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The Scarlet & Black

Relish replaces Phoenix, impresses critic

When the Phoenix shut its doors earlier this year, Grinnellians were dismayed at the loss of one of our culinary gems. However, a new restaurant has risen in its same location: Relish. Relish features American, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean style cooking with high-quality ingredients. I recently ventured to Relish to try out this new restaurant’s fare for myself.

I began my meal with an appetizer of roasted red peppers on greens with pita ($5.50). The peppers came arrayed on a bed of Romaine and glazed with a vinaigrette. The cool, slightly spicy peppers contrasted nicely with the warm, toasty pita.

Each meal comes with either soup du jour or salad. I went with the soup, which was a lamb and lentil curry stew. The stew was rich and deeply flavorful, with intense bursts of rich spices that would fade to a gentle aftertaste, which made it the highlight of the meal. The meat and lentils were at a perfect consistency and had absorbed the broth and spices, releasing them with every spoonful.

The soup was accompanied by a bowl of bread. Sadly, I was surprised and disheartened by its hardness and general lack of flavor. I felt it did not match the quality of the other food I ate for the rest of the meal. A better alternative would be some of Relish’s great pita bread that is often served with other dishes. Not only is it delicious, but the pita would have matched the rich, dense soup better. Soon after I had devoured the soup, the main course arrived.

As the main entrée I ordered the Kofta Kabob, ($16.00) which consisted of ground beef, minced onions and herbs topped with tahini sauce. It was served with a pita, a choice of a side (I chose orzo, but baked potato or grilled broccoli are also options) and a house relish. The presentation was quite elegant, and made the food look extraordinarily delicious. One bite of the kabob was all it took to establish Relish as a top-notch restaurant in my book. The kabob, tahini, orzo, relish and pita all came together in a symphony of taste, with subtle notes and deep booms of flavor. The textures were also superb, as the graininess of the kabob played off the smoothness of the orzo and resonated within the crispness of the toasted pita. The dish was utterly delicious and very filling. My dining companion enjoyed a ratatouille and found it similarly tasty.

Even though I was quite full at this point, resisting dessert was not an option. At Relish, the waiter brings around a tray of the dessert options to your table for browsing the selection of sugary treats. My dining companion ordered some baklava ($3.00), while I ordered a dessert sampler ($7.00). The sampler consisted of three small desserts: a raspberry ganache in a chocolate shell cup, a small bit of cheesecake and a dense chocolate pastry. These were perfect jewels to polish off the meal. Every single bite of dessert was perfection.

Relish offers superb eating experience with a reasonable price for the plentiful offerings. The service is excellent (my water was never empty) and the ambiance is quiet and elegant. It would make an ideal spot for a professional dinner, a meal with one’s parents or a nice date. With a rotating menu and an attention to quality food and ingredients, Relish promises to be relished by Grinnellians for years to come.

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  • J

    Julie ReadMar 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm


  • J

    Julie ReadMar 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Great News! I can’t wait to try it. Best wishes on your bew venture.

  • K

    Kamal HammoudaMar 8, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Thank you, you just made my day. I wondered about the response to our new venture and now i know. we’ll try harder with the bread. Wait for more to come, as time goes by.