Restaurant Reviews By: Cavewoman
Restaurant: DownUnder Wine Bistro
Location: Gilbert, AZ, Strip Mall
Day & time visited: Friday Night, 6pm
Reservations: We made one but I don’t think you need one.
We visited a local bistro, Down Under Wines and Bistro, on a Friday night for date night. As we parked in the parking lot, we were not sold on “curb appearance,” as the strip mall it’s located in seemed a bit deserted; however, we were pleasantly surprised once we went inside. The place was unexpectedly busy, and customers appeared to be having a great time. The hostess was very friendly, and the atmosphere was “happy hour enjoyable.” I would not describe DownUnder as a lavish sit-down dinner place.
We started with drinks. I was impressed with the wine list, as they listed wines from Australia to Chile, with a variety of reds and whites alike. The wine pricing was certainly fair. I ordered the Boxhead Shiraz, from Australia which had a blackberry, raspberry and plum flavor, with a peppery spice. Just like me! The caveman (not being the wine-type) attempted to order the 22oz. Vetlins Pilsner, right off the menu, but was told “we do not have that in-house.” So, our waiter quickly suggested a similar standby Pilsner. Caveman seemed to enjoy this beer as he had more than 1…so, no hard feelings there! I do feel the need to mention that beyond wines, the beer menu is limited and cocktail menu is almost non-existent.
The menu was very cool, listing a range of tapas and the option to build your own cheese and meat plates to go along with the wine. I could definitely see myself going back with my girlfriends for a wine happy hour night. That said, we decided to order a couple of the house appetizers. We chose the Crocodile Kabobs and the Chef’s Choice Bruschetta.
The crocodile bites were respectable, a gamey meat in nature, but served with a sweet flavored BBQ sauce that took the meat to the next level. The meat resembled pieces of sausage, sliced and served on a skewer with grilled red onions and green bell peppers. The kabob was placed over a bed of white rice and drizzled with the aforementioned sauce. I, personally, am not a fan of gamey meat, so I would probably not order the crocodile bites again; however Caveman liked it! Although, for $9 he thought the portions were a little skimpy. Before I get to our review of the Chef’s Choice Bruschetta, I feel I should mention that they had a “Specials Board” with several of the day’s most popular sellers and tasty suggestions listed for different categories (i.e. desserts, fresh fish, daily wines, entrees, cheeses, etc). However, our waiter never once mentioned any specials once we sat down. We found that to be odd.
Now onto the Chef’s Choice Bruschetta…. It was delivered to the table by a “food runner” and it appeared to be a slightly brown cheese-fluff mixture sitting atop a thick slice of toasted sourdough. We immediately asked what was the topping on the bruschetta made of. She had to run back to the kitchen to ask. At that time, our waiter approached and informed us it consisted of a cream cheese, bacon and sriracha mixture on toasted sourdough. Okay, (pause to let this information sink in)…Initial thoughts included, “interesting…” “I love all those ingredients!” “This should be yummy”… So needless to say, I was expecting heaven on a piece of sourdough. Unfortunately, what I experienced was more like a cheap, disappointing cheese-whiz spread on too much bread. It had a little spice, and that’s the best I can say. We were charged $7 for this chef’s concoction and needless to say it was nothing special…nor is it anything I’d eat ever again.
On to our entrees: Caveman ordered the Kangaroo Loin. I mean, how often can one say they ate a kangaroo loin? I went with the Seared Barramundi, for the lighter fare. The waiter suggested Caveman order the Kangaroo loin as “rare as he can take it” so he went with medium rare. The loin was delivered in a timely manner and was served thinly sliced with grilled Portobello mushrooms and a port reduction sauce, topped with 3 crispy fried onion rings, over a bed of rice. The portion was enough to feed my caveman, overall an exotic dish for $15. The kangaroo was tender with a good sear and great flavor. The port reduction sauce complimented the dish well; still, the one regret he did have, was not ordering it rare. When dealing with steak, caveman likes an appropriately cooked medium to medium rare, but one thing we learned – kangaroo is not steak. Order it rare! At this time, we were both due for another Boxhead Shiraz and Pilsner.
As mentioned, I got the seared barramundi. Upon my first glance, I could immediately tell that barramundi must belong to the sea bass family, as it was a light pink and beautiful fish. I received a fist sized piece of fish with the skin on and a nice sear, but it was not crispy. The barramundi had nice pink coloring around the edges and was flakey in the most delicious way. My plate was filled with color, with a lemongrass vin blanc sauce around the edges, and some type of garlic sauce approaching the fish. It was served over a nest of spinach and leek rice, all booming with wonderful flavors when eaten together. It was well worth the $14 and I would definitely order it again, recommending you do the same. The portion size was adequate, especially after our appetizer experience. Sadly, we did not save room for dessert, so no review on that portion. The wine was sweet enough.
On a scale of 1-10, 1 being poor, 5 being mediocre, and 10 being the best experience I can describe, here is how I rate the following for DownUnder Wine & Bistro:
Atmosphere – 7 Service -7 Appetizers- 3 Food-8 Drinks -6