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Aboite Grill
* 1/2
Out of a possible five
$$$

Location sizzles for posh grill

There are countless reasons why people choose to dine where they dine. And if a place excels in just one area, sometimes that is enough.

Aboite Grill does have one very important factor going for it; the old real estate mantra “location, location, location.”

Located in the Shops on Scott Road, it stands alone as the only fine dining establishment and one of the only sit-down restaurants in that area. For folks in Aboite Township, it is close and convenient. And it is beautiful.

Its high ceiling, European street side feel with faux storefronts and eye-catching stained-glass peacock windows sets it apart from most restaurants in the area.

But aside from looks and location, there was little I enjoyed about Aboite Grill. During one visit, the food was poor, especially considering the price, and during another, when the food was nearly acceptable, the service completely failed.

The highlights:

• French onion soup – arrived piping hot with a sweet broth and a generous amount of melted cheese.

•Walleye sandwich – three sizable fillets came on a nicely toasted ciabatta roll. The fish inside crisp breading was moist and flaky.

•Barbecued ribs – part of a combo with sirloin medallions, they were fall-off-the-bone tender and slathered with a decent sauce.

•Peanut-butter fudge cheesecake – a real winner with a layer of fudge as well as the lightly whipped peanut butter filling, cookie crust and chocolate shavings on top.

But there were way more mistakes in terms of food, many of which were glaring.

The seafood combo gave me my choice of three from tuna, salmon, shrimp, scallops or oysters. I chose sautéed shrimp, tuna and pan-seared scallops.

The tuna was OK, but there was maybe an ounce of it in the tiny portion.

The shrimp lacked seasoning or flavor and they were not at all “jumbo.”

The scallops were nearly raw and inedible, but not nearly as inedible as the “risotto” that accompanied the seafood.

I was told this bright yellow rice – not risotto as it was sticky and held shape of the dish it was dumped out of – had a lot of turmeric, which gave it that color. But the flavor was vile. They were easily the worst bites – I could only muster two – of food I have ever eaten as a critic. I think the mushy chopped red and green peppers may have been rancid.

The stuffing in my stuffed portabella mushroom cap appetizer also had some freshness issues as it was fishy and smelled like tuna salad. The fried calamari appetizer was not much better with overcooked strips of squid that were heavily coated in breading like something you would get at a fast-food place.

The Philly cheese steak soup was blended with just one tiny bit of beef in it – no peppers or onions to be found – and it was way too salty.

The chicken parmigiana lunch entrée was OK with a sweet sauce and angel hair pasta accompanying the crisp, melted mozzarella-topped chicken breast. But there was a side of sautéed squash and red onion on the side that was not mentioned on the menu and that didn’t really belong with it.

The steak “medallions” – actually a small, mediocre sirloin sliced on the bias – that came with the ribs also had an unmentioned, unwanted and unnecessary component. It was coated with a sweet teriyaki sauce.

Even though I didn’t care for it with my steak, that sweet sauce was actually better than the “Midnight Desire” chocolate cake I had for dessert. It looked impressive with three layers of cake and a heavy dose of chocolate icing. But it also had a cherry filling between each layer that tasted like cough syrup.

I cannot remember another chocolate cake I did not want to eat, but I did not want to eat this one.

The major service flaws occurred during my lunch visit when the restaurant was obviously understaffed. A cook from the kitchen and the owner were the only ones seating and waiting on people and, given they disappeared for long periods during my 2 1/2 -hour lunch, I can only assume they were racing back to the kitchen to prepare the food, too.

It took 25 minutes for anyone to greet my party, 40 minutes for our appetizers to arrive and 55 minutes before we were asked what we wanted for main courses. When the main dishes mains arrived an hour and 20 minutes into my visit, one of my party’s entrées was forgotten, so I had to go on a manhunt back near the kitchen to find someone to tell about the problem.

It wasn’t the only time the dining room was vacated, either. We asked more than once for extra flatware and were never obliged and never could find someone to ask for tartar sauce to go with that walleye sandwich.

The owner did sincerely apologize for the oversights and for being understaffed, did not charge me for the MIA entrée and brought with him a complimentary dessert to make amends.

Yep, another slice of that cough syrup-flavored chocolate cake.

Restaurant: Aboite Grill

Address: 10337 Illinois Road

Phone: 625-5600

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday; 5 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday

Cuisine: Steak and seafood

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Calamari ($6.49), stuffed portabella ($9.49), French onion soup ($4.99), walleye sandwich ($7.99), chicken parmigiana ($7.99), seafood combo ($23.99), ribs and medallions ($20.99), desserts ($6.25)

Rating breakdown: Food: 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 0 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter (@DiningOutDuVall) and he can be heard every Thursday from 3 to 4 p.m. on 92.3 FM, The Fort.

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