Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Firewater Grille

Restaurant: Firewater Grille
Address: 7007 Grover Street - Inside the Comfort Inn & Suites
Genres: island, fusion
Check Constraints: 18% for parties of 8 or more.
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Pacific Rim Nachos ($8.95)
  • St. Bart's Soup ($3.95 for the 8 oz size)
  • El Cuban Panini ($6.95)
  • Mango Cheesecake ($6.95)
In 2007, the entire Comfort Inn and Suites at 72nd and Grover got a renovation. Judging from the pictures on their site, they did a pretty good job with it. As part of that renovation they eliminated the rather humdrum restaurant that previously inhabited a lower part of the hotel, and replaced it with the Firewater Grille, an ostensibly "island" restaurant/bar that's competing against the dozens of other fine waterfront tiki bars in Nebraska - another entry in a clogged genre full of sand, sun, and mai tais.

Okay, so they're really competing against the Cheeseburger in Paradise located in Village Pointe, and that's just about it for genre competition, that I know of. That said, it's a pretty good stab at it, and honestly the prices probably come in under the chain restaurant (at least on average). But I'm getting slightly ahead of myself. The remodel has left the restaurant with an island theme done by someone who may actually have seen an oceanside bar once in their life. It's definitely reminiscent of Cheeseburger in Paradise, without the oppressive darkness and incredibly overpriced burgers - faux straw chairs, Corona ads on the walls, bamboo architectural flair. The place seemed a little sparse, but it's Thursday lunch on the week after Christmas and I doubt all the tables were out. Speaking of the tables - it's bar-type seating (seat yourself wherever you want), but don't try to fit four people at a single table. They're almost too small to sit at, let alone big enough for four people's food.
Additionally, we weren't sure if they had just cleaned, or if they were trying to duplicate sea air or what, but the place smelled just slightly of... something. It did smell kind of like a sea breeze, or at least some air freshener pretending to be a sea breeze. ND swears it smells like his high school gym, but I don't know. It went away, or we got used to it, and it didn't affect the meal at all.

The Pacific Rim nachos were freshmade tortilla chips, covered with alfredo, peanut sauce, and both shrimp and imitation crabmeat. It was good stuff - the peanut sauce was perhaps a little strong, but the alfredo offset it nicely. If anything, I could have done with smaller cocktail-sized shrimp on it, to spread the flavor out a little more evenly. It was served with a good sweet and sour sauce, which tasted like it had been made in-house with sesame oil (yum). I think they classified it as "cocktail sauce", but generally I think of cocktail sauce as having a horseradish-y flavor, and this had none.

The soup was brothy, but had a good flavor. I would classify the base flavor as "onion", with some other overtones on top. I think the menu claims it had cilantro in it, but I detected zero cilantro flavor. Food components of the soup included: green onions, some kind of flavored rice, shrimp, and a single potsticker, which was extremely weird to see but tasted good. As long as you're not expecting a soup that's more solid than liquid, it's a good choice.

I decided to go with a sandwich today, and I'm sure Mecha wishes he and I had traded orders. The panini was delicious. I expected nothing but lunch meat, but the sandwich comes with lunchmeat-ish ham and then the luau pork, where "luau" is a codeword for "pulled". Generic swiss cheese, a roasted red pepper, and pickles on nicely toasted bread finished off a sandwich which was very good for the price. It could have, perhaps, used a dipping sauce, but it wasn't in need of much else. I had it with the sweet potato fries, which were better than the ones I've had at CiP (I'm being slick and abbreviating now), and I've given CiP a couple tries to get it right.

