Studio Grille makes a striking appearance: lofty industrial-style ceilings, coppery walls and dramatic lighting. The underlying surprise is that you can eat very well for lots less than the decor would have you imagine.
Go before 7 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday evenings to get in on the restaurant's two-course $12.99 prix-fixe, which includes soup or salad and one of six entrees plus coffee or tea -- a genuine steal. For starters, a bowl of meatball soup harbors tender, highly seasoned spheres in a hearty chicken and rice brew. Black bean soup is deeply savory. How exciting can a grilled spice-rubbed breast of chicken be? Very much so, when deftly seasoned and grilled to a juicy turn by executive chef Michael Tambarkis, whose roasted potatoes and mixed vegetables prove worthy accompaniments. There's homestyle veal meat loaf as well as moist turkey breast scaloppini sauteed with lemon and sage. Each comes with vegetables and buttery, delectable mashed potatoes.
Another night begins with Thai lettuce wraps enfolding teriyaki-glazed chicken and sesame noodles: overcooked poultry and a surfeit of sauce. Steamed shrimp and pork dumplings turn out to be much better. Merely ho-hum is a chopped salad with greens, hearts of palm, beets and more.
A pair of grilled "N.Y. style" hot dogs are blanketed with sauerkraut, spicy brown mustard and sweet onions in tomato sauce; they are irresistible, plated with Tambarkis' very good hand-cut spiced fries. One bite of the first-rate burger unleashes rivulets of mineral-rich juices. A salmon "burger" fashioned of lightly bound chunks of fish is another hit. In comparison, a sauteed Idaho trout filet with capers, almonds and lemon is merely good. And although penne Campagnola with vegetables has nice flavor, the inclusion of chargrilled poultry seems more like an intrusion.
Tambarkis' signature dessert, strawberries stuffed with a sweet tomato compote, somehow works. And his chocolate cream pie in a cookie crust is as light as it is rich.
While service here is unfailingly warm, the place seems understaffed. There can be long intervals between courses. Still and all, some things are worth the wait.