Fine Seafood Dining at Leo’s.

My first time at Leo’s, located in downtown Grand Rapids. I love seafood, especially bivalves! Fresh oysters, clams and mussels are some of my favorite foods. I can be pretty picky though, so if they are fried or breaded or heavily sauced in any way, I will usually skip over them.


I dined here with the boyfriend and I really wanted to try escargot for the first time, so we started with the Wild Mushroom Escargot. The snails are sauteed in garlic butter with sun dried tomatoes, asparagus, spinach and goat cheese served with crostini. I didn’t really find anything special about this dish. The escargot was how I pretty much imagined it to be, lightly earthy in flavor and a little rubbery in texture. The sauce was lively and I loved the mushroom and spinach. The crostinis seemed a little stale.


Leo's Surf and Turf.The complimentary bread served here comes out piping hot and is pretty fantastic. Lightly herbal and incredibly soft and moist.

My main course was Leo’s Surf & Turf. The filet was good and the lobster was tender, albeit a little too salty. I chose spaetzle for one of the sides, and I barely ate any of it. It was too rich, if that makes sense, too heavy with the steak and lobster. Thankfully there was asparagus to bring more balance to the meal.

Leo's Dessert

We ordered Rubies & Cream to finish our meals and it was delicious. Ice cream with shortcake and raspberries and a wine reduction. They have their own pastry chef that makes all their desserts.

Overall, I found the whole meal to be severely heavy and I left not feeling great. Yes, everything I ate was due to my choices, so if I were to go back again I know to order some lighter fare instead of rich dishes for all three courses. The service was professional but slow, and there were a couple times I felt we were being neglected. The space is massive, modern, dim, and after a short while you get the feeling you’re in a hotel. If you’re looking for a nice upscale seafood place, Leo’s is a good bet.

On a side note, what I’m really looking for is seafood in the style of South American cuisine. Does such a place exist in Grand Rapids?

Aryana’s Restaurant and Bar.

This restaurant is located in the Crowne Plaza on 28th Street here in Grand Rapids. It was my first time, and during Restaurant Week. Like I mentioned in my previous entry, I opted for the three course menu they had prepared. Honestly, the location is not the best, and the hotel itself isn’t very popular. It was Saturday night, the place was nearly empty, and I grew a little wary. However, I have an open mind and  am always optimistic.

As far as cocktails go, I wanted a martini, one I’ve never tried, but unfortunately their martini menu was very lackluster and typical. I opted for my back-up, bourbon. Our server was friendly and attentive but didn’t know what I meant when I requested my drink to be neat. I find that happens often when I go out, and I’m still astounded. How does anyone, especially in the restaurant/bar industry, not know what that means?

I ordered the Barbecue Shrimp for a starter. I’m not a fan of bacon, as I much more prefer pork belly. Yes yes, same thing, but guess what? They are prepared differently, so no, not the same thing. One is delicious all the time, and the other is okay every once in a while. So shut up.

But I digress. Spicy jumbo shrimp wrapped with bacon and glazed in a caramelized bbq sauce. It was quite good, and I was put at ease and ready for the next dish.

I had selected their Shrimp and Crab Stuffed Whitefish. It came with lobster infused mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. Dijon cream as the sauce. Looking at the menu online, I already knew it was too much. Not only is it seafood stuffed with more seafood, but it was accompanied by seafood mashed potatoes! I ordered it anyway, partly to see if my assumptions were haughty and undeserved. They were not.

It was indeed too much seafood. There was nothing there to complement or combat the strong flavors that were on the plate. If the fish had been stuffed with just one seafood item with something else, it would have been much better. Perhaps an addition that was a little saltier? Or more preferably, a non-protein, like roasted garlic, spinach, capers, or rosemary? More emphasize on citrus would have helped as well, instead of just a half lemon wedge it was served with. I was tempted to ask our server for more lemon. As for the sides, I did not like the mashed potatoes. They definitely didn’t have to be infused with lobster, and if they weren’t, the dish in it’s entirety would have been easier to take. The saving grace? The asparagus! They were small and drizzled with oil, and it was so simple and classic but prepared with great flavor showing through. The day when I find that a vegetable is the shining star, for me, is a sad day for the dish. However, I’m not a big vegetable consumer, so that’s that.

Dessert was Vanilla Bean Ice Cream topped with Bananas Foster. I don’t have a major sweet tooth so more often than not, I usually skip dessert. If I do order one, it will be ice cream four out of five times. The caramel kept hardening to the point where it was a little difficult to eat, so I didn’t finish it. It was also crazy sweet, but I knew that when I ordered it.

I have never met the chef behind the menu. What I garner from my experience here, judging from my selections and also my companion’s choices, is that maybe they are trying too hard. I appreciate the creativity behind the dishes; that’s what drew us there to begin with. But the execution is lacking. I feel that the palate in the kitchen needs to be refined, and more attention to flavor and texture would help as well. However, I’ve only been there to eat one time, so I don’t like to make solid judgement until I’ve been to a restaurant at least twice. Was it just a fluke? I guess we shall see. Until next time.