The dessert was the only part of the meal which was a letdown. I tried both the cheesecake and the award-winning Chocolate Key Lime Pie. The cheesecake came with pomegranate sauce, which was seriously sharp in flavor but went with the mellow cheesecake nicely. The flavor was good, though the cheesecake had obviously been cut hours before, since the exposed sides were gummy and a little off in flavor. The pie... man, the pie was crazy. It was delicious, but it was a piece of pie, on a stick, dunked in dark chocolate and allowed to dry. Taste? Great. Would have been better if they'd tried for real meringue over the kind of whipped-cream spread they had, but that might not have survived the dipping process. But it was actually hard to eat! Trying to cut it with a fork required some hammering, and picking it up to gnaw on it via the stick left more than one of us with scrapes on our gums from the hard chocolate.
All the desserts' flaws would have been forgivable, had they not been $7. That's the same price as the panini! I realize they're made in-house, and I appreciate the flavor, but man, buy these as a group and split it. You'll feel better anyhow - they're both incredibly dense desserts.

That said, though, their lunch specials look interesting, the food is fresh and palatable, and the menu doesn't look like it wanders into places they're going to have trouble with. Possibly a bit on the expensive side for a few dishes, but as long as you avoid the dessert cart you probably won't break the bank. Definitely worth a revisit for me, if just to taste their daiquiris.

  • Lunch Special (Blackened Chicken Alfredo) ($5.00)
  • St. Bart's Soup ($3.95 for the 8 oz size)
  • Sunken Treasures ($6.95)
  • Chocolate Key Lime Pie ($6.95)
The seafood nachos were, as stated above, quite good. They do not, however, age particularly well. Alfredo isn't a sauce you want to leave sitting for long, and when it starts less than hot, like on these nachos, it will go bad fast. Finish them as soon as possible, and you won't regret it.

"Sunken Treasures" uses what they call "doubloons", which we originally thought were chips, but turned out to be bog standard tater tots. That didn't matter so much, though, because between a decent cheese sauce, two types of shredded cheese, and the shredded chicken, you didn't notice the potatoes as anything but a medium for the cheese and meat. It was also available with pork and beef, either of which would probably have been better, but the chicken was good enough that it went pretty quickly. It's a big one, too, so if you're in the mood for it, you could probably have it as your meal.

Almost everyone at the table saw the soup and decided immediately to try it, and it was worth it. The broth was at the upper range of my spicy comfort, but I'm pretty low heat tolerance, so most people could probably handle it. It really needed a lot more rice and a little more meat, but as it was, it was decent to good.

I had a bit of the mango cheesecake, and while I'm not a big fan of mango, the pomegranate sauce blended nicely enough that I could probably eat a whole slice, if I were so inclined. I am, however, a big fan of pomegranate in general. The pomegranate sauce also went quite well with random bits of chocolate the flaked off the pie as I cracked it open. The key lime pie was literally bursting with lime flavor, and I could have done with a little less. It was, however, dipped in dark chocolate AND on a stick, which raises it two full notches above where it would be. The price, however, is a real killer. For seven bucks, I expect a dessert to make me wear my jacket around my waist, and this was nowhere near that level.

Now... the alfredo. The presentation was good. It wasn't fettucini, which is the standard alfredo pasta, but they seem like penne a lot at this place, so I can deal. Penne is a perfectly good pasta, after all. The alfredo itself was a tad watery on the pasta, and the blackened chicken was very black, perched in the normal spot in the middle, but ringing the whole thing around was green onions, tomatoes, and shredded parmesan cheese. The alfredo, taken on its own, was a bit watery and much more creamy than parmesan, but the sheer volume of parmesan ringing it helped, with a bit of mixing, to add the proper flavor. The end result was an alfredo that was better than you could get at a store, but nothing stellar.

There's a trick to eating this, though, and that lies in the blackened chicken. If you take too much blackened chicken in a bite, it will easily overpower the alfredo, as the blackened chicken has a VERY strong flavor. If you take the chicken in smaller chunks, and cover it with the slightly watery alfredo, the result is quite a bit better than you'd expect from the somewhat lackluster parts. You can tell a lot from a restaurant's alfredo, and this one tells me that the chef who designed this knows what he's doing. This is not a place where you want to be subtracting parts from the dishes to meet your personal preferences. Take the dishes as they come, and you'll be treated to a good appetizer and entree. Just skip the dessert.

This place is definitely worth a second visit. Also, that smell was -totally- my high school gym. It was sort of a mix of chlorine and rubber. It wasn't unpleasant, really, and just like in high school, you stop noticing after a few minutes.

