My husband and I finally got to check out GreenFire in Rockford last Saturday night and, for the most part, we had a very nice evening. We arrived at around 7:30 and the place was jumping with a nice mix of people. We had to wait for a table, which we had expected, so we headed to the bar and grabbed a seat.
The decor has an eclectic urban, organic flair, with the white trunks of birch trees adding a nice feel to the dark wood and tile used throughout. I loved the large lighting fixtures used in the entry and bar areas, as I definitely have a light-fixture fetish. I also love the expansive, open feel to the place, including the open kitchen which was bustling with activity. We grabbed two of the available seats at the bar where, unfortunately, we were forced to talk to the bartender over approximately 25 bottles of wine sitting on the bar. It was a minor thing though and the bar was certainly large enough that there was still plenty of room to set our drinks.
It looks like they have a great beer selection, which we’ll definitely take advantage of the next time we go, but I was in the mood for a cocktail that night. I was very happy they had Tito’s Vodka, which I ordered with tonic and lemon ($6.50) and my husband had the same. Our drinks were made and served quickly and the bartender was very friendly. Our wait for a table was about 25 minutes, which I consider very reasonable considering it was a Saturday night at 7:30 and we didn’t have reservations (which I don’t even know that they take).
Can I tell you how thrilled we were to scan their menu and find a carpaccio appetizer ($12)? It’s a favorite of ours, one that we occasionally make at home, and there was no doubt we’d be ordering it. The fact that it was made with Kobe beef was a bonus. My husband decided on Moroccan duck ($28) and I opted for the sea scallops ($26). Unfortunately, I quickly learned they were out of scallops, so rack of lamb ($29) it was.
Our server, who I won’t name, was very friendly, though getting our second round of drinks was not a speedy affair, by any means. My husband opted for a red zinfandel ($9) on the second round and was happy with his selection. I ended up switching to the same before our main courses arrived and I agree the wine was delicious, along with being a perfect pairing for our duck and lamb.
The carpaccio arrived in good time and there were 5 beautifully thin slices of Kobe beef, with a toss of baby mesclun greens on the top. There was a light sprinkle of capers, which we love, but also drizzle of aioli, which my husband, being a non-mayo person, was not thrilled about. To GreenFire’s credit though, it probably specified this on the menu and we were simply blind to anything past the word “carpaccio”. I thought the entire dish was divine and honestly could have licked the plate when we were finished.
It was a little disconcerting to have placed our order while there was one couple at the table next us, see them leave, have another couple sit down and order, and then watch the second couple get served before us. It definitely made us raise an eyebrow. They were also immediately served a basket of bread, which had not been offered to us, but when my husband requested one, was quickly brought out. We were not charged for it, so we’re assuming it was an oversight and, for the record, the bread was crunchy and flavorful.
My husband’s Moroccan duck breast was out of this world and something I hope to duplicate at home very soon. The flavor totally lived up the spiced aroma surrounding it, which we deduced was a mixture of clove, cinnamon, cumin and possibly cardamon. Heavenly. He asked for it done medium and it came perfectly temped. The gnocchi that accompanied his duck were light as little pillows, just like they’re supposed to be but not how they usually are.
My rack of lamb was beautifully presented, with the nicely-Frenched bones standing straight up on the plate. I requested it medium-rare and one chop was medium, the other 2 medium rare. It came plated some sort of delicious blueberry sauce (I’ll admit that I hardly glanced at the menu description, as I’d originally ordered the scallops), which I loved, and a small mix of grilled vegetables (green beans, zucchini) and smashed potatoes, which honestly got lost on the plate. The rack was very, very good and I’d recommend it to any lamb lover out there.
A huge pet peeve of my husband’s and mine is when they offer to clear one person’s plate while others at the table are still eating. I wasn’t expecting this to happen here but, sadly, it did. The spotty service overall is really our only complaint of the evening, because the food and atmosphere were terrific and all of the staff very friendly.
As a side note, my husband and I are partial to Chef Philippe Forcioli’s restaurants. We had our official date at his now-defunct Rockford restaurant, Cafe’ Patou. Patou was a quirky, intimate French restaurant with fabulous food, so we were sad to see it go. We’re thrilled we finally got a chance to check out Philippe’s newest venture and were not disappointed.
We didn’t really have a chance to check out the little market area they have, but it looks to be filled with a number of things, including wine. We also love that they strive for using organic, local and sustainable in their food and concept, so that’s a huge plus. I read a number of GreenFire reviews this morning on Yelp, UrbanSpoon and TripAdvisor and am surprised by the number of people that think GreenFire is overpriced. In my opinion, if you’re looking for fabulous food that supports everything mentioned above and done uniquely and well, then a little higher price is to be expected. There are very few places currently in the Rockford area that serve duck, elk, boar and foie gras and if you want a restaurant to truly raise the dining bar, you should expect to pay a bit more for it. Abreo and Social are 2 other Rockford restaurants that we really enjoy that tend to be a little higher-priced but well worth it.
Also, no, I did not take any photos to share. I had no intention of dragging my camera, lenses and lights there, just to take photos that could possibly do the plates justice. I’m pretty sure my phone camera, in a dim restaurant, was not going to suffice. If you want to check out some truly fabulous shots of GreenFire’s restaurant and food, check out their Facebook page and commence with the drooling. But if you’d like a sneak peak, here’s a shot of their elk burger with foie gras and chanterelle mushrooms….
Life’s too short not to eat well and remember: always support your local restaurants when you can.