Restaurant Review: Twenty Manning Grill

When I last visited Twenty Manning several years ago, it was pretty disappointing. At the time, they had a weird, kind of Asian-inspired menu going on. I remember getting “vegetable lasagna,” which consisted of a few pieces of zucchini, squash, and eggplant cut into circles and stacked on top of each other and topped with soy flavored tomato broth. I’m sure I was probably hungry again 15 minutes later, and, needless to say, I wasn’t in a rush to return.

However, the restaurant was recently re-branded as Twenty Manning Grill and the menu given an overhaul to focus on more classic fare (including fish, beef, pork, and fowl, as the flag outside says) and I decided that I wouldn’t mind giving it another chance. So, Chester and I decided to check it out for Restaurant Week last night.

As I have noted before, some people complain about Restaurant Week because restaurants often offer a limited menu of their least expensive dishes and service can be rushed. Although this probably helps restaurants contain their costs and maximize profits, it doesn’t give diners a true flavor for what a restaurant is all about, so that they might be enticed to return for non-promotional pricing. Twenty Manning takes the right approach to Restaurant Week, in my opinion, by offering a lot of menu options to choose from, generous portions and service that is attentive without being rushed.

It was cold and windy last night and my first course of roasted tomato bisque warmed me up right away. It had just the right amount of acidity and salt, as well as a great texture (it wasn’t totally smooth, but didn’t have huge chunks of tomato in it either) which was enhanced by the addition of bits of garlic crostini, topped with shaved locatelli. Chester, meanwhile opted for something that tasted more like summer—the scallop ceviche. The acid from the citrus was not overwhelming and the ratio of avocado, scallop and jalapeno was perfect, so that you got a bit of each ingredient in each bite. It was accompanied by shrimp chips. I thought they were weird, but Chester liked them because 1) shrimp chips are one of his favorite snacks and 2) he thought they were chicharróns at first because they were so crunchy and heavily fried.

I debated between a couple of different entrees on the menu, but decided on the pork chop, mostly because it came with seared brussel sprouts. The sprouts were simply prepared with a bit of salt just the way I like them—but the maple brined pork chop was dry and a bit tough. The accompanying creamy gorgonzola sauce and sweet, honeyed figs helped a bit, and, the closer I got to the bone, the juicier the meat became. Chester suggested that maybe it had just needed to settle a bit in the kitchen before being served. It wasn’t terrible, but I was a bit disappointed and became even more so after I tried Chester’s bison burger. It was slightly gamey, tender and juicy (which was unexpected since bison is a fairly lean meat). The standard toppings of lettuce, tomato, and red onion were included, but the grilled vegetables on top were a nice touch. It came with a huge pile of thin, crunchy fries, which were lovely on their own, but even better dipped in the melted gorgonzola sauce on my own plate. I know what I’m getting next time around.

Dessert was a sampler plate of three miniature pastries including a chocolate soufflé cake, cheesecake square and strawberry strudel. The first two were tasty but nothing special and the strudel was pretty lackluster at best—like an Entenmann’s pastry that had been left out too long. I would have much rather had the half-baked Toll House cookie and vanilla ice cream from the regular menu.

Like its sister restaurant, Audrey Claire which is located just down the street, Twenty Manning’s dishes are simple and use seasonal ingredients. However, it is not a BYOB and accepts credit cards. The cozy glow from the candles on each table, spacious bar area, which includes a TV and comfy banquette seating, gives it a more casual, relaxed feel. While Audrey Claire is a great option for a sit down dinner, Twenty Manning could be a great spot for drinks and appetizers after work.

Although the food wasn’t perfect, I was pleasantly surprised by the improvements that had been made since the last time I visited, and I would definitely go back again.

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