Nantucketers and regular visitors were shocked when chef/owner Michael LaScola announced last winter that he had sold American Seasons to chef Neil Ferguson, who had most recently been the chef at Galley Beach.
Ferguson’s menu is a bit smaller with 7 appetizers and 7 entrees, compared to the previous 9 appetizers and 7 entrees, and they seem a bit more expensive with the pork chop, halibut, ribeye, chicken, risotto and salmon priced at $38, 37, 45, 37, 32 and 36. The lobster salad is “market price,” which is kind of silly since most restaurants print menus daily.
Prior American Seasons menus seemed to provide more variety: for example chicken livers, foie gras tasting, pork belly and octopus, pork loin and breast of duck. And they had that “Flying Elvis” dessert.
We also found that the wines by the glass added significantly to our bill with the Bouchaine chardonnay priced at $18 and the Noble Tree Cabernet priced at $15 a glass. These wines list for $30 and $20 a bottle respectively, which means the restaurant buys them for half of that, or $15 and $10. They can get 5 pours per bottle, making their cost per glass $3 and $2. That is a pretty hefty markup!
We visited American Seasons last Tuesday, and noted that the décor had not changed. The tables with the inlaid games were still in use and the ambience was much the same as before.
For appetizers we ordered Golden semolina gnocchi, chanterelles, fava beans, pecorino romano ($17) and Terrine of rabbit and foie gras, yellow tomato jam, radish salad, grilled bread ($20).
The rabbit terrine was excellent and spread well on the provided toast, accompanying it with the tomato jam (although it looked like it was made from red tomatoes) was very good).
The gnocchi were simply tasteless as were most of the accompanying vegetables. It just wasn’t very good, despite the excellent visual presentation.
One of our entrees was the Chicken Ballotine ($37) with sweet corn succotash, chanterelles, and wilted sucrines (a kind of Romaine).
Now to us, a ballotine is poultry, stuffed with some sort of filling, rolled and baked or fried to form a crispy skin. It is then served in slices so you can see the filling within. This was not the case for this dish, as there was no filling and the crispy skin was pretty much lacking. The chicken itself was tender and juicy, but not too flavorful, but the corn succotash was very good, as were the few chanterelles.
Our other entrée was supposed to be Pinelands beef ribeye, yukon gold pave, candied tomato, basil, and olives ($45). But if you look at the photo, you won’t find any candied tomato or olives. Instead the kitchen substituted a huge brown braised onion, which was overwhelming in size and not particularly good. A potato pave is essentially a kind of scalloped potatoes made with cream that is baked and then weighted. A few hours later, it is cut into slices and browned, and usually served with chives. By cutting vertical slices, the chef made a sort of potato strip carpet for the steak to sit on, and it was very tasty. The steak itself was tender and juicy, but an entire plate where everything was brown was not the most visually appealing approach.
The dessert menu includes blueberry streusel cake ($14), roasted white peach on pistachio cake with vanilla ice cream ($14), vanilla poached cherries, chocolate cremeaux and crumble and cherry sorbet ($15), an ice cream sundae ($12) and blackberry compote, lemon parfait and white chocolate ($14).
Our bill with tax, before tip was $198 (including $66 for 4 glasses of wine), the most by far we’ve ever spent at American Seasons except when we ordered 2 desserts, when it rose to about that level. This would tend to indicate that prices have risen significantly, but the quality still needs some work. We found this visit a disappointment.
Overall, Ferguson has had an entire summer season to get his team into a good groove, but there are still some pretty big problems he needs to solve.