The former City Grille has new ownership -- and a new name, too.
Well, sort of a new name. It is now officially City Grill 2, under the leadership of Scott and Virginia Rossi, Culinary Institute of America graduates with a great deal of professional experience in clubs and hotels in the Boston and New York City areas. Sometime this year, the couple plans to open another restaurant, to be called 15 Mile on Sweeney Street in the former Remington Rand Building on the canal in North Tonawanda.
When you walk into City Grill 2, however, it looks pretty much the same as it always did. Which is to say it's a high ceilinged, sophisticated, minimal space, arranged on tiers with the big bar in the center of everything.
A stunning, glass-enclosed wine "cellar" is on the upper tier (good wine list). Large windows overlook Main Street, about a block away from the ballpark and next to a Metro station. (The ride to Shea's takes about five minutes.)
The menu is pretty much the same, too, although there are interesting specials nightly. Case in point: root vegetable chowder (cup $4), a creamy piquant mix of all the winter vegetables that bring us comfort; and a sauteed day boat scallop and penne entree ($26) that was a combination of arugula, grape tomatoes, white beans, rosemary and garlic, with large hunks of smoked bacon here and there.
But then the entrees on the regular menu presented a fair amount of temptation, too. Like meltingly tender beef short ribs ($27), served up with cheddar mashed potatoes and some more of those root vegetables.
However, we were disappointed by a first course on the regular menu: crawfish beignets ($12) with remoulade sauce. The battered fritters were dry, both inside and out.
One dessert we ordered could not have been any richer. A sort of chocolate terrine ($7.50) was an elaborately layered construction of peanut butter, dark chocolate and milk chocolate; it had to be eaten ve-r-r-ry slowly and savored all the way. We thought it was much better than the bread pudding, which seemed to have been cut into chunks, battered and deep fried. I would have preferred a creamier mix.
But the entire menu is very tempting. On the specials list, for instance: an item called sesame garlic pork wings with Thai chili sauce made, we were told, from a whole animal, that had been butchered to order. That same animal was responsible for a slow-roasted pork shank served with apple barbecue sauce, cheddar mashed potatoes and fried leeks ($26).
I should also note that I always enjoyed the gumbo back at old City Grille (One), and it's still here for $4. I've enjoyed the grilled flatbread pizza -- topped with whipped ricotta, parmesan and tomato -- and the gorgonzola-crusted beef tournedos, as well as grilled salmon. You can still order them, if you wish.
And you should also know that hamburgers are available, as well as an ever-changing artisanal cheese plate. Lunchtime is always busy at City Grill (whatever the number), and many interesting specials can be ordered at noon.
CITY GRILL 2
3 stars (Out of 4)
WHERE: 268 Main St. (856-2651; www.citygrill2.com). Now under new ownership, this sophisticated dining place offers a diverse menu. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Root vegetable chowder
NEEDS WORK: Crawfish beignets
PRICE RANGE: Dinner entrees from $16. Four-course pretheater dinner, $29.95.
HOURS: Lunch, Monday through Friday. Dinner, Monday through Thursday until 9; Friday and Saturday until 10.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
PARKING: Parking lots in the area.
RATINGS: Stars reflect the overall dining experience at the time of The News' visit -- including service, ambience, innovation and cost -- with greatest weight given to quality of the food.