Now that I'm doing my own restaurant, writing reviews of other restaurants is very difficult. I don't think I have much interest in reviewing restaurants that I don't like, yet am comfortable offering critique, just as I would like to receive objective critique of my work. This shift really started after I reviewed a local restaurant - 1Zero6 on eGullet a couple of years ago. The review was highly critical, but ultimately said it was a good restaurant worth visiting. Those critiques are hard to hear when its about yourself and something that you put your whole heart into. So its with that overlay that I offer this review of Bloom in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Following the World Pastry Forums we took a week and a half of vacation to get out and see family and friends. Near the end of the trip we wound our way into Grand Rapids to see the godkids and their parents, and even though we were cash strapped, I pleaded for a stop at Bloom. Bloom seems to be my distant relative - locally sourced, slow foods, prepared with unique flavor combinations and presented artistically. I thought it misfortunate that their logo bears a resemblance to BP, but it was kind of funny to me.
The inside had a nice color palate and a space that wasn't overdone or pretentious. The tables are a gorgeous wild grass - the server couldn't remember the name, but I'll be looking into them for a future purchase. The chairs (similar to mine) were uncomfortable for a longer dining experience.
We were the only table seated for our early dinner at 6:30. By 7:30 a few more tables strolled in, but was definitely not going to be a busy night for them. Chef started by sending out an amuse of seasonal melon and other items that I've forgotten. It was the combination of sweet melon and pickled vegetables. An appropriate amuse, although not memorable.
Now, here's my warning. Your entrees (if they're like ours) will be huge and appetizers, salads, etc are going to be too much. I think this type of restaurant begs for the customer to eat a variety of things and the entrees should be scaled down by about 40%. Not knowing this at the time, and nursing some fun cocktails, we started with roasted fingerlings and truffle mayonnaise. Light on the truffle and far more potatoes than we could eat, this was a nice start to the meal.
Next we had foccacia, housemade preserves and ricotta. I enjoyed this, Tyler didn't. Again, portions should have been much smaller, but I enjoyed the ricotta and preserve combination and will be borrowing from it for my new menu.
For starters we had the carrot soup with sweet pea panna cotta and pepper tuile. This was the first slip of the night. The soup was poured tableside, but the carrots were so thick that the server had to vigorously shake the pitcher to get the carrots into the bowl. That aside, the taste was enjoyable and fresh.
Tyler had the Symphony of Asparagus. For a slow foods restaurant this should have left their menu by now as asparagus is no longer in season in the US. The most notable of the four dishes was the cous cous salad which popped with flavor. Again, too large of portions for Tyler.
When the entrees arrived, we were all despondent knowing we would barely dent these monsterously sized dishes. First was the seared whitefish with multiple carrot preparations. Gaff number two - the bacon. WTH!? A more creative presentation is really needed. I'm not sure if the bacon is locally made, but it was not interesting and didn't deserve top billing in the plating. I would use Niman Ranch any day if there wasn't a suitable local alternative. Just one fillet would have been plenty.
I had the lamb neck. Huge. Monsterous. Gigantic. But really, really tasty and well prepared. The farro was perfectly prepared and the sauce fantastic. I didn't really get the cornichons, but Tyler enjoyed them just fine.
Tyler had the hanger steak which he enjoyed...but only enjoyed a couple of pieces before he gave up. Very well prepared.
Our fourth entree was the pork belly. This is what I wanted to get just because I'm on a pork belly kick, but I talked our least decisive friend into it. Well done - perfectly soft, moist and crisp at the same time.
None of us wanted dessert, but I had to because...well, because I'm me. Here again the tableside pouring was disastrous. My guess is that the chef hasn't seen the end result of his pours. Again the server violently shook the rhubarb soup onto the rhubarb bavarian and sorbet. Flavors were good but not notable, but after all of that food we may have not been able to taste any more.
Terrible review, right? No. I really enjoyed Bloom, and would order differently next time. I think two people should order one line of dishes and share them and then the sizes will be appropriate. If for some reason this was an off night, don't blame me, just know that my food alone could have fed more than two people. The flavors were all really quite nice. The presentation was unique and for the most part spot on. The gaffs that I've noted wouldn't have negatively impacted my experience of the meal, so really they are just peer critiques. I would be surprised if there were a better restaurant in GR.
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