News for the week of December 17

Local Grand Rapids restaurant going for a Parisian brasserie theme.

Recently four of us had dinner at the New Hotel Mertens on Oakes Street in downtown Grand Rapids. The ambience was quite French but it was far too loud, which made us recall that  brasseries in France that we've experienced aren't really loud at all. 

Anyway, the food was mostly quite scrumptious -- deviled eggs and roasted marrow bones for starters were a hit. For our plats two of us had the steak frites which were perfectly prepared, very tender and rounded out nicely with hand-cut frites and a small green salad. One had coq au vin which, while very flavorful, was presented as a chicken leg and thigh with a few small vegetables, not typical of the usual preparation. Our fourth had the choucroute, an Alsatian dish which was done just to his liking. 

For dessert we shared the individualized croquembouche, which was a mess. It was toppling over, the overdone caramel was like concrete and attempting to pry the profiteroles apart required specialized tools. The pastry chef in our midst noted that the choux puffs were dry and the vanilla pastry cream lacked a luscious creaminess.

The wine list is very thin -- almost as thin as the red burgundy we sent back - and a disproportionate number of bottles were pretty pricey.

The food experience was truly all over the place but the willingness of the staff to forgive the dessert was appreciated.

I would be willing to return and give them another try.

Be aware that parking is only available on the street or in nearby ramps and lots. Cost is typically $10 for the evening.

New Hotel Mertens
35 Oakes St SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Finally, a few postcards from Paris during the Belle Epoque -- compliments of the U.S. Library of Congress.