The Chanticleer

The Chanticleer

 

The Chanticleer is an elegant restaurant in ‘Sconset, that has been home to fine dining for many years. A few years back, a new chef/owner (Jeff Worster) took over, and when we first visited, we felt that it was still a work in progress. Now, however, this is a lovely restaurant with fine food, service and décor. You still enter through a lovely garden and it still has a decorative hobby horse on display in the garden.

Inside, the décor has been upgraded a bit, with the lovely wall sconces you can see in the photo of the main dining room. While the back dining room was once a sort of conservatory with plants and ivy everywhere, it is now much more like the main dining room and more roomy as well.

decor

The service is excellent from the time you are seated until you leave. The dinner menu, of course, changes a bit from time to time, but the menu they currently have posted is pretty similar to the one we were served from a week or so ago.

The service began with warm rolls and an actual crock of butter that was delivered automatically, instead of the annoying olive oil other restaurants foist upon you. And, take a look at the elegant dish of salt, pepper, and (it turned out) Himalayan sea salt for seasonings.

For one appetizer, we ordered  “Smoked Rhode Island Bluefish Pâté with Hand Sliced Caribou Russet Potato Chips. Chips Seasoned with BBQ Salt and Green Onion.” Or, in non-menuese, homemade potato chips and smoke bluefish pâté. This had a very rich, sophisticated flavor and was extremely filling. We had to save room for the main course, or we would have devoured all of it.  Thank goodness these were “caribou” chips and not “buffalo” chips!

For our other appetizer, we ordered “Beet Salad on Orange Fennel Hummus – Nicoise Olive, Roasted Salted Pistachio, Sheep’s Milk Feta, Raspberry Vinaigrette, Hydroponic Mache,” an imaginative variation on the common island beet salad, with the addition of feta cheese and served on hummus. A light, but elegant salad we really recommend.

sdf5sh

For one of our entrees we ordered their version of swordfish: “Anson Mills Corn crusted Center Cut North Atlantic Swordfish, on a Charred Andouille and Okra Risotto, Gumbos spices Tomato Sauce and Cauliflower.” Swordfish can be a risky bet at some restaurants, because It can be overcooked or oily. But to our delight this swordfish was perfect: one of the best preparations we’ve had, and the surprising okra in the risotto was a delightful touch.

la`b

Our other entrée was “Bolognese of New Zealand Lamb & Lamb Sausage – Slowly Simmered with San Marzano Tomatoes and Fines Herbs. Tossed with Today’s Fresh Pasta, Asiago Cheese.” To our surprise, this Bolognese included a curry flavor among the spices, but it was very well executed.

Finally, we each ordered a dessert. One was the “Coconut Lemongrass Cheesecake Pie” with caramelized Pineapple sauce, Chantilly Cream and Toasted Coconut. It was smooth, light and deeply flavorful. Our other dessert was called “Petite Salted Caramel Brownie Parfait” with Malted chocolate gelato, Begium chocolate mousse, chocolate crunch, cherry sauce and an Amarena Cherry. While it was good, it was in many ways a “typical restaurant chocolate dessert.”

Overall, this was a delightful evening with delicious and imaginative food and excellent service. Kudos to Chef Worster for this lovely dinner.

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B-ACK yard Barbecue

B-ACK yard Barbecue

We haven’t  been back to this great barbecue spot on Straight Wharf since they opened in 2014, and we’re glad we did. The food is much better and the menu a bit bigger: they added  Burnt Ends. The service is extremely good as well, as our waiter checked with us at least 4-5 times during our meal.

To some extent, large groups will have more choices, because you can order a platter of each of their specialties and shared around the table.  For two people, there are two options: the  Selfie Special, which gives you two meats and two side dishes and warm rolls for $28. The other option is to just order a half a pound of a couple of the meats and get one or two sides as you wish.