  • Luau Pork Sandwich, Jicama Slaw side ($6.95)
  • Chocolate Key Lime Pie ($6.95)
I had a bit of the Sunken Treasures and Pacific Rim Nachos. The Sunken Treasures were great--a tasty mix of potatoes, cheese, cheese, and meat--even if the potatoes were really tater tots. The nachos were a different story for me. I thought it was a really odd taste combination. It had peanut, alfredo, and seafood as described above. It wasn't really bad, but I probably wouldn't go for it again.

The sandwich was a good 'n' messy pulled pork sandwich. The mango BBQ sauce that came on it was sweet and tangy. I couldn't taste mango specifically, but that's ok. Either the sauce or the meat was a bit spicy, but not very strong and not overpowering. The jicama slaw side was ok. It was pretty much a basic slaw to me. Cham said it may have needed some more horseradish sauce. I could taste the jicama flavor in it once I realized what it was. The spelling of jicama always throws me off because it's pronounced "hic-a-ma".

The bite of cheesecake I had didn't impress me. It was a bit chewy and had probably been sitting out too long. I thought the key lime pie was awesome, however. I'm a big fan of key lime. The lime was a bit strong, like the others said, but it went really well with the dark chocolate. The pie by itself was probably too tangy. The chocolate was actually pretty rock solid and difficult to eat. It was also a bit pricey at $7. I would have shared, but it was basically ordered for me before I could object. (Not a problem, as I enjoyed having my own.)

My stomach may have appreciated sharing a dessert because the meal was really filling. I'm still feeling it nearly three hours later. It didn't seem nearly that filling at the time. Good meal though. The waitress was friendly. It'd be worth going back to try other dishes.

  • Rasta Pasta ($9.95) (w/house salad)
  • St. Bart's Soup ($3.95 for the 8 oz size)
  • Chocolate Key Lime Pie ($6.95)
Too friendly if you ask me! I think she contradicted herself in a frenzy of friendliness. Anyway.

I did sample the nachos and doubloons. The nachos were fascinating, but good. The peanut sauce really worked well with the alfredo in that one, and it makes me wonder about how that combination would go elsewhere. The doubloons were decent, but I'm not much of a fan of tater tots, texture-wise. Not bad, not super great.

The soup was delicious. Onion, or rather, green onion, was definitely the active flavor, but it was good to me. Everyone already commented on that it was brothy and that's fine. Also, the potsticker being in it was good, and it was clearly a flavorant (I want to say they do pork potstickers, so there you go.)

The rasta pasta was good. Let me get that out of the way first. However, and here's an issue that both Cham and ND hinted at, and that's that the blasted shrapnel of cajun chicken that comes with the penne and a red-sauce dish is Spicy. It's not super-hot on first bite, but it lingers, and as you keep eating the dish, it just doesn't go away. That's a bit too much for me. I couldn't finish the dish, even with two pieces of bread and a glass of milk and two glasses of water as heat sops. And a bit of salad with ranch on it. (Their house salad was pretty standard fare too, but nothing bad. No wilted lettuce, etc.) It was just too darn spicy for me to cut through. When this place puts the two torches next to a food item for 'spicy', they mean it. Cham would have likely loved it as his main (he compared it favorably to something he used to get elsewhere, but done, you know, well) so if you're into spicy, I have no reservations on the dish's flavor.

The desserts were just not my flavor of thing. Definitely not for the price. Their dessert prices topped even most chains. Compare Brazen Head (~4) to Chili's (~5-6) to here (~7). But if you go for key lime (like Jay does), well, then, by all means, it's an experience you should have. Just be careful of the stick: Cham poked himself with it (or a chocolate shard.)

I'd definitely revisit. One thing that is worth noting for the fun-lovers in the crowd is that they really do seem to have an activity every night of some sort, be it a band, or some sports watching, or Guitar Hero of all things (at the moment.) So going in the evening might be a vastly different experience. And as Cham said, island alcohol. Got to try that.

1 comment: said...

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