For decades, the Venus de Milo has been known for their banquets and events, but you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy the Venus de Milo, because they also feature a restaurant serving delicious food in an elegant setting. The Empire Grille, Venus de Milo’s à la carte restaurant, is located in the same building as their banquet and event halls, so on the way in you might just catch a glimpse of a bride or groom on their lucky day. Inside, the décor is nice, with low lighting and plush chairs that hint at upscale, and large tables for groups, which define Empire Grille as a more comfortable, group-oriented restaurant – great for small celebrations. Our waitress was very friendly, cracking jokes and treated us as friends.
The menu is decently sized, with selections for everyone, including everything from steaks off-of-the-grill to vegetarian pasta dishes and lots of local seafood. Most of the menu is American, but there are some Mediterranean and even Asian-inspired menu items, making it a little more interesting. There are two separate chefs who work together, but one focuses mostly on the banquets while the other focuses on the restaurant. This is nice, because some similar operations only have one chef, and during busy banquet nights, the food at the restaurant will receive much less attention and care. That didn’t seem to be the case here, even though there was a large event taking place just down the hall.
To start, we ordered Crab Cakes ($9.95) and some Pan Seared Pot Stickers ($7.95). The Crab Cakes were very traditional, but done well. The outside had a thick, crunchy crust, and the inside had a nice amount of crabmeat. The Pot Stickers were also delicious. The pork filling was very flavorful and the bok choy slaw, which they were served with, was tasty. The slaw and the sauce were both sweet. I also tried the minestrone because it is a house specialty. It was hearty and flavorful, perfect for a cold evening.
For our entrées, we tried three options: one meat, one seafood and one vegetarian. We had the Beef Short Rib ($17.95), which was braised in Cabernet. The meat was perfectly tender, and had obviously been braised for hours. The sauce, made from the braising liquid, had a rich flavor, similar to a beef gravy but sweeter thanks to the red wine. We also tried the Spanish paella ($22.95), a meal of saffron-flavored rice with a plethora of fresh seafood and meat. Their version of Paella included mussels, clams, shrimp, chicken, scallops and chourico. The portion was large enough to feed two, and the rice was cooked well. Most of the seafood was cooked perfectly, although some of the particularly delicate items, such as the scallops, were overcooked. For our third entrée, we tried the Fettuccini with Asparagus and Portobello mushrooms ($13.95). The pasta was cooked nicely and still had a bite to it. The asparagus and portabellas complemented each other well and it was all tossed in a creamy sauce that tasted of white wine and Parmesan cheese. This was my favorite of the entrées and maybe my favorite dish of the evening.
You don’t always need a special occasion to wine and dine Venus de Milo style, and at The Empire Grille, you can dine like it’s a wedding any night of the week. With friendly service, tasty food and something on the menu for everyone, this is a great restaurant for even the tiniest of celebrations.