The main barbecue meat choices on the menu are

  • Smoked kielbasa
  • Pulled pork
  • Pork ribs (half or full rack)
  • Half roast chicken
  • Chopped brisket
  • Sliced brisket
  • Beef burnt ends

The side dishes include baked beans, coleslaw, mac and cheese, grilled asparagus, Corn bread, potato salad, French fries, pickled vegetables, and stewed greens. You can also get sandwiches of any of these meats.

ribs

We decided on a half rack of pork ribs, a half pound of burnt ends and coleslaw. We probably should have rounded this out with fries or cornbread, but there was plenty of food there just as it was.

burnt ends

Our beers came nearly instantly, and the meats maybe 5-6 minutes later. There are 4 sauces on the table, Sweet, Golden (mustard like), hot and vinegar (to simulate North Carolina style). All were good, and even the “hot” sauce was not really all that hot.

crowdThe informal atmosphere includes several large screen TVs showing whatever sport is playing at the time,  but the crowd is relatively calm and families will feel welcome here.

Sometimes the most unassuming places will end up being some of the best on the island, and that is certainly true here. The pork and beef were tender and juicy and perfectly cooked. What more can you ask? Our bill with 3 beers and tax, but before tip was only $78. A delicious bargain!

Cru Oyster Bar: still raucous

Cru Oyster Bar: still raucous

“They all come here just for the mood,

And if you don’t believe me try tasting our food!”

–Jerry Bock- Lyrics to “A Romantic Atmosphere” in “She Loves Me”

tableWe went back last night to Cru Oyster Bar, the restaurant at the end of Straight Wharf that replaced The Rope Walk about 7 years ago. As before, we were seated at a nice window table in the main dining room. And as before, the music was very loud, and the noise from adjacent tables and the loud bar crowd made conversation impossible. And, as before, we asked to be moved to the middle room. Fortunately, it was still early and they were quite accommodating about moving us. The sound level in the middle room was much less oppressive and we even were able to chat with a nice young couple at the next table.

breadThey soon brought us bread, and with a little prodding, some actual butter. Since we dislike olive oil dribbling on our shirt, we usually ask for butter. It came in a nice little crock, with a little sea salt sprinkled on it. But, the bread was really tough. Not crunchy crust tough: stale bread tough. Very difficult to eat, but you could use the butter to soften it a little.

The menu was similar to that on their website,  but they had added a Chilled Cucumber Soup with crab meat, that we both ordered. (Their sometime Fried Clams shareable item wasn’t on the menu that night.) The cucumber soup arrived quickly, and it did indeed come with ample crabmeat as well.

cucumber soup

However the soup was very salty. And this comes from someone who loves salt bagels. The soup was inedibly salty. We sent it back and they  removed it from out bill. How could such inedible soup (and bread) ever come out of the kitchen? Doesn’t anyone ever taste anything? It’s part of the job, you know.

lobster roll

Soon, they brought us our Lobster Rolls ($38) served with fries, and they were impressive looking. The fries were acceptable, but most probably frozen.  As we picked through our lobster roll, we found a number of flat slippery, rubbery pieces that we decided must have come from the fins at the base of the tail. These are hard to get out, and most people don’t bother, since they don’t have much flavor. We suspect that they bought them in bulk to extend the amount of actual lobster they had to use. There were more of them than you’d find in a single lobster.

The other odd thing about this lobster roll was the eerie sheen of the meat and the top of the roll. While the menu only specified Lobster, butter and brioche roll, the top and much of the interior had a thick sort of buttery sauce. We suspect they may have added surimi, a fish paste made from whiting or pollock that is often used in fake crab meat. The lobster was real, but the weird gelatinous buttery filling is likely partly surimi. The overall effect was OK, but it wasn’t lobster and it wasn’t butter.

We got to Cru around 6:00 pm, because later reservations weren’t available. Thank goodness we came early. When we left around 7:30, the outer room was packed and really noisy. In fact we could barely squeeze through to get to the door. So, despite our strong reservations, people really come to this place in droves. They are probably mostly young people, and as a social experience, this is probably a lot of fun. But while the view of the harbor is really nice, the food really isn’t.

 

Ventuno: refreshing and delicious

Ventuno: refreshing and delicious

Ventuno has been at 21 Federal for about seven years now, and has been a very good restaurant since its inception. However, it is an absolute delight to walk into a familiar restaurant and find fascinating new dishes on the menu. Not just variations on the old Italian theme, but truly creative dishes you probably never had before.

