The day has come – Exchange Bar & Grill has the dubious honor of receiving the first 1 Apple review. I really wanted to like this place – they use a real “drink market” concept, where drink prices fluctuate based on supply and demand (i.e. how many people order a particular drink). The business nerd in me was super-excited to witness this in real time! Unfortunately, the rest of the Bar & Grill was a bit disappointing…
An eating buddy had purchased a Groupon for this place – $15 for $30 worth of food and drinks, plus a free appetizer. Exchange’s website had stated that both food and drink prices fluctuated, but on the day I went, only the drink prices were variable. AND. And. The bar was a bit empty, so there wasn’t enough activity to make the drink market work. How sad is that? :( Anyway, I won’t hold it against them, but that was definitely disappointing.
We perused the menu for our free appetizer:
and decided on the loaded waffle fries (first photo). Topped with cheese, bacon, sour cream and scallions, these waffle fries were perfect bar fare and just begging to be eaten. I mean, I love all those things! And waffle fries! How could they be anything but good? Well, once again I was disappointed, as the cheese on the fries had already re-congealed and hardened. I was sad. Cheese is one of my favorite foods, like, ever (and any type of cheese, I don’t discriminate) but the rubbery cheese on the lukewarm fries was just a bummer.
We also ordered the veggie spring rolls, served with sweet chili sauce:
Unlike the waffle fries, the spring rolls were served piping hot – and they were pretty good! Crispy and flavorful, they were on par with a typical spring roll appy one would order from a major casual dining chain – and I don’t mean that in a bad way. They were tasty enough, consistent, and exactly as expected.
For my main, my eating buddy ordered the Shrimp Pernod from the “Louisiana Favorites” section of the menu, featuring jumbo shrimp, asparagus, green peppercorns, and a fennel cream sauce:
The asparagus and shrimp were cooked precisely (no overcooking!) and the fennel in the cream sauce present without overwhelming the dish – however, the dish was surprisingly unseasoned. When dining out, I generally don’t add salt EVER – my palate is usually a-OK with whatever seasoning level the chef chooses. For this dish, it was not the case sadly. Boo.
For my main, perhaps I was feeling nostalgic about my recent trip to NOLA, because I ordered the shrimp etouffee:
The menu described the dish as being served with rice, which it was…but it was ALSO served with pasta. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but is etouffee ever served over pasta? I’m not kidding here – I’m wondering if the kitchen accidentally made the etouffee with pasta after making the shrimp pernod dish, and just decided to serve it anyway. I was so confused. I had the shrimp, the pasta, and the rice. So weird! The flavor was ok. But I was too distracted by the numerous carbs (usually a good thing) to really appreciate anything.
Maybe we should have taken the cue from the venue (a bar) and stuck with burgers instead of venturing out into pasta. In any case, despite friendly and helpful service, my high hopes for Exchange Bar & Grill were dashed by disappointing and confusing food. I must say, in this case the Groupon was not worth the deal.
Exchange Bar & Grill
256 3rd Ave (at 21st St.)