Final Grade: A
August can mean a lot of things to a lot of people: humid weather, shore traffic, great produce, frizzy hair, back to school shopping, pre-season football. The list can go on and on….But for me, it means one big thing: Hubby’s birthday! Now even though we dine-out quite frequently, a celebration, in this case a birthday, calls for a special selection. I narrowed it down to two choices for the birthday boy, choice A- a well-known and reputable steakhouse and choice B- a smaller and highly recommended BYO Italian restaurant. He went with B, so off we went to Girasole Cucina Italiana, an average –sized stand- alone restaurant located in Bound Brook, NJ.
When we arrived for our reservation the parking lot was full to capacity, which to us, is a great sign for the meal to come. We arrived early to relax a bit before dinner, but were gratefully taken to our seat right away. Our table was set in a little “nook” of the brick-accented eatery. To go along with the parking situation, the place was buzzing and full of patrons. A decent mix of small and large parties occupied the space while the lights were dim enough to set an “intimate” ambiance.
|Complimentary Bruschetta & Dipping Oil
Our waitress quickly arrived at our table and greeted us politely. Specials of the evening, of which there were many, were recited without prices but with informative descriptions. Complimentary bruschetta was brought to us upon sitting, alive with both flavor and freshness, the dressed-up Italian toast was delicious. After debating our selections and placing our orders, the bread basket made its way to our table. Alongside was a dipping oil made with freshly grated garlic. This pairing was better received than with butter, however nowhere as good as it could have been if only the chef would have roasted the garlic.
As first time visitors to this establishment, we did what we almost always do to judge the caliber: order the fried calamari and see what happens. This dish is also, quite importantly for this dinner, Hubby’s favorite appetizer. Therefore, no objections came from my side of the table. It must be noted nevertheless that I was very interested in ordering both the seafood crepes and zucchini flowers, both of which were specials that night. The calamari was delivered to us steaming hot and beautifully crisp. Each ring was battered ever-so-slightly in a flour-based coating. The majority of the meat was plump and tender; yet a few pieces were overdone, being marred by both their lack of size and time in the fryer. The marinara sauce, being this dish’s best friend, was simple and unassuming.
|Calamari with fresh squeezed lemon
For his birthday entrée, Hubby planned on ordering the dish which first caught his eye when reviewing the website. The filet mignon with a potato gratin was what he wanted; however the menu lacked this choice. After speaking to the waitress about this disappointment, the chef was able to make a filet dish upon request with shrimp and mashed potatoes. Not the same as he really wanted but not a bad second. Even better though was the result: an amazing steak that truly melted in your mouth. Nicely seared around the edges and lightly pink in the center, the meat stole the show. My decision for that evening was pistachio-crusted pork loin over mushroom risotto. This, too, was unbelievably tender and cooked perfectly to my medium-rare request. Even Matt, who isn’t a pork eater(!), remarked that he loved it and would definitely order it next time. The meat was so tender that I forgot to notice the pistachios, I don’t remember them at all hence I suppose they should ix-nay that from the description. The risotto was hearty and accompanied the pork well, giving a nice “woodsy and earthy” feel to the dish.
Obviously, we had to order dessert that night. We decided on the chocolate cake martini. This was basically chocolate cake, layered with chocolate mousse, and whipped cream. The cake was dry; luckily the mousse and whipped cream counteracted this and we devoured with smiles.
|Chocolate Martini, sans candle....
On his ?? birthday, Hubby and I so very much enjoyed our time at Girasole. Making reservations was a great tip we were glad to have and will do again in the near future. Perhaps next time we will order other options, bring some friends, and share the delight that this restaurant brings. Quite simply, menu items went beyond traditional, wait staff went beyond mediocre, and food went beyond average at this Italian Cucina.
Girasole is located at 502 West Union Avenue, Bound Brook, NJ 08805.
Bland, boring, overcooked, underdone
Very little flavor, not much aroma
Flavors apparent, basic ability to please palates
Flavor worth discussing, chef’s use of ingredients impressive
Great flavor, taste lingers and leaves diner wanting more
Inattentive staff, no regard for wait time
Staff average in helpfulness, timing alright, either more/less needed
Staff knowledgeable and attentive to needs without asking, timing very well executed
Remarkable and noteworthy, service so good you forget it is ever an issue elsewhere
Cover it up please
Sloppy and the eater can tell little thought went into it
Descent presentation: looks alright, not worth a picture but enough to make you hungry
Admirable, it is apparent the chef plated with a consideration for presentation
Presentational talents are here. Looks beautiful and too good to dig in
Prices match quality
Prices are too high for quality
Prices are still too high but not outrageously
Some items are priced accordingly but not all
Most items are priced accordingly
All items are matched accordingly
Would I go back?
Not a chance ever
Looking forward to it
What time should I arrive?!?
A: 21-25 B: 16-20 C: 11-15 D: 6-10 F: 0-5
Final Grade: 22/25 : A