This is the case with this year’s Ventuno menu, which has undergone a significant upgrade. We were particularly struck by Faggiano e Funghi:   hand-cut egg pappardelle, braised wild pheasant & mushroom sugo, parmigiano & savory breadcrumbs. Imagine pheasant and mushrooms on pasta in any other Italian style restaurant. And it was absolutely delicious! It is available in appetizer and full entrée sized portions ($19 and $36). The textures of the pappardelle (noodles) and the thin slices of parmesan cheese, intermingled with pieces of pheasant along with a delicious mushroom sauce were truly a marvelous experience. In fact, we both ordered it: one as an appetizer and one as a main course and both were thrilled with it.

small pheasant fungi

Just as interesting, if not original was their Insalata: sweet gem lettuces, soft herbs, torn bread croutons and house red wine vinaigrette ($15 ). It was a feast for the eyes as well as in its consumption. Or, to put it clearly: it was a great salad.

salad

Finally, our other entrée was Agnello: slow-cooked & grilled lamb coppa, heirloom polenta, broccoli rabe & minted ramp gremolata ($38). According to our waitress coppa is lamb shoulder, marinated for three days and then quickly grilled to medium rare. Just inside the crunchy exterior is delicious, juicy, pink lamb. This was an entirely new preparation we’d not seen before, and we loved every bite.

lamb

This year’s menu is slightly simpler, but it is still organized into Antipasti (seven items), Primi (4 appetizers), Secondi (six items), Un Morsi (3 side dishes), Un Morso per La Tovalo (six table sharing items) and Dolci (six desserts).

bombolonciniUnfortunately, we didn’t have room for a dessert, but you can choose from Bomboloncini (chocolate donuts and gelato and chocolate sauce), Pistachio tart, Panna cotta, Granita (watermelon and strawberry), ice creams, and Crostata:  stone fruit crostata & cisco lemon thyme ice cream. All great ways to end a meal at Ventuno.

If you haven’t visited recently, do come by and try their excellent new menu.

Le Languedoc: the Island’s best burger

Le Languedoc: the Island’s best burger

sign

Le Languedoc Has been for many years a popular, elegant restaurant on Broad St, and serves delicious high end meals in their white table cloth dining rooms. But, Le Languedoc  is also a Bistro and their menu includes some simple,  but excellent bistro food. Originally, the lower level Café served the bistro menu and the upstairs the fancier food. But some years ago, they decided to serve the same menu everywhere. Now, the only difference is that you can make reservations for the upstairs up to 30 days in advance, and you can reserve the lower floor café and the outdoor dining area the same day.

Cafe

With that in mind, we made a reservation for the Café yesterday and were seated at one of the lovely outdoor tables under a canopy, where we could order from any part of the menu we wanted. We settled on the excellent cheeseburger and fries (19.75). While the default is Garlic Fries, you can order the non-garlic version as well.

half saladWe also ordered the Chopped Salad ($16.50), but from previous experience we knew that the salad was enormous, and asked the waitress to split the salad for us. She delivered it on two plates, and it was just the right amount.

 

 

The cheese burger comes partially assembled so you can put it together the way you like, and the conventional sauces are served separately for you to add as you wish. We asked that the burgers be prepared medium rare, and they were perfectly done. This cheeseburger is unquestionably the best one on Nantucket, and is little more expensive than any other we’ve tried.

You can get lots of other fine meals at Le Languedoc, including Steak Frites, Cod, Lobster, Roast Chicken, Shrimp and Boudin Blanc, but if you are looking for the best cheeseburger, you definitely want to come to Le Languedoc. We were joking with the waitress that the burger was really a bit big for us, but I noted that for younger guys, it would be just right. She replied that those 25-year olds would probably eat two!

For comparison, we present some of the other burgers you can get on the island. They are mostly pretty good, but not in the league with this one. Listed in approximate order of quality, best to worst.

Lola burger $13.75            Brotherhood burger $16

Rose and Crown $16.99           Charlie Noble:  All American Burger, $17

Lola Burger, near the Sparks Ave Rotary, provides tasty, but sloppy to eat burgers in rough hewn tables, reminiscent of a company picnic, where parking is difficult unless their valet is on duty.

