It’s been 6 months since we first visited Grove Restaurant for their spectacular grand opening event. Jill has been back with girlfriends a short time after that, but the two of us were overdue for date night, so when we were invited to stop by again for a complimentary tasting, we got our reservations and headed to Grove.
If you’ve not yet been to Grove, it is the new establishment on Lakewood Ranch’s Main Street, featuring an impressive beautifully renovated 27,000 square feet that includes private dining, a ballroom that can seat about 400, and a chic bar that can seat about 30 of your favorite friends.
Out on the patio are a number of cafe tables and lounge areas, as well as a long table height glass enclosed fireplace, for those cooler nights when sitting by a fire seems like a luxury.
This visit we sat in a booth adjacent to a clever room divider made of natural wood logs sliced vertically. Clever! There are several seating areas inside, so no matter what type of evening you’re looking for, Grove’s dining room has it covered!
We started with a couple of craft cocktails with me being lured by the Kiss of a Rose, made with hibiscus and rose hips infused Banyan Reserve Vodka, Elderflower liqueur, Aperol, and a house made sour mix. It was as fresh and refreshing as it sounds, and not too sweet for a guy like me.
The second cocktail was the classic Mojito, a favorite of Jill’s. (Me: “Hey taste buds, are you awake and ready yet?” Tastebuds: “You bet, thanks for that!”) Nice and tangy, I enjoyed alternating sips of her Mojito between draws of the Kiss of a Rose.
Let me just say as a side note . . . you can get quality craft cocktails at a lot of restaurants these days, and the Grove is no exception. They feature a few cocktails original to the Grove, and I wanted to say “THANK YOU!” Starting the night unplugging and relaxing with a delicious cocktail makes dining out more of a pleasure than ever!
The Grove Restaurant’s menu was designed by Executive Chef Greg Campbell of Pier 22 fame. (Jill has a friend who calls him Prince Charming because he looks like Sleeping Beauty’s beau.) Chef Campbell’s menu is every bit as inviting and stylish as the decor, with a ton of tempting choices from top to bottom.
We had to consult with Melissa, our friendly server, to help us decide what to order. With so much temptation, we needed to narrow down our choices!
Warm, soft rolls, and sweet honey infused butter were on the table moments after placing our orders. I’m a simple diner with simple tastes when it comes to bread service, so it’s always a welcome start. Throwing in that honey butter and I could have easily over indulged on bread! Jill kindly moved the bread away from me. (Should I thank her for that?)
Taking Melissa’s recommendations to heart, we opted to share a Deconstructed Lobster Roll appetizer. Jill considered this the “perfect” appetizer, as it introduced the amazing flavors from Grove’s kitchen without being too heavy for a starter. Featuring butter-poached lobster lightly dressed with a basil aioli, and nestled in Bibb lettuce cups, then topped with toasted and seasoned brioche crumbles, the combination of the sweet lobster meat and herbs reached perfection with the addition of the brioche crumbles. Both of us took notice of how enjoyable the crunchy brioche crumbles paired with the succulent lobster. Beautifully done!
For our two entrees, we selected one from the sea, and one from the land. The Scallop Benedict was a truly artistic presentation with seared diver scallops balanced on potato scallion pancakes, topped with bacon jam, tomato jam, and a classic Béarnaise sauce. The dish was so delicious and velvety with a nuanced depth of flavor, I daresay that this would be a hit for lunch, brunch or dinner. (Even breakfast if that were available!)
The Pork Osso Bucco was another
stand up standout for our evening dinner. Standing vertical and proud, the tender, braised pork literally falls off the bone at first touch, This is tender X 1000!, From the tender texture the deftly seasoned pork shank meets up with a bright, fresh tomato sauce. The entire meal is at once hearty, savory, and so darn comforting. It is also eye-catching as I noticed a few guests at nearby tables looking over with envy. Can you blame them?
Oh, and I almost forgot the side of Fancy Fries. Who doesn’t like fries, especially when they are fancy? The description made this the easiest decision of the evening. The expertly crispy fried hand-cut potatoes were tossed with fresh herbs, truffled Pecorino, and served with a side of roasted garlic aioli, making for the perfect side for the Osso Bucco. I was tempted to order a second serving to munch in the car on the way home from dinner. (We didn’t do that, but I’m just sayin’, they’re that good!)
Dessert? But of course! We’ll take two!
The Peanut Butter Pie (also suggested by Melissa) was a huge hit with both of us. Who am I kidding, this would be a hit with almost everyone. A creamy peanut butter mousse rests on an Oreo crust and is drenched in chocolate ganache, and eats more like a cheesecake than a pie, due to its smooth, creamy mouthfeel. I ordered a coffee as well, making for the perfect “eye roll of happiness” as dinner came to a close.
Wanting something a little lighter, Jill ordered the Banana Creme Parfait. Vanilla custard, whipped cream, vanilla wafers, and bananas lent the flavors toward a nostalgic taste, all beautifully layered in a Mason Jar reminiscent of the classic dessert Grandma used to serve after Sunday supper. It surprises me once in awhile how we try the newest trends and somehow forget the comfort that taste bud nostalgia can bring to a meal. This was just that type of dessert. Sweet memories indeed!
Having looked over the Grove’s menu, there are many other dishes, (and dining rooms,) we want to experience, so we’ll have to visit again. Luckily, the Grove Restaurant offers a Happy Hour menu, a weekend brunch menu and kids menus, so there’s something for everyone.
Thank you and congratulations to Executive Chef Greg Campbell and his energetic team for bringing Grove Restaurant, Patio & Ballroom to Lakewood Ranch. I’m predicting a long, flavorful run for you, and for all of your hungry guests! While our evening was compliments of Grove, our opinions are 100% our own. We’ll be back soon!