Dining Out: Gray’s offers unique dining experience

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Why: Gray’s at the Park offers a dining experience unlike any other restaurant in Clark County. The sophisticated atmosphere is matched with equally impressive and highly attentive service. Although the Hilton offers a number of menu items that are consistent with its other locations, Gray’s menu also has exclusive choices created by executive chef Troy Lucio.

Atmosphere: Warm and cool colors are blended in a variety of textures and patterns that impart a Pacific Northwest essence. Sapphire-blue candle votives atop tables add a romantic glow. Ceiling lighting is attractively diffused by shimmering beaded shades. Seating is available at intimate booths as well as tables on the open floor.

What I tried: I decided to try the mac and five cheeses from the side selections and added a cup of clam chowder and the bistro salad. My dining companion chose the five cheese mac and chicken from the main dishes. We both had orange blossom tea to drink and sampled the pear cobbler for dessert.

A hot baguette accompanied by butter arrived with our tea. The variety of tea we chose is the Republic of Tea brand — orange blossom being my favorite.Gray’s is the only local restaurant, to my knowledge, that serves it, but it can also be purchased at Cost Plus World Market. It has a wonderful fragrant flavor that is irresistible.

The bistro salad consists of basic mixed greens tossed in Gray’s house-made white balsamic vinaigrette, oversized cucumber slices, julienned carrots, and grape tomatoes. All the ingredients were fresh and chilled. I found the vinaigrette flavorful, sweet and light.

Clam chowder at Gray’s has a traditional flavor and creamy base that is thick enough to suspend the solid ingredients. Distinguished by bits of clams and potato, it’s perfect for a rainy day.

My dining companion and I found our mac and cheese dishes were the same, save for the chicken and pepper kabob which sat atop his. The chicken pieces are premium meat, first chargrilled, then baked to perfection, which results in a tender texture that is just between juicy and dry and pairs well with the mac and cheese.

The mac and five cheese dish combines house-smoked gorgonzola, gruyere, parmesan, fontina, and Swiss cheeses with shell macaroni and a bit of fresh spinach. The dish is topped off with bread crumbs and baked to a golden finish. The blend of cheeses create a rich and somewhat oily sauce that may not be to your advantage if you’re watching your fat intake – though it is very tasty and a popular pick of diners.

The pear cobbler was topped with a firm, crunchy topping mixed with walnuts and the pears were sliced thick enough to hold their form and provide a substantial fruit bottom with a minimum amount of sauce. The pears are chargrilled before becoming part of the cobbler, which presented the only drawback to this dessert. The chargrilled marks were emulsified by the sugar and became somewhat of a black dye that proved a challenge to rinse from teeth and tongue. It was odd but it did not adversely influence the flavor of the cobbler.

Menu highlights beyond what I tried: Steaks are all natural from Pacific Northwest ranchers. The butternut squash ravioli with spinach-pecan pesto and sun-dried tomatoes sounded intriguing, as did the citrus crusted salmon with vegetable hash and sweet potato bisque.

The steakhouse burger and the loaded hash browns are among the menu items that may be ordered at other Hilton locations.

Other observations: Gray’s at the Park has consistently delivered fresh, quality and innovative dishes.

The wait staff is professional, attentive and courteous.

The atmosphere is a cut above many dinner options in Clark County and valet parking makes it hassle free.

Cost: Soup and starters range from $7 to $14.50. Salads are $8.50 to $14. Steakhouse selections cost $28 to $36. Main plates start at $13 and top out at $28. Sides are $6 to $8. Desserts are $7 to $12.

Breakfast items top out at $15.95 and Lunch selections at $18.

Hours: The restaurant is open seven days a week. Breakfast is served 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. Lunch is served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner is served 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The bar is open 11 a.m. to midnight.

Telephone: 360-828-4343.

Where: 301 W. Sixth St., Vancouver. www.graysatthepark.com.

Health score: Gray’s at the Park received a score of 0 on Aug. 20. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.