The Brotherhood of Thieves is ideal for families with children, but their burgers are dry and nowhere near as tasty.

The Rose and Crown is not really a family place: it tends to be sports bar rowdy. At our last visit, we found the burgers dry and tasteless and the fries not much better.

The Charlie Noble isn’t sure where it is a family place or a sports bar. One night it was very quiet, and the next night, everyone was loudly cheering the US Open. And burgers with bright yellow American cheese are not our favorite.

Stick with Le Languedoc.

 

 

 

The Sea Grille: always a delight

The Sea Grille: always a delight

 

facadeThe Sea Grille has been a mid-island gem for 26 years. Founded by EJ and (the late) Robin Harvey, the Sea Grille has been an island favorite for both visitors and islanders. The menu is a clever synthesis of the simple and the wonderful Island Favorites, appealing both to families, children and adventurous diners. CIA graduate Tucker Harvey has joined the staff as chef de cuisine, continuing the family legacy.

We visited the Sea Grille last night for our annual pilgrimage for fine seafood. The hostess and waiters are always gracious and helpful and we were quickly seated. We both started out with EJ Harvey’s famous Quahog Chowder ($9).

chowder

This is a meaty, thick chowder full of clams and potatoes. It also is really filling, and you might ask if cup sized portions are available. Nonetheless, it is one of the Island’s best chowders, having earned many awards over the years.

linguica cod

Our first entrée was Linguica Crusted Cod ($38) with Lobster Mashed Potatoes, carrots and leeks . This dish was hugely successful, not only because of the rich, buttery sauce over the cod. But the big surprise was that their “lobster mashed potatoes” was smooth, creamy mashed potatoes served over several amply pieces of lobster. Probably 2 or 3 claws worth of meat. And under those lees and carrots  was indeed some chopped linguica (sausage) enhancing the cod’s flavor. All in all this surprising dish was simply terrific.

shrimp

Our other entrée was Baked Stuffed Shrimp ($30), where the stuffing in the baking dish is crab meat, served with lobster sauce, mashed potatoes, beans and cauliflower. The shrimp were tender and flavorful, enhanced by the copious crab meat, and the mashed potatoes excellent. This was simply a perfect dish in every way.

We finished by splitting a chocolate and caramel brownie sundae ($12) and didn’t leave a bite behind.

brownie sundae

The Sea Grille is always one of our favorites, because they do everything so well: we are always delighted with our visits.

 

 

 

Queequeeg’s: a great family restaurant

Queequeeg’s: a great family restaurant

Queequeeg’s is a lovely little restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating facing Souter Water Street (it’s actually a few feet up Oak St and facing the Rose and Crown). It is also adjacent to the Town restaurant which has the same ownership.

The menu at Queequeeg’s could be called Nantucket American, with six appetizers and seven entrees on the menu, although they add three or four specials every day. Indoor seating is probably around 30 or so, but in good weather, the outdoor tables are delightful as well.

We found the staff very helpful and friendly and the food really extremely good for relatively small restaurant. We would hazard a guess that every entrée is as good as the ones we had yesterday. For appetizers, we had a choice of mussels, beet salad, clam chowder, Caesar salad (We saw this one and it looked great), tuna tartare and a crab cake.

crab cakeWe both started with the Crab Cake ($17), with romesco and summer pepperonata. All in all the crab cakes had a nice spicy flavor, with both the romesco sauce and the peppers adding nice notes. We only wish the crab to bread crumb ratio had leaned to a bit more crab.

 

bolognese

But this was more than redeemed by a spectacular Bolognese ($26) containing pork, beef, veal and pancetta crumble, served with pappardelle, garnished with thin slices of really flavorful ricotta salata. You might dismiss this as just more “spaghetti and sauce,” but this Bolognese was truly superior. Every bite was a delight, with flavors from the meats, the pancetta, the pasta and the sauce. It was one of best we’ve ever had!

scampi

All this is not to diminish the qualities of the equally delicious Shrimp Scampi ($29), served with linguini, confit tomato, arugula and white wine. Again, the mixture of flavors of the tomato, the shrimp, the garlic and the linguini were simply top notch. Again a really good job elevating a common dish to fine cuisine!

