Looking for a nice place to go to dinner for our anniversary which is next week while we are attending a friend’s wedding out of state, I decided to try out Chianti Grill in Burnsville which is a local chain with an additional location in Falcon Heights as well as two different named restaurants including Porterhouse Steaks and Seafood in Lakeville and Ciattis of Lacrosse in Onalaska, WI.
I made reservations online and the only options this morning at 8 AM were 5:45 or 7:15pm. I chose 7:15 and as I was fumbling with my login to OpenTable, it disappeared leaving us with 7:45 as the next available option. While I realize that OT sucks and only has limited reservation slots, I was not pleased as this was the second time I’ve attempted to go to Burnsville’s Chianti Grill and been stuck with only late reservation slots which is why we have never been here before. Thankfully, because I wanted to get some sushi at Ronin’s grand opening, this worked out for us tonight.
We arrived at 7:25 and were told there would be a seat available at 7:45. We sat down in some over sized leather chairs and observed the restaurant. The inside is much larger than I expected with ceilings that are high, unnecessarily so. The waiting area is small with numerous people milling about and making it more cramped than it needs to be especially with usually no less than five people standing behind the hostess desk chatting for almost the entire time we sat there waiting instead of doing whatever it is that they are paid to do. I don’t like when restaurants make you wait past your reservation time and that’s exactly what happened to us tonight. While 15 minutes may not seem like much, don’t take reservations if you aren’t going to meet them.
The specials, written on a chalk board stuffed in the corner of the foyer, were shrimp and crab risotto and wild mushroom NY strip. Neither had prices attached and when I asked the server what type of mushrooms they were I can’t say I was surprised when she replied with “cremini, portobello, and shiitake.” The only one she didn’t mention, because I stopped her before she could continue with a curt, “so, not wild, ok,” would have been oyster. I then asked if the “fresh” Norwegian salmon was frozen. She didn’t know and went to the kitchen to ask and returned seconds later with, “it never has been frozen, ever.” Against my better judgment I went with the obviously farmed salmon. Kim was torn between the Filet Mignon or the Crab Claws and decided on the later.
The Salmon Taormina is described as grilled fresh Norweigan Salmon topped with sauteed artichoke, fresh tomato, basil and white wine with lemon for $21.99. The Crab Claws are listed as being delicious crab claws served with a side of butter for $26.99. Both come with salad, bread, choice of side with the option to upgrade to Caesar or Balsamic Gorgonzola for $1.49. Tonight’s sides were two pasta choices (spaghetti and marinara or fettucine Alfredo), rosemary potatoes or sauteed vegetables. I went with the potatoes and Kim chose the Alfredo pasta. While I went with their standard salad with bleu cheese, Kim upgraded to their balsamic gorgonzola.
The bread arrived and was nothing to write home about. I eat better stuff from Sara Lee. The salad was nothing special but was a decent size. The bleu cheese dressing had large chunks of something in it but whatever it was, it didn’t taste anything like cheese, let alone bleu cheese and I could have been eating something that tasted like Styrofoam. Kim mentioned her salad needed walnuts or something and when I asked how it was she gave me a 50/50 motion with her hand and said she would probably have been happier with the house salad. I’m sure she would as we eat plenty of boring bagged salad at home just like this seemed to be.
Our meals came out soon after the salad and I apologize but the photos just did not come out. While I have linked to them, they are absolutely terrible with the very low lighting. Honestly, the dishes weren’t anything to look at anyway. Mine was a simple hunk of salmon, nearly cold in the middle, topped with what appeared to be, but probably weren’t, canned diced tomatoes. I couldn’t taste any artichokes or basil but possibly because the basil was finely chopped amongst the pile of tomatoes I may have just missed the artichokes — well, probably not — unless they, like the bleu cheese chunks, had none of their usual distinctive flavor. While eating the luke warm fish with its toppings, I found that it tasted more like cheap Bruschetta than a $20 piece of salmon. The potatoes, which could have saved this mediocre dish, were over seasoned and I don’t know about you but I don’t need a mouthful of herbs when eating chewy new potatoes with my dinner.
Kim’s dish had about 15 pre-cracked crab claws with a bowl of butter alongside the pasta. While the menu said they’d be easy to eat, I was still concerned for Kim as neither of us are anywhere close to being professionals at eating crustaceans. Kim was quite pleased with the dish but I found the meat tasteless and pretty awful for the price but maybe it was just the single claw I had…
Kim mentioned she wanted to try a flight of wine tonight. They had both a red or white for $10. We went with the white as it would pair best with our meals and they included Martin Codax Albarino, Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, and McWilliams Riesling which range in price from $7 to $10 at the Chianti Girll. We are not wine fanatics or even pretend to know what we’re talking about when it comes to wine drinking but this was the only enjoyable part of the dinner for me. The portions seemed much larger than 3oz and I was impressed for $10.
Kim ordered dessert from the tray of gigantic desserts that they offer. An incomplete selection of cakes and various other treats were laid before us including creme brule, lava cake, carrot cake to feed a small army, and a slice of cheesecake which was offered in two other varieties than was shown to us. Kim went with their “lava cake” (they take 20+ mins to prep so I put it in quotes as this one was out in 5) which she said she enjoyed.
Overall, while Kim liked her meal, I am not at all impressed with the $81 meal we had at Chianti Grill as it’s overpriced, boring, and in my opinion just one step above a place like Olive Garden. I can’t see myself returning here ever again for anything except the cheap flights of wine. Being that we aren’t wine drinkers aside from the occasional dabble into various local winery offerings available at the Rosemount liquor stores, I don’t even know when that will be.
Based on the number of people eating here and the hard to get reservations, some people obviously think this place is worth their hard earned money but I certainly think you’re better off elsewhere — possibly even Olive Garden.
Have you eaten at Chianti Grill? If so, feel free to share your experience below!
14240 Plymouth Ave
Burnsville, MN 55337
See all the pictures from our anniversary dinner on Flickr here.