Unlike the expensive chains, which tend to concentrate on Italian or seafood or steaks, the Grill offers something for every palate. A Pacific Rim influence is apparent in the Asian slaw, teriyaki onions, wasabi aioli, pickled ginger and avocado. There’s also a Latino beat to the menu, the result of Witten listening to his Hispanic employees. It includes the Caribbean root yuca, Cajun remoulade sauce and a chipotle aioli dipping sauce.
Witten also retained a popular item from Hondo’s, the steakhouse that used to occupy his building. The hickory-baked baby back ribs are smoked dry and then, when they are ordered, they are brushed with sauce and warmed in the oven. The process left mine dryer than I prefer, but they were quite meaty and served over enough french fries to satisfy a family of four.
There are also still a couple steaks on the menu, and the filet mignon, which comes in two sizes, is enhanced with shiitake mushrooms and a rich brown-shallot sauce, accompanied by sautéed spinach and potatoes gratin with white cheddar and Parmesan cheese.
A more adventurous entrée is the braised lamb shank, in which two chunks of the tough front leg are tenderized by braising in red wine and herbs, and stacked over garlic potatoes, mushrooms, carrots and onions.
Seafood fanciers won’t be disappointed with the yellowtail tuna—served medium rare, as ordered—which was topped with an Asian slaw served over sautéed sesame vegetables and fried yuca.
Carolina crab cakes, listed as an appetizer, turned out to be enough for a main course — three cakes with ample crab, though not lump meat, spiced up with a Cajun remoulade and diced peppers. Another large, satisfying starter featured five coconut-encrusted shrimp, crisp and spiced with a Thai chili sauce.
The desserts are usually made by Witten’s wife and partner, Julie, but lately she’s been at home caring for a second child. The fried banana cheesecake was good, although its shape and pastry crust looked more like crŠme caramel, and cherry-chocolate-chip ice cream had that just-churned flavor.
The décor is straightforward. Ceiling fans, recessed lighting and no tablecloths. The restaurant is divided into two distinct rooms. There is a large bar with a cigar case and tables for smokers, and a carpeted, nonsmoking room with booths along the walls and round tables in the middle. Old-time photographs of the area, including one of aviator Charles Lindbergh landing his plane in a Goochland farm field, adorn the walls.
And the service was friendly but flawed. Although the restaurant was not busy on either of our midweek visits, the waiters were seldom visible. One server failed to tell about the nightly specials, delivered the wrong appetizer and then disappeared so long it was too late to change. Another waiter spent so much time out of sight in the bar that he offered no refills of water and had to be tracked down to get the check. S Manakin Grill ($$$)
12912 Plaza Drive
Lunch daily 11-5 p.m. Dinner Monday -Thursday and Sunday 5-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11p.m. Sunday brunch 11-3 p.m.
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