Sunday, July 14, 2013

Walnut Grille Restaurant Review

Staples and surprises at Walnut Grille

Walnut Grille 1203 Walnut Street Newton, MA

Walnut Grille, with its affordable, fully vegetation menu and sizeable drinks list, fits seamlessly into its upscale-indie Newton Highlands neighborhood. That’s not to say, however, that the bright, inviting space – and the fresh, local, and vegetarian concept – is characteristically suburban. On the contrary: since winter 2013, Walnut Grille has established an atmosphere of its own, one where meticulously plated meals emerging from the open kitchen create a collective experience of entrĂ©e envy and plenty of incentives to return.

The food:

Walnut Grille is the brainchild of five friends, two of which who honed their culinary craft in some of the world’s top hotel kitchens. The menu, both sophisticated and approachable, appears to reflect that training. Pizza, lasagna and a few staple salad selections will be familiar to all, where seitan, hijiki and tempeh dishes offer more adventurous options.

Gobi Manchurian, crisp and saucy
bite-sized flavor bombs
The Gobi Manchurian appetizer ($8) tops the roster of the Indo-Chinese inspired plates. Lightly fried cauliflower dressed in a sweet tomato sauce that was somewhat imbalanced – heavy on some pieces and much lighter on others – my date and I ended up splitting the last piece on the plate. It was too tasty for that “no, you have it” pretense.
A generous portion of the Daily Special,
which is announced daily on facebook

While most menu items are vegan-adaptable (gluten-free, too!), my date opted for the Daily Special ($17), an orzo base with butternut squash, goat cheese, seitan and a light arugula and crisped onion finish. In short, it smelled like Thanksgiving and I was cursing the goat cheese that prevented me from sampling.

My Seitan Marsala ($13), presented in an oversized dish allowing the marsala sauce to frame the softly mounded mashed potatoes, kale and seitan, was a treat to behold – one of those dishes that looks so good that you wish it were bigger, even before you’ve taken the first bite. Perfectly fluffed potatoes, finely sliced seitan and a salty sweet sauce – my first impression panned out; by the time I was finished, I was ready for more.

The scene & service:

From our table in the one-room dining area’s back corner, we had full view of the restaurant, including the lonely looking hightop bar. At 8:00pm, the lighting was quite bright, and a full collection of jeweled chandeliers, reminiscent of a teenage girl’s dream bedroom, competed with an otherwise modern motif of sage green and metallics.

Sky-high Seitan Marsala
Carrot cake, one of Walnut Grille's
many from-scratch sweets.
Service was quick and friendly. Despite a few of our questions stumping our server, she promptly quizzed the kitchen staff and provided helpful suggestions.  

The verdict:

Walnut Grille is a solid vegetarian option for a date night or quick bite alike. Casual with a touch of class (chandeliers notwithstanding), the beauty of this Newton eatery is in its flexibility and broad appeal. Your meat-eating friends will have pizza and you, perhaps, will have one of the many more imaginative options. With free parking and easy Green Line access, the trek to the burbs is well worth it.  

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