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Graze

Where are you eating and what do you think? What's opening, closing, succeeding, failing?

Re: Graze

Postby TAsunder » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:29 am

I tend to think of Graze as comfort food with a bit of gastropub mixed in. To be sure, not all of the dishes are crazy original. They aren't that original at Ad Hoc either. Or any other place with a heavy emphasis on comfort food. It's hard to call it comfort food if you've never had it before, after all.

I find it funny that anyone credits the Orpheum for coming up with popcorn with cheese and truffle oil.
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Re: Graze

Postby swoon_queen » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:42 am

TAsunder wrote:I find it funny that anyone credits the Orpheum for coming up with popcorn with cheese and truffle oil.


To be sure, I didn't credit them for coming up with it: I was simply commenting on the irony, which is that everyone's been raving about the Graze popcorn and it has been available down the street for months.
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Re: Graze

Postby Crockett » Mon Aug 02, 2010 10:04 am

Eighty percent of this world is a 'ripoff' of the other 20%. Its true in most industries. Why should food be any different.
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Re: Graze

Postby MadtownFoodie » Tue Aug 03, 2010 7:27 am

I don't have the time to list them all, but the ramen dish for one is a complete rip-off:

http://www.momofuku.com/noodle-bar/menu/lunch/

http://www.grazepub.com/main.php?page=brunch.php
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Re: Graze

Postby O.J. » Tue Aug 03, 2010 9:36 am

MadtownFoodie wrote:I don't have the time to list them all, but the ramen dish for one is a complete rip-off:

http://www.momofuku.com/noodle-bar/menu/lunch/

http://www.grazepub.com/main.php?page=brunch.php


What the hell is your point? The vast, vast majority of menu items are derivative; inspired by other dishes chef's have experienced.

Did Momofuku steal its foie gras terrine with rhubarb and strawberry recipe from this place, or vice versa?

http://www.zagat.com/Verticals/Menu.asp ... &HID=17784
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Re: Graze

Postby TheBookPolice » Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:31 am

I'm feeling the vibe at Graze on a sunny morning like today. Very urban. Reminds me of Seattle.

This is also the magnet post for MadMind, who seems to think that

Graze, and every other self-proclaimed "gastropub" in town won't make it past the 3 year mark.

I'm wondering what the other "self-proclaimed 'gastropub(s)'" are.
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Re: Graze

Postby TAsunder » Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:36 am

Are you seriously claiming that momofuku invented ramen noodle bowls with pork and soft egg? Seriously? Hint: momofuku ripped off hundreds of Japanese ramen stalls/restaurants, if we go by this "ripping off" notion.
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Re: Graze

Postby TheBookPolice » Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:29 am

Restaurant world = jazz world. Everyone's quoting everyone else, and it's all in the spirit of quality and respect.

Unless you try to call someone else's shit your own, which I don't see Tory Miller doing. He's already cited The Spotted Pig as a big influence.
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Re: Graze

Postby swoon_queen » Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:41 am

TheBookPolice wrote:Restaurant world = jazz world. Everyone's quoting everyone else, and it's all in the spirit of creativity and respect.


Agreed-- however, in the jazz/improv music world, the riffs are what distinguish between tribute and imitation.

For instance: the cheese curds. Graze v. Old Fashioned. Both very successful, but nuanced differences [i.e. riffs] will appeal to folks with different preferences. The heavier batter of the Graze curds was appealing to me, while some people like the flakier OF version. I like the buttermilk chive sauce at Graze; my friend was yearning for the tiger blue sauce from Old Fashioned. Had Graze served us curds identical to those we were used to getting at OF, down to the sauce, we'd have probably enjoyed them, yet been surprised at a lack of creativity.

I think "ripping off" is not the intention nor the result. There is plenty that is wholly original and enjoyable on the menu (see: potato fondue, pulled pork mac n' cheese w. Hook's 10-yr cheddar). Enough that it perhaps it begs the question, why even bother adding replicas of dishes from another city? But personally, I think if it's done well, and from somewhere far afield (like Momofuko)such replication can be comforting. Which is like another level of "comfort food."
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Graze, L'Etoile: best restaurant water in town?

Postby kulgar » Thu Aug 05, 2010 10:28 am

The waiter told me this week I was the first person to comment on the "Natura" water, both taste and branding in the carafes on every table. The bartender told me it was an RO system but the Natura website says charcoal filter and UV zapping.

