(Grand Rapids, MI) A few years back, Grand Rapids buzzed with excitement because Marriott had decided to erect it's flagship property, the J.W., on the shores of the Grand River downtown. Certainly construction of DeVos Place, with its convention center and concert hall, had a lot to do with that decision. One bored winter, we had popped in to the adjoining bar for a quick afternoon beer and sandwich, and went away just as bored. To be fair, that should have cast no reflection on executive chef Andrew Voss' abilities, nor his team's; indeed, that uneventful lunch was no indicator of the experience we would soon have at Six.One.Six...

He Fed:
Although it is Juliet's pick this weekend, I influence her slightly when I make mention that it would be nice to have a "proper dinner" this time around. By that, I mean no lunchtime outing, no bar food, no actual meal prepared by a thoughtful and creative chef. As she runs through suggestions nearby, I casually mention the restaurant at the J.W. Marriot, and we're decided. I research the menus online and make a reservation through, my favorite free service.

We drive to the hotel (only minutes away from home) and valet the Prius. With dinner, you get 4 free hours of valet parking! Although we're a little early, the manager takes our coats and arranges for us to be seated at a table in the back of the restaurant. It is busy, with other nearby couples enjoying wine and conversation in low tones. The dim light does not bode well for photography without flash, and we are reluctant to distract other diners with our snapshots.

Our waitress arrives, friendly and attentive. She fills our waterglasses with tap water from a pitcher. I guess they do not offer sparkling? No matter; I had assumed as much by their credo of buying local. She relates the specials, but I've already decided online what I'm going to have. We order the cheeseboard with wine pairings immediately. It is delivered shortly, a generous helping of each:

* Fromage Blanc (Arcata, CA) paired with Cantine Saccetto, Prosecco: My favorite of the bunch, the goat cheese is creamy but lively with the wine. Smeared on a cracker and topped with golden raisins, it is the ultimate cocktail party snack.

* Reny Picot, St Rocco Brie (Benton Harbor, MI) paired with Arona Sauvignon Blanc: Smooth and buttery, it's hard to believe this hails from Michigan. The wine is a bit too sweet for me.

* Carr Valley, River Bend (La Valle, WI) paired with a Riesling that took the place of the Alsace Gewurztraminer they were out of: Hard white cheese dipped in honey is good but not that memorable. Not digging the vino at all.

* Manchego (La Mancha, Spain) paired with Soquel Pinot Noir: If you know me, you know I love a good Pinot Noir and this one grabs me right away. It has such a smoky character that I mistake it for the Malbec at first (much to Juliet's delight). The cheese is delicious dipped in strawberry jam.

* Rogue River, Oregon Blue (Central Point, OR) paired with Malbec Decero: I'm not a huge blue cheese fan when eating it alone, but this is palatable. The wine is appropriately stiff-backed to stand up to the blue. I'm still in love with the Pinot, though.

After we've scraped away the remainders of all cheeses and accouterments, we order dinner proper. Juliet mixes it up with a salad and flatbread, while I gravitate to the Curried Goat Cheese Ravioli (and a full glass of that Pinot Noir). In my past life, ravioli didn't really do it for me as a meal. Since La Pergola, however, I continue to chase that dragon, hoping this pasta will at least come close enough to remind me of heaven yet again.

The handmade ravioli arrive—two of them, large and pregnant with warm goat cheese inside—floating in a thick pool (nage) of sage brown butter and red curry squash, topped with baby mustard greens. My first bite is utter bliss, taste buds bouncing from the curry to the peppered ravioli to the warm goat cheese to the squash. Diligently, lovingly, I work my way to the bottom of the bowl, pausing only for more water and wine (the Pinot goes very well with the curry). In the end, I really enjoy the dish though the unique components eventually dissolve into a mustardy-curry melange that is almost too rich.

I try to help Juliet with her flatbread (her salad is enormous) but I am saving myself for dessert. Ordinarily I might order coffee, port and a slice of something but tonight I am satisfied with "merely" the Coconut Rice Pudding Brulee. I love a good brulee, I love rice pudding and I love coconut. Does it all work together? Yes and no. It really just tastes like rice pudding with a slightly caramelized sugar topping. Nothing special...good but not worth seeking out on its own merits.

