To celebrate B's mom's birthday, we thought we'd treat her to something a little bit more fancy than the usual fare, and we had 60 dollars worth of gift certificates at Stone Grill that we've had for over a year that we could use up. We had been given these gift certificates last time we visited due to the hour long wait despite having made reservations prior. We didn't have to worry about the long wait time because it was a weekday. Armed with B's new GPS, we made our way downtown. It was cold and the streets were covered in snow. The lack of parking spaces at the restaurant meant we had to go over a huge pile of snow to get into our parking spot across the street.
The inside decor was the same as when we last visited - except it appeared more spacious since there were only several tables occupied. The waiter had let us choose the table, so we opted for a secluded area toward the back of the restaurant where we can see the kitchen. As the waiter was walking back toward the kitchen after we were seated and B surrendered the gift certificates to him, I saw the chef grimace - probably in response to some gesture the waiter was marking - and held up his middle finger. That wasn't a nice thing to see, regardless at what or whom it was directed to.
The menu was definitely different from what we remembered, and it was confirmed by our waiter that the menu had indeed been updated a few times. We had asked the waiter for recommendations, who suggested that the portion size would not be big enough for sharing - consistent with what we remembered from last time. So we ordered a few appetizers to share and for our entrée we each ordered a meat combination (or seafood combination in my case). I'd have to say the beef carpaccio was the best plate by far, the tender meat accented by fragrant parmasan shavings, bitter arugula, crunchy pine nuts and a sauce that was sweet and tangy. The raw sea scallop ceviche didn't taste as good as it looks, and the mushrooms to be cooked on the hot stone were scant considering the price tag.
The main dishes looked impressive - but stone-grilling wasn't quite practical because there were just too much meat and too little cooking surface. The bison rib-eye was amazingly tender and juicy, but I can't say the same about the lean kangaroo meat. The texture was rough and the flavor was mild, although there was a unique almost-buttery taste to it. I found the venison too gamey and I'd much rather prefer the tenderloin and the striploin. The wild boar, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise - it was tender and juicy - and it doesn't have that porky taste. The tuna was quite disappointing, as were the scallops. The tiger shrimps and the swordfish was delicious though. So was the lamb. But none of it came from the chef - so to speak - because everything was presented in their natural flavors: there were no seasoning or spices other than some sea salt on any of the meats and only a few slices of lemon for the fish. The food wasn't as great as we had remembered it. There was so much meat that we all felt gross by the end of it, and there was a lot of leftovers.
Then another unpleasant surprise came - after we asked for the bill, the waiter came back to tell us that the gift certificates we had give him were part of a promotion that had ended a year ago and thus are not valid. Instead, the boss was willing to offer a drink on the house. We confronted the waiter - first off, there weren't any expiry dates on the gift certificates and there were no terms nor conditions printed anywhere on them. Plus, these gift certificates weren't part of any promotions - they were more of a consolation to compensate for the horrible experience we had last time. Moreover, we had surrendered the gift certificates to the waiter when we were first seated - he could have informed us right away that they weren't valid rather than waiting until we were ready to pay. We stood firm and the waiter finally gave in after a supposedly lengthy conversation with the owner on the phone. I think he must have overheard our discussion and realized his tips was in jeopardy. We ignored his snide comments about the year-old gift certificates and left with not exactly the happiest mood.
The meal costed quite a hefty sum even after the gift certificates. But the worst didn't come until later that night - when we got so sick that B couldn't sleep until the early morn, making runs to the bathroom. For the mediocore food and horrible service, it just wasn't worth money and the drive downtown. I know they say "never say never" - but we're sure that we'll never visit Stone Grill again.