Toppers at the Wauwinet: superb island dining

We had the great pleasure of again dining at Topper’s restaurant, which is part of the Wauwinet hotel in Nantucket. Chef Kyle Zachary has put together a superior , creative menu and the dining room has far away the best service on the island. You can order from the menu a la carte, but you will do better if you order the prix fixe 3-course menu for $90: appetizer, entrée and dessert. You also have the option of the 6-course tasting menu for $125, and can order $105 in wine pairings to go with it. In either case, you will be eating the finest food on the island.

map

The Wauwinet is some distance from downtown, with Wauwinet Rd off Polpis Rd about ¾ of the way to ‘Sconset. You can drive there, take the shuttle from in from of the Federal St Information Center, or in good weather take a free motor launch across the harbor.

Since we last visited, the Wauwinet has expanded the dining room, serving both on a new covered patio and added a glassed in dining area. You now enter through the patio dining area and can dine inside or on the patio itself. While Nantucket dining has become quite informal in recent years, Topper’s is one of the few places where you would be comfortable wearing a jacket. It’s an elegant white-tablecloth restaurant with a host of staff to tend to your needs.
Soon after we were seated and had placed our drink order, the waiter arrived with an ice bucket containing two screw cap vials. Not shades of Walter White, but a small sampling of a delicious gazpacho. You just unscrew the cap and chug the tube of soup.

Then right after that, a waiter brought two “eggs” of butter, one plain and one salted to use with the basket of delicious breads he brought with him.  All this before we’d even placed our order!

We chose the $90 prix fixe menu, and while there were 5 first courses (vegetables, risotto, foie gras terrine, poached egg and cured King Salmon) and 5 main courses (butter poached lobster, Wagyu Beef,  Milk Fed Pork, grilled halibut and roasted eggplant) we both ended up ordering the same two items risotto and Wagyu beef.

risotto

The risotto is formally described as “Carnaroli Rissoto “Fruits de Mer”; Maine Sea urchin, Jonah Crab, wild Gulf Shrimp, Bottarga, and Brown Butter emulsion. But the description doesn’t do justice to the beautiful presentation of risotto rice full of pieces of seafood, partly covered with a creamy sauce and decorated with chives. Carnaroli rice used in this dish is firmer and longer grained than the usual Arborio rice used in risotto and made the texture much more interesting. Every bite was exquisite.

For our main course, we ordered the 7X Ranch Wagyu Beef: Sirloin and Short ribs, with swiss chard, chanterelle mushrooms,  cipollini onios and potato “gratin.” This elegant dish had a $15 supplemental charge, but was well worth it as the short ribs wrapped in chard were meltingly tender and flavorful and the sirloin fresh and tasty.

wagyu

tapiocaBefore dessert, they brought us a complimentary pre-dessert: a tiny bit of a delicious coconut tapioca pudding topped with apricot jam, served in a little egg cup.

And finally, the dessert. We ordered a Chocolate Parfait they describe as Maracaibo Chocolate Bavarian, Hazelnut Crunch, Mascarpone Ice Cream and Hot Chocolate Sauce. But in this case, the presentation is everything. They bought out a parfait class covered with a white disk, which turned out to b white chocolate. The waiter poured the hot chocolate sauce on the disk, causing it to dissolve and collapse into the parfait, in a clever piece of culinary theater. Needless to say, every bite was worth it: a crunchy mixture of chocolate, cake and ice cream that you hoped you would never get to the bottom of.

But this wasn’t the end. Before the check, they brought out a plate containing squares of a raspberry gelled candy and crunchy pecans covered with chocolate.

treat

Clearly there are very few restaurants like this: it is considered the top restaurant in New England and one of the very best in the country. It also has a Grand rating from Wine Spectator.

The bill, as you might expect was about twice what we paid at other restaurants so far this year. For two meals, 3 glasses of wine, one  coffee and one tea, the check with tax but before tip was $282.50. The Wauwinet illustrates what a truly fine restaurant should be like, and also how few of them there are.

 

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