>> Thursday, November 12, 2015
72-27 Austin Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375
When I learned that the guys behind Jack & Nellie's were opening a new restaurant, Rove, in the spot where Bonfire Grill used to be, my first thought was "I love Jack & Nellie's! This is great!" My second thought was "Couldn't they have named their restaurant after a different political consultant?" Titular commentary notwithstanding, Rove is, for all intents and purposes, at least thus far, Bonfire 2.
When I started writing this blog, in 2008, there were precious few decent, full restaurants in the neighborhood outside of Q (which, by the way, is now Jack & Nellie's) on Ascan Avenue. Going on a date or getting brunch meant schlepping out to Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Astoria. So when Bonfire Grill opened, it was a breath of fresh air. Finally, a decent brunch. Finally, a place with a decent drink list. Finally, a restaurant designed to attract people like me, the upper 20s-low 30s, demographic. The food at Bonfire was always decent and, even if it would never be the kind of place that people would get on the subway to go to, it was a great standby place to go when you didn't want to travel.
This is basically my thoughts on Rove. It only just opened, so the menu currently very small and will almost certainly double in size, but unless it changes dramatically, it will be upscale bar food appetizers and comfort food entrees. In essence, Rove will be using the Bonfire playbook. This is good news for people who felt that Bonfire filled a certain niche in the neighborhood and bad news for those who were hoping for something a bit more culinarily artsy.
When I arrived with Pike at 7 on a Thursday, the place was deserted; by 7:30 almost every table was taken. This was actually Pike's second time at Rove, having been there a few days earlier with his girlfriend. The interior set up, as you can see, is basically unchanged, but the decor, with it's rougher wood accents and exposed brick, is more industrial. While Rove retains the televisions over the bar, and has buffalo wings on the menu, at least it doesn't try to imply that it's a fancy place. That said, if you show up wearing a sports jersey, I will still want to kill you.
Maybe Rove will one day offer deviled eggs and French onion soup, but for now, the limited appetizer menu was clearly showcasing that they were aiming for the upper echelon of bar food. Tempted by the filet mignon bruschetta, I instead chose the Boneless Sriracha Chicken Thighs, also known as boneless dark meat buffalo wings. Pike thought that they were too spicy, I didn't, but I like hot. I can recommend them, and I would get them again, but the name implies a wee bit more than they are. Pike chose the Pork Buns, a trio of pulled pork bao-style sandwiches which were delicious. Tangy, sweet, soft, crunchy, hot, cold. It basically hits every part of your mouth in sequence.
Pike ordered the New York Sirloin Steak. Last week, he and I went to Aged and the steak was... pretty bad (note to self, re-review Aged from scratch). So when he started eating, I asked him if this was any better. "It's like night and day. Though they could have trimmed off this piece of fat right here." He cut me off a piece and it was pretty good. It won't be putting Spark's out of business any time soon, but compared to what we had last week down the block, there isn't really any competition. The steak comes served with two classic steakhouse sides, creamed spinach and home fries, neither of which were anything to write home about. My entree was the Crusted Chicken, a roasted 1/4 chicken (breast and wing) with a breadcrumb crust under a jalapeno cream sauce. The chicken was tender and the jalapeno cream sauce was anything but hot. The jalapeno was there for taste only. It was quite good, but because it was bone-in, I felt like I was fighting the food. This came served with grilled zucchini and carrot mashed potatoes. Both were pleasant, though if no one told me that there were carrots in the mashed potatoes, I'd never have known.
So, so far so good. Bonfire in its latter days was starting to go downhill and it's nice to see that Rove has taken the space and improved on it. I'll for certain be returning and I hope that the expanded menu is a good one. By the way, all of the staff that we interacted with were very very nice.
Appetizers average $12, sandwiches average $14, entrees average $22.