After many months of travelling, I finally got a chance to have dinner with my family to celebrate the Menulog Blogger award win. Gradi is the new kid in town at Crown, so I thought it would be a perfect way to treat my family, since grandma rarely agrees to go to Italian for dinner, Gradi was a perfect candidate. Gradi took out the gong for world's best pizza award in 2014, so I really wanted mum and grandma to try it.
To start, sis got the bruschetta to share; it came with 4 servings. The bruschetta came with generous amounts of tomato covered in oregano and garlic olive oil. It would have been ideal if the waiter advised us that it came with a serving of 4, since there was 5 of us and it was the only starter we got.
For mains, we ordered a few things to share so we could try everything.
Given their margarita is the award winning pizza, it was a "must order". This came on a very thin tomato pizza base with the classic ingredients: Napoli sauce, buffalo mozzarella and basil. You need to eat the pizza fast if you don't want it soggy, because the base is very thin, it doesn't take long for the moisture in the paste to soak through and leave you with a soggy pizza. The pizza as a whole was very light, and unlike your typical pizzas it did not feel heavy and you could easily eat an entire pizza and not feel uncomfortably full.
The other pizza we got to share was parmigiana. This came with parmesan, eggplant and basil. Like the margarita, the pizza base was very thin but because it didn't have a big layer of tomato paste like the margarita, it wasn't as soggy. Grandma really liked this one, it was very soft and even the crust was light and airy. There was just the right amount of topping and perfect flavour.
For the pastas we went for another classic, bolognese with fettuccine. This was served in a thick, almost creamy meat sauce. It was rich and hearty, but I was disappointed in the way the pasta was cooked. A lot of the fettuccine was still stuck together, when I pulled it apart I could still see the flour on the pasta.
Next pasta was the tagliolini allo scoglio. This was basically tagliolini, with a seafood assortment of scallops, prawns, clams and mussels in a light napoli base.The seafood was fresh and the sauce wasn't too overpowering.
Third pasta was the pappardelle fungi. Variety of dry porcini, shitake, oyster and shimeji mushrooms in what tasted and looked like a butter sauce (but the menu read napoli sauce). The pasta was very firm and just too hard for my liking. The mushroom sauce was interesting as it played on the different textures of the various mushrooms.
Final main was the grigliata mista di pesce del giorno (mixed grilled fish of the day). The mixed seafood platter consisted of prawns, scallops and calamari. It was grilled well and a good amount of seasoning on top, with the scallops seared to perfection. A good squeeze of lemon on top, and it became summery and fit for the current Melbourne season. Simple and full respect to the produce, I liked the simplicity of this dish.
For dessert, my grandma gave up because she was too full, decided she needed a walk and ditched us. Since it was just sis and I who wanted dessert, we ordered a chocolate pudding to share. This was a molten chocolate pudding with a side of ice cream. The pudding was hard on the outside, and surprisingly softer than I anticipated on the inside. The side of ice cream to cut through the richness of the pudding would have been a perfect balance, but sadly the ice cream was so frozen we could barely spoon it out. It was obvious from the frozen condensation on the side of the ice cream cup, it was pre-scooped and frozen, which would explain why the ice cream was so hard.
Overall I found it difficult to score this place. The food wasn't bad but the service was just horrible. For a night that I had intended to be a special celebration with my family, resulted in me feeling like bad dining experience tarnished by the poor service. If not for the service, I would have given them 14.5/20. I understand the place is new and staff is still new to the environment but it was the attitude of the staff that annoyed me more than anything. After taking the service into account I rate them 11.5/20. All I can say is, it was a very disappointing dining experience.
If you want to hear my vent see below, otherwise this concludes my review.
A couple of instances took place during this dinner that I need to mention. I am not normally one to make a fuss and go to extensive details in my review about service but I left the restaurant so infuriated, I just have to voice it.
First issue: the place was full of wait staff but it was extremely difficult to get their attention, and when we finally got the attention of one of the waiters, it was pretty clear he wasn't assigned to our table, so he passed the message to another person, then another to another, before it got to our initial wait staff. Oh, and this was just to give us more water and the jug was literally in front of the first wait staff we spoke to and the jug was NEXT to our table. For the entire night our waitress was far from attentive and borderline smug, it came across as quite rude to us. I didn't want to ruin a night out with my grandma so I kept it in the whole time and still tried to be as friendly as I could.
Second issue: we added on a side of potatoes a few minutes after we placed our order. Then when we were about 75% into our meal, it still had not arrived. I flagged down our waitress (who was assigned to our table) and she explained it wasn't added in earlier by the waiter who took the side potato order, and she will tell the kitchen to make it now, as we were so far into our meal already we told her not to worry about and leave it off. Then when our bill came, the potatoes were there.
Last instance was the dessert ordeal. On the menu it said white chocolate heart on the description of the chocolate pudding, so when it came and it was nowhere in sight I was curious, I asked our waitress and she explained it meant a small dollop of white chocolate inside the molten dark chocolate. We told her it wasn't there because we did smash it open to look for it. She said it may have been mixed in with the dark chocolate so we couldn't see it. A bit later when my sister and I had already dug into our dessert, another waiter came over and spoke to us to check if everything was ok, it was clear that our waitress relayed our concerns to someone and he was sent over to check on us. We asked him the same question of where was the white chocolate heart or maybe it was just the menu's creative way to explaining something. He admitted he didn't know the answer and went to the kitchen to check. He then returned to explain the whole dollop of white chocolate in the centre of the pudding. I must say this was the FIRST time the entire night that we had a wait staff that was attentive and gave us genuine service. (If I had been served by Jordon the entire night I think I would have walked out very happy and thinking about the next time I would revisit.) Then when we finally asked for the bill, our waitress came over and explained to us she gave us a 10% discount off the dessert, because the white chocolate heart wasn't present. When I took my bill over to the counter to pay, the blonde girl who was supposed to be a manager could not even crack a smile when processing my payment and didn't even ask 'how my night was', as you normally would at most other places.