We ended splitting a dessert dubbed Chocolate Caramel Parfait, but which seemed to us more like avery good chocolate mousse.  At any rate, it was an excellent finish to the meal.

Queequeeg’s is open every day but Sunday for brunch and dinner, and you will find it an absolute delight.

night view

 

 

Toppers at the Wauwinet

Toppers at the Wauwinet

Toppers calls itself “one of the nation’s most acclaimed restaurants,” and there are plenty of articles praising the fine cuisine of Chef Kyle Zachary and his creative associates. In fact we wrote a similar paean when we visited two years ago, calling it “absolutely outstanding.”

We visited again yesterday (Saturday, September 1) and found the old adage of “don’t expect good service on Saturdays” applies even at Toppers. The restaurant was busy, but far from packed and there were plenty of staff on hand, but it seemed to us as if they were late season replacements who were still learning, including our waiter. Many of the dishes we were presented were very good, though, and we can certainly praise them.

The menu is structured so that you pay $30 for the first course, $48 for the main course and $18 for the dessert.  In other words, consider it a prix fixe of $96.Certain dishes like lobster, Wagyu beef and cheese plates have supplemental charges, and wine is, of course, not included. However, we each had a glass of a good North coast Pinot Noir for only $17 each.

They started us with a little amuse bouche of a bit of steak tartare and two scallops ceviche, in little scallop shells. The steak was OK, but the scallops were exquisite.

 

Then came the bread basket with warm breads, bread sticks and brown bread, along with two “butter eggs.” In the past, one of the eggs was butter with some sea salt on it, and the other  a smoky butter. This year, one was pure butter and the other some vegan horror made from coconut oil. It tasted awful. We ate the butter.

oystersThen came another little treat: two oysters in their shells right from the bay outside, with a bit of watermelon on top. These, too, were truly delicious.

For our appetizers, we ordered Hudson Valley Foie Gras with peaches, kohlrabi, pistachio and a cocoa waffle. This may sound bizarre, but the slightly sweet, slightly chocolaty waffle was a perfect vehicle to spread the foie gras on, and was absolutely delicious.

Our other appetizer was described as Carnaroli Risotto “Fruits de Mer” with red rock crab, Judith Point squid, uni, bottarga and brown butter. As you can see, this was an elaborate presentation with the bowl sitting in a larger bowl containing decorative rocks and shells. The trouble with it was that it tasted like any ordinary risotto, and we never discovered any of the promised seafood. We might have complained to our waiter, but we never saw him again. Otherwise, we might well have sent it back.

lobster

One of our main courses was Butter Poached Lobster ($12 supplemental) with “variation” of cauliflower, golden raisins, almond chutney and madras curry Sabayon. As you can see, there are 3 or 4 colors of cauliflower on the plate: the red ones are pickled, and this made a nice presentation. The Sabayon in this incarnation is closer to a hollandaise, with the sugar component nearly absent, and it made a nice dipping sauce for the lobster. We weren’t sure that the raisins contributed much to this dish, and wished the lobster seemed more tender and seemed as buttery as the menu title implied. Compared with the version two years ago, this one seemed less successful.

porceletDuring ordering, we asked the waiter whether to pick the Porcelet, essentially roasted young milk fed piglet, or the lamb. He praised the porcelet as being far the better choice: flavorful and juicy, so we ordered it. We actually found it kind of dry, except for the square of pork belly, and since the pork slices had little fat, they were not particularly juicy. Neither the waiter nor anyone else ever came by to check on us, however.

When we’d finished our main courses, one of the staff came by with cute little egglike dishes with vanilla custard and a thin slice of pineapple, simulating an actual egg. Very delicious and cute, but the bird’s nest was overkill, I think.

Finally our dessert course came (we’d preordered it with the other courses): a chocolate tarte with candied walnuts, ice cream and what may have been a few dabs of chocolate mousse on top. It was pretty dry, too.

As we were finishing, our invisible waiter returned to offer coffee. We said he was way too late, as we’d finished. He went away, and we never saw him again.

cookiesThey did bring some little cookie like things, but honestly, they were dry too.

