesting, but we were looking for a lighter meal than the 3 courses recommended. This place is actually a great option for a lighter dinner as you can order appetizers (I think I could have been excited for half of those options), sushi or one or two things from the grill.  I think the Robata grill is intended to have you pick a few different protein and vegetable options, but each individual part is small (my mother actually ordered the scallops - the serving consisted of 3 grilled scallops on a skewer), but I can see how it would be an interesting meal with the veggies on the side.

I had a hard time photographing this meal, so please forgive the image, the restaurant is rather dark.  Mom was nice enough to share her appetizer (especially since she couldn't share mine due to a shellfish allergy) since it was very interesting.  She ordered the seaweed salad quartet.  On presentation, this dish was somewhat disappointing as it was supposed to be 4 different seaweeds, and there were only 3 on the plate.  I think ideally, if a dish isn't going to be as advertised on the menu, the customer should be informed and given the option to change the order.  My mother was not given that option, and considering she was super excited to try several different types of seaweed (we love seaweed salad when we go for sushi), she was pretty disappointed to be missing a quarter of the dish.  Given that, the dish was interesting.  I've only had basic seaweed salad (which was one of the seaweeds on the dish), but there were two other kinds - one was a redish twig kind and the third was a dark green thicker seaweed.  The red twig one was kind of firm and almost too fibrous in texture, although it did have a little crunch.  The green one was more like pasta al dente, which is a texture I like, but it didn't really have a lot of flavor.  The dish came with a sesame vinaigrette which did add some subtle flavor and creaminess.  Overall not a hit of a dish, and certainly only for adventurous taste buds. 
I got a watermelon and crab salad.  I thought this was such an interesting combination and was super excited about trying it.  It came with a drizzle of truffle oil and black sea salt.  How decadent does that sound?  I thought it was very chic.  Well, I never realized how fragrant truffle oil is, I am sad to say this was my first experience with it.  It was a fairly powerful smell, although none of the other ingredients really have an odor.  The watermelon was nice and fresh, moist and sweet.  The crab was tender and succulent, and was piled high with a bit of arugula on top for crunch and texture.  It was fun to be able to experiment with all the different components on the plate since the oil and sea salt were drizzled around the edge.  I think my favorite bite was watermelon, crab, arugula and a small amount of the truffle oil.  I did think the sea salt was a it overpowering since the pieces were a bit large.  I think a bit of the flavor permeated the truffle oil though.  To be honest, I think I'd like to try some truffle oil in another context.  I think it doesn't quite go with the watermelon and the crab.  Those two ingredients are so delicate and light and fresh, the truffle oil in contrast is decadent and rich.  However, I still cleaned my plate and had a great time experimenting with components.

Lastly I got a sushi roll.  This was a new one to me:  tempura shrimp, asparagus, cucumber, roe and spicy mayo.  I loved the crunch of the tempura and the little bursts of saltiness of the roe.  The asparagus gave it an earthiness and depth of flavor.  It was a great sushi roll.  I think the sushi is something they really do well here.

Overall an interesting experience, worth another trip to try some new things and expand the palate.  I guess the words of advise are to make sure you know exactly what you're getting as the menu is diverse and a bit out of the ordinary.

Next Door Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

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