Gordon Biersch

Yesterday was my birthday, and in a moment of brilliance I went online to seek out a free birthday dinner. Sure enough, amidst all the free desserts, Gordon Biersch was offering a free dinner. So I signed up to get emails and a free appetizer and God only knows what else, but the email containing the free birthday dinner coupon didn’t arrive.

Through several pleasant email exchanges with Ryan, it turned out the Computer System was primed to send it to me the following day. But by then I would have been too old. Ryan fixed it all up, said to just make reservations and come on in for my birthday dinner.

Ryan and Adam and our excellent server (sorry! forgot the name!) certainly did make it right! Gordon Biersch is located inside a building I basically loathe, Destiny USA. The reason for the loathing is common knowledge in Syracuse, but that’s another story. We bit the bullet and walked in anyway. After all, free is free.

The lighting and furnishings are basically quite nice. Unfortunately, we got sat in the half of the restaurant that is essentially nothing but very large TV screens going all the time. I’m not sure why it’s necessary to have so many, all in row after row. But perhaps someone out there gets it, so let’s leave it at that. However, I’m very distracted and annoyed by televisions going while I’m trying to enjoy a meal and talk with my husband, so it was an effort to tune them out. As we left, I did walk around and noticed that the other 50% is not so burdened, so be sure to ask for that side if you’re equally miffed by All Media All the Time.

We started with a couple great beers that are brewed right there. Dave had the light unfiltered Hefeweizen and I had the dark lager, Schwarzbier.  You can read descriptions of all their beers here. If you go just for the beer, you will not have wasted your time.

We ordered the calamari appetizer just to see if anyone, anyone, can do it better than Kevin Gentile. The two dipping sauces, a marinara and a wasabi, were really, really good. But alas, Kevin retains his Calamari King title. While they were as tender as calamari ever is, they were essentially flavorless and not nearly as crispy as Kevin gets them. Mind you, I ate calamari throughout Spain and nobody there could coax what Kevin does out of them. So perhaps this comparison isn’t fair. Still… when I close my eyes and bite into something, I want to have some idea of what it is. This calamari did not whisper even a single word about the sea.

Bread was served. Ice. Stone. Cold. It had an Italian bread look about it, but the crust was not crusty, the texture was that of gluten-free bread (this is not a recommendation, folks) and in an era when even diners serve olive oil with their bread, only one cold round ball of butter came with it. Sad.

Worried, we dug into the entrees that were served, like everything else, with just the right level of friendliness without our being interrupted too often by a too-chummy server. God! Why didn’t I get his name?! Anyway, bit by bit, the true talent in the kitchen was revealed. Salmon was cooked to exactly the right point for those who don’t want it raw. I was shocked – thoroughly cooked, yet moist and flavorful. While I do prefer it more raw, I have to salute the master who got this timing so perfectly. It had a mild bourbon pecan sauce that complemented it perfectly. The vegetables and “quinoa” that came with it were seasoned perfectly – just a tad spicy – and tasting of actually quite fresh ingredients.

I put the “quinoa” in quotes because that’s what the menu said – that it was a quinoa side – but it doesn’t mention that the quinoa was far outnumbered by the large couscous. Gluten-free people, beware! Better still, read this GF menu from the website. It’s safer than guessing.

The lobster-crab cakes were amazing. So much seafood you had to wonder how the chef got it to hold together for cooking. Served with a delicious tartar sauce, one of the best cole slaws I’ve ever had (and I’m picky about cole slaw!) and a decent pile of the most garlicky garlic fries (with garlic) that I’ve ever had. Dave and I were both in heaven! At last! Someone with the cojones to put a goodly amount of garlic on something that so desperately needs several kicks up: fries. My idea of a great dinner out: one of their beers, a scoop of cole slaw and a plate of those fries.

Then there was dessert. So, what do you think? If the bread was about the most miserable bread I’ve ever been served, how do you think the dessert was? Dave’s “New York Style” cheesecake was not as dense as it should have been but really not exactly fluffy, as described by our server. Taste? Meh. And the bread pudding was frankly a disaster. Oh, dear. I don’t even like to think of it. It was kinda hot on the outside, the promised apples were completely raw and hiding in one corner, the density and complete lack of even raisins made me wonder why we had to pay to help them recycle the leftover bad bread…  (oops! That’s right… we weren’t paying for my meal!)

In short, do not go to Gordon Biersch for dessert. Stop at the second plate of garlic fries and second glass of beer and you will be as happy as anyone can be in that monstrosity of a building. Our tummies were very happy, the folks there couldn’t have been nicer, at least half the restaurant isn’t overladen with TVs and the exit door to the parking lot isn’t far away.  Just a hop, skip and a jump to get downtown for a Crème brûlée at Bittersweet.

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