As we pay the bill (which is quite reasonable), collect our coats and ask the valet to retrieve our car, both of us agree we will be back. Six.One.Six is pleasantly out of place by the standards of other eateries in Grand Rapids. It truly does feel as though you are dining in Manhattan or San Francisco. When summer finally dawns, we look forward to enjoying dinner al fresco on the deck overlooking the river.
She Fed:
Jeremy and I have eaten here for lunch in the bar twice before and I thought the place was okay. Once we had to help the server pronounce "aioli" and this was before we were foodies, so my expectations were not high.

The JW Marriott offers free valet parking (good for four hours) with dinner. When we pull up, the first thing I notice are the uniformed valet attendants dressed like Marines. For a split second, I wonder what dignitary is in town because the guy opening my door looks 100% military, right down to the buzz haircut under his hat.

Upon entering, we discover a special furniture exhibit with projects from Kendall students lining the foyer, which adds to the trendy vibe of the place. The lobby curves and opens into a lounge bar called "Mixology", filled with sexy leather chairs and sleek tables. It strikes me as almost too cool for Grand Rapids, but at the same time I'd like to come back with some friends for a drink. This is, by the way, the same bar we had lunch in and I don't remember it being this cool. But with the lights dimmed and a chi-chi crowd sipping martinis, the place is ultra hip. Or is it "hep"? Being neither sleek nor trendy, I don't know these things.

We proceed to the restaurant which is dimly lit, has lots of curved granite, dark wood, and an open kitchen. I see sushi being prepped and salads assembled fresh to order, which gives me hope. We are seated at a very dark table and given a wine menu, dinner menu, and cheese tasting menu. Ding, ding, ding! Did someone say cheese? I have come to believe that a good hunk of brie, chevre, or tallegio is a much better way to stave of osteoporosis than a vitamin any old day. We order five cheeses and wine pairings to match...probably one of the best I've had. The condiments are simple: almonds with brie, strawberry jam with Manchego—you could do this at home.

My one criticism is that the entree selections are slim...eight choices, which doesn't seem enough. I was planning to order the red grouper I'd seen listed on the website—I love mild, flakey fish—but unfortunately they changed it to swordfish, which is too oily and strong for me. The seafood mac and cheese with lobster, scallops, shrimp, and a mornay sauce seems like just too much after that glorious cheese board. I've had so many fancy-pants, multicourse dinners this week that I just want something simple and not meat-centric. Jeremy's already called dibs on the one vegetarian dish they offer and we try to never order the same dish.

I decide to go with the roasted beet and apple salad. It arrives on a colossal plate (the waitress calls it their "infinity plate") and it is decidedly gorgeous. A softball-sized mound of frisee is dotted with sauteed Jonagold apples, diced roasted beets, and candied pecans. Underneath is a lovely schmear of salted caramel and the entire creation is topped with a crescent of the same mild goat cheese we had on the cheeseboard. The frisee is crispy and fairly bitter; the roasted beets and apples are slightly caramelized and sweet; and the pecans, caramel and goat cheese just take this salad over the top. Quite possibly the best frisee salad I've ever had. I find frisee difficult to eat, hard to tame and get on the fork, but this is well worth it.

Along with the salad, I order the ham and pineapple flatbread which I enjoy immensely. The whole-wheat flatbread is thin and covered with small cubes of ham and fresh pineapple, sprinkled with mozzarella and baked until the cheese is gooey and the pineapple caramelized in spots. A chiffonade of red cabbage is arranged on top, not exactly what I pictured when I read "slaw" on the menu, but the crunchiness of the cabbage works with everything else. I'm only able to eat two pieces of the flatbread; Jeremy helps me by eating two and the rest goes in the take-away carton. I do find room for a scoop of caramel gelato, but can't even finish it and am almost painfully full.

Six.One.Six boasts a focus on fresh, local organic ingredients and I would have liked to have read more about this on the menu. The cheese tasting menu credits sources, but I'd like to see them extend this to the entire menu and let diners know where the salad greens, meats, and veggies originate. One side of their wine list features "40 Wines Under $40" which is fun and approachable. The portions are very generous. The prices are what you'd expect for a nicer restaurant. Our waitress was attentive without being too "clingy" and the manager made the rounds refilling waters and checking in on every table; I found that to be a nice touch. There is a deck overlooking the water and I can already picture Jeremy and I with a group of friends ordering some of those under $40 wines and a bunch of small plates out there this summer. Worth a return visit or two at least!

Popular Posts