About that time one of servlets brought out a leather folder that we assumed had our bill in it. Actually, it only had one of their advertising postcards: they’d forgotten to include the bill. One of the adjacent waiters found the actual bill and brought it to us. Funny, but it looks like their late summer staff needed some more training.

This year, we’d give them a C+.

 

Sophie T’s Pizza: our Nantucket favorite

Sophie T’s Pizza: our Nantucket favorite

Sophie T’s is a small mid island restaurant which has about 12 tables and does a huge takeout business as well. Of the three major pizza places on the island, this one is our favorite. But it is nearly 7 miles from our  Madaket house to Sophie T’s, and while we can certainly keep a pizza warm using our heated seats, it won’t be as bubbling hot as you get when they deliver it to your table.

So we split a large pizza and a bottle of wine whenever we go there. The pizzas are plentifully loaded with cheese and tomato sauce and whatever toppings you ask for.

wingsTheir menu includes wings, garlic bread, soup, and several salads and subs as well as their delicious pizzas. This year we tried their Buffalo wings with bleu cheese ($8.95). They were piping hot and had lots of flavor, but were not it seems, deep fried as we expected so they didn’t have that dry crust you expect. Nonetheless, we liked them a lot.

We ordered a large pizza (shown above), half onions, peppers and mushrooms, and half sausage and onion, and even after eating quite a bit, we still had some to take home for lunch.

Sophie T’s is at 7 Dave’s St, which runs one way from Orange to Pleasant, and more or less across from Stop and Shop.  If you are on Pleasant, you can either go around the rotaries and out to Pleasant and back to Dave’s or you can turn into Bayberry Court and wind your way around to Sophie T’s. If your are on Pleasant, turn into Dave’s and turn right into the lot. There is plenty of parking.

facade

There are two other major pizza places on Nantucket. One, not far from Sophie’s is Pi Pizzeria on West Creek. It is brick oven style pizza, and while quite good just isn’t as good as Sophie’s. The other, Oath Pizza is on Straight Wharf, near the Hy-line Ferry, and once claimed 90 second cooking times. Unfortunately, this is really for the walk-in trade, since parking near there is pretty nearly impossible.

Thank goodness Sophie T’s is so good!

Brant Point Grill: extraordinary

Brant Point Grill: extraordinary

When you go into the Brant Point Grill at the White Elephant, you know you’ve made the right decision and come to a lovely, luxurious restaurant right on the Nantucket Harbor. You feel welcome from the moment you arrive, and everything about this restaurant is top notch from the food to the service to the gorgeous harbor view.

The restaurant is in an open porch with the harbor just beyond. In between is a lawn where children play until their bedtimes.  Brant Point Grill is essentially a steakhouse, although there are a number of other entrees on the menu if you aren’t steak-minded. The current menu shows Veal Osso Buco, Halibut Filet, Yellow fin Tuna, Corn Risotto and a Half Roasted Chicken. They also offer Lobster, Surf and Turf and Lobster Mac and Cheese (of course).

bread basketRight away, our waiter brought a basket of breads and a kind of cheese crackers along with some chilled butter. After deciding that we were both having steaks, we were going to order the Beringer cabernet by the glass, but ended up getting a bottle ($69), as this was far cheaper than their higher pedigree wines.

For salads, one of us ordered their Mixed Green salad ($14) and the other their Burrata salad with Backyard Beauty tomatoes. In both cases, these salads had some of the most flavorful tomatoes and greens of any we’d had yet had on the island. They were truly excellent.

One of use had the Filet Mignon ($49) and the other the Prime Aged Ribeye ($59). Both were perfectly cooked to medium rare and served with a dab of butter and a pitcher of béarnaise.  Several other sauces are available as well: Red Wine Jus, Peppercorn and Great Hill Bleu Cheese. You can also have your steaks Oscar style (with crabmeat) for $14 extra.

We got a dish of Truffled  Mashed Potatoes ($12) which were served on a trivet because they were so hot. They were smooth and delicately spiced.

mashed potatoes

We can’t say enough good things about the Brant Point Grill as it was a simply perfect evening. It is not inexpensive, but the service, food and view are exquisite.

night ferry