Latest Canton Square Noshery A Great Stop For An Average Dining Experience
This location is closed
Granite Bar and Grille opened a short while ago on Canton Square, in the space between Nacho Mama’s and Mama’s on the Halfshell that used to be Rick’s Café Americain. The new name suits the décor, which is all hard surfaces and long expanses of neutral colors. No one would confuse it with the height of interior design, but it mostly works, and the new dining room, adjacent to the bar, is well thought out with a healthy mix of four- and two-tops. This observation is worth mentioning because Granite’s main selling point right now is the availability of one of these tables on a typically dense weekend night on the square.
The food encountered on a first visit was more than satisfactory. Granite served up sometimes amazing portions, but the food was always less than interesting--good stuff, handsomely presented on the inevitable square white plates. What you’re likely to tell your friends about Granite is that it fills a niche for you; among its neighbors, Granite stands out as a place that’s easier to negotiate, a little less smoky, and less loud. It’s a no-brainer.
Granite offers a long list of appetizers, including--among the usual stuff such as wings, quesadillas, chicken tenders, and coconut shrimp--a few more enterprising items. The ultimate meatball ($6.95) is a risible option. It’s just a half-pound ball of meat sitting on a small plate, but it’s very well seasoned and the pomodoro sauce it’s served in has a good olive-y smack to it. It is served with way too much ricotta cheese on a slice of garlic toast, and the sauce spills from the shallow plate all over the table. Served with a homemade horseradish sauce, blackened tuna bites ($8.95) appear as alarmingly chunky hunks of tenderloin but, impressively, they’ve been properly cooked, fully opaque but still tender.
An order of grilled calamari ($8.95) was a close call, with a nice lemon-and-oil flavor that felt a little more like an application than a marinade, and a consistency that wavered, piece by piece, between just right and too chewy. Granite’s onion rings ($4.95), double-dipped in beer batter, are big but boring, with a mealy drabness to their coating.
The entrée options are smartly chosen. The increasingly available choose-your-fish option is given, with its requisite choices of preparations and sauces, all moderately priced (swordfish $18.50, tilapia $14.95, mahimahi $16.50, yellowfin $17.95). A dozen or so hot and cold sandwiches and fresh-dough pizzas provide welcome weeknight alternatives to the handful each of pastas and big-ticket meat and seafood options.
When the entrées show up, they betray the kitchen’s obvious attention to color and proportion. Helpings of whipped potatoes and sautéed fresh vegetable border on overly generous. The penne California ($14.95) is particularly appetizing, with the rustic reds of sun-dried tomatoes and andouille sausage prettied up with the vivid green of fresh spinach and the pesto sauce’s basil--nicely done, except for sausage that looks too much like hot dogs. And really big--most of it was carted home.
Granite’s crab cake (platter $20.95) is minutely seasoned, very lumpy, and gets broiled to a golden-brown finish. It’s good but almost too subtle, and a little innovation--an optional sauce maybe--would make diners want to see it again. The fresh-catch option was ordered, with red snapper ($14.95) asked for grilled and matched with a special wasabi sauce that was much too strong for anything. Sauces are served, as is increasingly the custom, in a tiny side vessel, an ill-tempered innovation that should be resisted by mature diners--ask the kitchen to sauce the fish.
Granite’s shrimp salad sandwich is delightful, jumbo shrimp tossed with finely chopped celery in a mellow Old Bay dressing and hand-layered on a warm focaccia roll that stays intact even while melting softly to the weight of the big crustaceans. Fries could be crisper.
Some potential trouble areas: At about 10 p.m. or so, Granite starts turning clubby, and the mood can change quickly--best to make dinner there an early one. And, for such a relatively new place, the staff--not just our server--on a recent Thursday night seemed not fully invested, distracted, and almost indifferent. The success of this stark atmosphere depends on a staff willing to fill it with warmth.