Try All the Things at the New Eighty3
Alas, Grill 83 (aka, that restaurant next door to the Madison Hotel) as you knew it no longer. It's been revamped, redesigned and re-cheffed into a new restaurant called Eighty3.
I tried it for the first time this week, and the changes are definitely for the better. First, the mood has completely changed. It could be the new urban-ish design, but Eighty3 no longer feels like a place where suits go for a drink after work or business travellers hang out. In fact, it doesn't feel much like a hotel restaurant at all.
The menu has completely changed too. When the restaurant was Grill 83, the menu of well-done American standards (steaks, salads) was presented to you in an intimidating (and unweildy) leather folder. Now, the menu is one sheet of folded paper that lists small dishes of varying origin meant for sharing, entrees and drinks.
The man behind the new menu is Chef Rodelio, a native Hawaiian who compared choosing what to eat at Eighty3 to the NBA draft: "You've got lots of choices and you don't want to draft wrong."
I'm pretty sure that drafting wrong is nearly impossible. Before I went to dinner at Eighty3, I Chef Rodelio for his recommendations, and he suggested about half of the offerings. He also suggested taking a friend for reinforcements since the menu is designed for sharing.
On Chef's Rodelio's suggestion (and the tableside suggestions of executive chef Connor O'Neil), we ordered way too much food: ceviche, the blue crab bread, cornbread, spaghetti, sea bass, blueberry bread pudding and the Madison's new signature dessert, fried Oreos.
Chef Rodelio told me that his cornbread was exceptional, even in the South, but I didn't quite believe him until I tried it. Imagine if bread pudding was made out of jalepeno cornbread soaked with a honey sauce. It's like that. You can (and maybe you should) eat it with a spoon.
The blue crab bread was a bruschetta-like crusty bread topped with chunks of blue crabmeat, basil and tomatoes. It came out at the same time as the excellent crab and shrimp ceviche. The ceviche was possibly the best in town – it's a little sweet, a little spicy, and has sweet potatoes in it, which doesn't sound like it would work but very much does.
The menu has some larger entrees on it, and my dinner buddy and I decided to split the sea bass with a half-order of the much-hyped spaghetti. The sea bass was perfect. It had a soy and honey glaze which tasted a little like barbeuce sauce. It was sitting on mashed potatoes and topped with grapefruit (again, a little weird, but it more than works).
Both Chef Rodelio and Chef O'Neil had mentioned the spaghetti, which comes in a creamy sweet corn sauce. It took me a few bites to get completely into the sweet-ish taste, but I'm a convert.
While the blueberry bread pudding with salted caramel ice cream was good, the fried Oreos were better. You get about five of them, coated with funnel cake batter. They're not food for amateurs: they're super rich and sweet, the kind of food that will kill your diet and walk away, brushing its shoulders off.
The other big change to the Eighty3 menu is the pricing. Since most of the menu is designed for sharing, things are priced pretty reasonably. Bar snacks start at $4, small plates range from $6 – $16, and entrees are between $23 and $33.
Eighty3 is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's casual, but you may not want to bring super young children. They're non-smoking and have a full bar.