So here’s how it typically goes when we write reviews – if our experience is great, we will go back again and again and maybe even become devout fans of the restaurant. But if the review is not so great, it’s a toss-up as to whether or not we will return for another meal. Depending on how “not so great” our experience was, we might decide that it’s not worth another trip out. But we try our very best to keep an open mind and give places the benefit of the doubt. There are a lot of places that we’ve written about that didn’t really impress us the first time around, but that deserve another shot. Turns out, Bold City Grill is just such a place.
We’ve written before about Bold City Grill, a restaurant located inside the Sheraton on Deerwood Park Boulevard, right around the corner from the St. John’s Town Center. We dined there a little over a year ago and were not blown away. The space itself is beautiful and comfortable. But on our first visit, service was a big issue and the lackluster food left a lot to be desired. At that time, the menu focused on sandwiches, burgers, and bar-type food – and it just wasn’t that stellar. Needless to say, we had not been back again…until this week. Earlier this week, we were invited out to a special event hosted by Bold City Grill and their brand new executive chef, Antonio Estremera, who has a background in South American cuisine and grew up working in his family’s restaurant in Peru.
The dinner that Chef Estremera prepared was a four-course South American Wine Dinner that included several off-menu dishes and wine pairings. The wines were paired beautifully with each dish and we were thoroughly impressed by our whole experience. And while the dishes we had are not typically found on Bold City Grill’s regular menu, the quality and flavors reflect the types of food that Chef Estremera is capable of creating. And the menu itself speaks volumes as to his passion and love for his craft.
Each dish was explained in detail and prepared right there in front of us, with Chef Estremera’s vibrant yet humble personality shining through as he worked. The dishes all had a distinct South American flair to them and incorporated some really interesting flavor combinations. The first course was a definite crowd pleaser. It was a South American style seafood étouffée with scallops, shrimp, and a stuffed fillet of tilapia, all plated alongside a seared “fillet” of zucchini topped with a luscious wheat risotto. The étouffée was rich and had a nice spice to it. The seafood was all cooked and seasoned well. And the use of the zucchini “filet” to sort of contrast the tilapia filet was both clever and delicious. For me, the star of this dish was the wheat risotto, which was made with much larger grains than you would typically find in a rice-based risotto. It had a much different texture, which I found interesting and fun, and it was still creamy and cheesy and full of flavor.
The second course was an interesting fusion, combining Asian and South American flavors in a bold soy sauce based broth topped with stir fried chicken, vegetables, and crispy Asian noodles. While the super crunchy noodles made the dish a little tricky to eat and the ratio of noodles to sauce may have been a little off (way too many noodles and not enough sauce), the dish as a whole was bursting with flavor. And I loved how it was highlighted by bright pops of fresh cilantro sprinkled on top.
The skirt steak served for the third course was not quite as well-received. First off, it was not the most beautiful dish to look at. The meat was a little tough, but still decently seasoned. The flavorful cilantro chimichurri sauce was a great complement to the meat. What I found most interesting on the plate was the “stew” of chorizo and sun dried potatoes. That’s right…sun dried potatoes. Chef Estremera explained as he prepared the dish (which smelled amazing, by the way) that drying out potatoes in the sun is common in Peru. The potatoes are then rehydrated and take on an incredible amount of flavor as they cook. These had a bit of heat from the chorizo that accompanied them in the pan. That heat was offset by the unexpected addition of cinnamon. While this flavor combination didn’t go over well with all the diners, I found it to be unique and tasty. The cinnamon sort of hinted at a sweetness, while the chorizo added a rich, spicy, savory flavor. And the potatoes eaten in the same bite with the chimichurri sauce were just amazing. The flavors both contrasted and complemented each other perfectly.
We finished up our meal with a delicious pecan and dried fruit bread pudding with a creamy butterscotch schnapps sauce. It was an amazing finish to a very enjoyable meal. In the short time since he started at Bold City Grill, Chef Estremera has already made some significant changes and is showing that he is up for a challenge and is open to making new and adventurous dishes. His food shows an incredible amount of potential and it is clear that his restaurant team, as well as the hotel staff, are behind him 100% in his approach. The service that we received during the wine dinner reflected that same attitude and attention to detail, so here’s hoping that things will be just as great during regular day-to-day service. Again, you may not find the dishes described above on Bold City Grill’s everyday menu, but if what we ate at this special event is any indication of the type of food Chef Estremera will be putting out on a regular basis, one this is abundantly clear – with Chef Estremera at the helm, Bold City Grill is definitely worth another visit.
For this review we welcome a member of our own JRR family: Rhonda Kovar is a former call center manager turned stay-at-home mom. She grew up in the heart of North Carolina and moved to Florida after getting hitched in 2002. She is a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University and a lover of all things crafty, musical, or edible. Rhonda loves finding new and delicious ways to turn her two tiny picky eaters into future foodies. You can follow her on Instagram.