- 506 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA, 50309
- Overall User Rating:
- (28 ratings)
- Happy Hour (3-7pm) 11-12food 11-2am
- Official Web Site:
Last time I visited Grand Piano Bistro, close to three years ago, the kitchen wasn’t staying on top of the ambitious and unfocused, too-huge menu. I feared for the place — not that it would close (it’s a popular nightlife spot), but that, having tried and not quite succeeded at refined-casual dining, the restaurant would start slinging calamari and cheese sticks.
Instead, they got their act together — in a major way.
Menu: A thoughtful mix of casual yet fresh and energetic starters, sliders, salads, sandwiches and main dishes. Many options bring original and unexpected touches, from pan-roasted peaches on the pork loin to pickled radicchio served with a chicken breast entrée. I especially appreciate the way the menu balances delicate and refined dishes (e.g., a grilled romaine salad, a spring salad with soft-fried egg) with heartier choices (e.g.: homemade meatball sandwich, New York Strip with roasted red potatoes).
The food: The lovely rolls of paper-thin prosciutto, wrapped around glistening, lightly cooked Swiss chard, brought the sparkle and intrigue diners seek in the small-plates realm. Anyone who has seized on the pleasures of fried eggs on salad must order the all-out perfect Sautéed Spring Salad, with its vibrant mix of asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, snow peas and other veggies crowned by a soft-fried egg.
The grilled romaine salad has become a signature dish here; I loved the way grilling the lettuce brought a lightly wilted, faintly smoky appeal. Its raisins, red onions, cashews and curry vinaigrette hit all the right notes; the three shrimp served on top were my kind of shrimp — quality specimens for people who would rather have three good shrimp than eight lackluster ones.
The Greek Niman Ranch sliders clinched this kitchen’s four-star rating. The waiter enthused about the spices — sourced from a woman in northern Iowa who will not reveal her secret blend. Everything else — the tart and caramely onion confit, the tangy feta and olives and the quality meat itself — made these mini-burgers mighty good.
The only dish I didn’t greatly admire was a decent but not stellar rib-eye that vanished from the menu by my second visit.
One caveat: The sparse, minimal décor, with its deep-blue cinderblock walls, will strike hipsters as edgy, but may strike others as a bit cold. Yet when the shows rev up, it’s all about the music, anyway — the music and the food, that is.