Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Ginger Pad: An Expanded Restaurant

Just by luck, I stopped by The Ginger Pad in Burlington for lunch today and it was the opening day for their expanded restaurant. Though their stir fry restaurant still exists, there is a second dining area now with an expanded menu. I have long been a big fan of The Ginger Pad so I was excited to see their new expansion.

Please remember as well that as this new section has just opened, it won't be perfect. You must always allow for some initial growing pains as the restaurant gets on track. Don't judge them too harshly yet.

The new dining room is a bit fancier in decor, though still with a casual air as well. You must be seated in this room and a server will take your order, rather than ordering at the counter in the stir fry section. There are numerous booths and tables in the new dining room, as well as about eight seats at a bar and a bunch of other seats at the sushi bar. There are a couple large screen TVs behind the bar. I sat in one of the comfortable booths.

They have a full bar and have a drink menu with numerous martinis and cocktails, many with an Asian flair. Their wine list is small though most of the bottles sell for under $30. They also carry several different types of Sake, hot and chilled. A couple of the brands are Momokawa and Hakushika. I ordered the Hakushika Nama ($8 for 180ml), an unpasteurized chilled Sake.

They very much impressed me when the Sake was brought. The bottle sat in a bucket of ice, keeping it chilled. And my tall shot glass had also been chilled. They certainly know the best way to present Sake and I very much enjoyed the Nama. It had a clean taste with a hint of rice.

There are separate lunch and dinner menus, though you can order off the dinner menu for lunch too. The lunch menu is generally divided into Bento Boxes ($9-11), Sushi combos ($9-16) and Salads ($9-11). Bento boxes include entrees such as Chicken Teriyaki, Shrimp & Veggie Tempura, Chicken Katsu and Salmon Teriyaki. Sushi combos may include nigiri, sashimi and maki rolls. The dinner menu is larger and includes Appetizers ($4-11), Soups ($3), Salads ($5-14), Hot Entrees ($7-20), and Nigiri, Sashimi and Maki Rolls.

I started with the Shrimp & Vegetable Tempura ($9) appetizer. This was a bit disappointing. First, the shrimp and veggies were small, not the usual size you will find in most other Japanese restaurants. The shrimp were close to half the size you can find in some places. Second, the tempura batter was a bit on the heavy side, not the usual light batter I prefer. The batter was not as heavy as what you find on a chicken finger, but heavier than tempura should be. Though it still tasted good.

I moved on to some Nigiri and Maki, including an order of Maguro (Tuna $5.50), Unagi (Eel $5.50), Tamago (Sweet egg omelet $3.50) and Sweet Potato Maki ($4.50). I found some of the Sushi to be a tad more expensive than comparable restaurants. I usually find Maguro and Unagi for under $5 but the Tamago and Sweet Potato Maki were priced as most elsewhere. The Maguro was very good, a big piece of fresh fish. I enjoyed the taste of all of the Sushi, though I found the Tamago piece to be a bit too thin. So, though the sushi is generally good it is not a bargain.

Up next, I chose a Beef Teriyaki Bento Box ($10). The Bento Boxes include Salad, Miso Soup and White or Brown Rice. The Miso soup was very good. the box contains your entree, salad and rice. The beef was very thinly sliced and there was a good portion of beef. It was fairly tender and had a nice teriyaki sauce. The salad was mainly greens with some carrot slices with a mild but flavorful dressing. It was a good meal though nothing special. And you probably get more food, for less money, in the stir fry dining room than you do in the Bento Box.

I love the idea of the Ginger Pad expanding their cuisine but I would prefer that the prices in the new dining room were more comparable to their stir fry menu. That was always one of the best appeals of the original Ginger Pad, excellent food at a very reasonable price. But now they are trying to upscale a bit, with a rise in prices, and I am not sure that is helping the restaurant. The new dining room has plenty of potential but I would like to see more emphasis on value.

I will return to The Ginger Pad to see how the new dining room evolves, as well as to try some different items from their new menu. I do recommend that you check it out as well, to see their new changes and to decide if you agree with my opinions.

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