I've been ragging on restaurants for years for their chlorine, manganese and bacteria (see Madison well water stats on bacteria/ml) laden water which is as best masked by a slice of (hopefully) washed lemon.

This is the first installation I've noticed in Madison and the water is wonderful! The presentation is pretty good in those branded carafes and interesting glasses, and I love being able to just pour it myself and not wait for a server. Replaced promptly when empty also.

The outdoor seating area without umbrellas became a checker board game of patrons trying to move out of the sun at lunch because the temps went into the triple digits as the sun gobbled up the seating area. But what a great people watching location, reminded me of cafes in Europe which are typically much deeper than the single or at best double row of tables our sidewalks allow in Madison.

Service as expected in roaring opening weeks was a bit spotty but they'll work that out.

And to my critics, this is an OUTSTANDING wine list. Some fruit bombs but a variety of balanced European wines that should work with everything on the menu. Congratulations to the manager and Michael Kwas!

I've got to hit it more often to comment on the food.
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Re: Graze

Postby boston_jeff » Thu Aug 05, 2010 10:55 am

Finally ate at Graze last night for the wife's b-day. We had the house pickles, deviled eggs, potato fondue and 1/2 dozen oysters (PEI, LI Sound, ME) to start. The pickles were very nice--served in 6 ramekins set in a long tray. Included daikon, kimchee, pickled carrots and cauliflower, beets, and two kinds of cucumbers. All the other appetizers were good as well, nice to have another place to snag quality oysters in Madison. Will have to try the popcorn another time (just came from Sundance).

For dinner we both had the pork dish. Decent bang for the buck ($20 entree), reminds me of a duck 3 ways preparation with the same mac n' cheese you can order as an entree (Hook's cheddar), greens and a cheddar biscuit. Only complaint--both of us had one sparerib with almost no meat on it (out of 2 ribs). A friend had the chicken and waffles and for $16 you'd think there would be more than 2 pieces of chicken and one waffle, but he enjoyed it and the fried chicken looked crispy and delicious. Our other dining companion had a warm salad that looked a bit sparse. Hot fudge sundae for dessert was classic-very tasty. Didn't have any wine or cocktails but the blackberry cava, cocktails and beers enjoyed by my dining companions looked great. Overall a good dining experience, although I think some will grumble about portion vs. price for certain menu items. The space is a bit "hotel bar" (I've seen those aluminum chairs all over) but I liked the floor to ceiling glass and the outdoor area looked like a great vantage point for people watching or concerts on the square. Looking forward to trying the new L'Etoile soon.
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Re: Graze

Postby Kovalic » Thu Aug 05, 2010 1:50 pm

OK. Had a couple of lunches at Graze now. Should probably have waited a couple of weeks as things settle down, and the staff finds its feet. I knew this from the outset. Still went.

Moules & Frites - the mussels were delicious, and had a beautiful briny fresh taste to them. The broth seemed a bit salty, but I'm on a low-sodium diet these days, and now EVERY damn thing tastes salty. BUT...the mussels had definitely been left under a heat lamp a bit too long. Probably because the place was slammed. The ones on top had dried out noticeably, while those below were still moist enough. They had been cooked to what I'd call a medium-well (for mussels). The fries were ridiculously over-cooked, and should not have been served.

Bahn Mi - LOVED the flavors. Wonder if the L'Etoile/Cafe Soliel/Graze baguette - while excellent - may not be a bit crunchy and chewy for it, though. The pate oozed out the sides at every bite taken. Of course, I'm not a bahn mi expert, so this could be how they are supposed to be. It just seems an ever-so-slightly softer baguette might be better suited. This time, the fries on the side seemed a bit underdone, though a couple were again overdone, which was surprising.

Club Sandwich - pretty much exactly how it was served at Cafe Soliel. Pretty darned good. Salad was fantstic.

On one visit, the place WASN'T slammed, but service was still iffy. Our server appeared never to have been a waitperson before, appeared a bit disorganized, and spoke quite softly: at times we had to strain to hear her. Well-intentioned, and (I believe) brought over from behind the counter at the Cafe. Simply just a bit new at this. But enthusiastic: she was great at describing the dishes (when she could be heard). We're pulling for her.

The floor manager (that can't be the right title, surely), is, I believe, a veteran of many on- and near-square establishments, so things like this should get better soon.

But, yeah. I knew I should have waited a bit. The flavors were all great. But some tightening up appeared - to me, at any rate - to be in order.

Once everything's sorted out, and things are consistent, I think I'm going to love the place. Moules for lunch. Yes. Yes, please...
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Re: Graze

Postby scratch » Thu Aug 05, 2010 3:35 pm

TheBookPolice wrote:Restaurant world = jazz world


"Jazz isn't dead, it just smells funny"--Frank Zappa
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Re: Graze

Postby LLK » Fri Aug 06, 2010 2:27 pm

I've been to Graze twice: once to simply "check it out" and visit the bar, the second time was a late-night visit (9:00 pm) for a nosh.

On our first visit, the woman behind the bar was not attentive, and we sat patiently, waiting to see how long it would be before someone came to offer us a drink. It probably took 4 minutes, entirely too long (in fact, we sat there awhile, then my partner went to visit the restroom, came back, and I still had not been approached). Finally, the other bartender came over and offered us a drink menu, as well as wiped up the counter in front of us, which was wet and dirty. Let's just say it was not a great first impression. As we sat, enjoying some Chicago-distilled rye, we overheard the bartender talking with other patrons about the late-night dinner menu and how the pastry chefs apparently were not too pleased because one of the menu items was "made to order" cookies and milk, which required having to bake late into the night. The comment came off as a negative vibe.

On our second visit, we noticed a lot of large groups coming in to visit the bar. Graze is not set up to accomodate large groups at the bar, unlike The Old Fashioned (albeit it's in a fairly "cozy" manner). We also watched those same large groups leave Graze soon after arriving, probably after one drink, because there is no place to stand around and talk - you're literally standing in the eating area.

Also during our second visit, we had to wait quite awhile for a table (despite the fact that there were open tables at 9:00 pm). Once seated, we placed our order for pork buns, the pickles, bone marrow, and the bahn mi sandwich. A minute or two later, we were told that the pork bun was sold out. We were disappointed and surprised to find out that this was so, since the kitchen was serving until 1:00 am- way too soon to be sold out of such a popular item.

The pickles were enjoyable, although the daikon included in the selection of various pickled items was musty and "old" tasting. The bahn mi was enjoyable on a crispy Cafe Soleil-quality baguette. The bone of the marrow offering was cut in half horizontally, rather than 2/3 up, so there was nary a teaspoon's worth of the wonderful marrow inside.

We were finishing our late-night nosh when we had an interesting conversation with our waiter, who shared some frustration about how confused staff were getting about when they were going to be officially open (for breakfast, lunch, dinner), what they were serving when, and general communication to all staff. Mixed messages were the flavor of the day. It was apparent in the way the restaurant ran...we observed that the POS system was not running correctly, as staff seemed confused when dishes came out that had not been ordered.

Given the conversation on our first visit regarding late-night cookies, we decided to ask for a desert menu. We were promptly told that deserts were not available after 9 pm because pastry kitchen space was shared by both Graze and L'Etoile, and L'Etoile took precedence. Pity those folks who might wander into Graze later in the evening, looking for something sweet.

I agree with one of the other blog comments that the space has no personality to call its own- while the windows create a "wow" factor, the space still feels sterile and corporate. I realize that Graze depends alot upon the views of the capitol across the street, but what about in the fall and winter when everything is monochromatic? Or what of bureaucracy-weary Madisonians who are not ready for big government to be looming over them while they eat? Beautiful art would be a respite for the eyes. There is a wall behind the host station that is just screaming for a splash of color and movement...the bold and bright mural behind the sushi bar at Murimoto came to mind.

Opening two restaurants in new locations at the same time is a bold move, and is to be commended. However, it's important to make sure you've got everything buttoned up, and staff knows what to expect before the first person walks through your doors. Otherwise, that skewed vibe speaks loudly to patrons.

One last note: some lights near the side door out to the patio would be very helpful. It's impossible to see where the landing ends and the steps begin without one.
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Re: Graze

Postby Kovalic » Fri Aug 06, 2010 3:35 pm

I'm trying to remember - when I wrote for the State Journal - how long a restaurant had to be open before we were allowed to review it. At least a month, I think possibly two. To allow them time to work out the kinks.

Of course, in there here age of teh interwebzzors, word gets around, and fast. But truly, none of the problems at Graze struck me as anything more than the usual kind of kinks that usually do get worked out.

(Well, save for no sweets after 9. That's a policy I'd rather not have seen).

I should have waited a few more weeks. But dammit, it's just a block from my studio. And moules frites for lunch? I'm only HUMAN, I tells ya...
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