Category: Nantucket

Galley Beach: how a top restaurant navigates COVID

Galley Beach: how a top restaurant navigates COVID

Galley Beach, under chef W Scott Osif has been a high end fixture in Nantucket for many years. With its setting on  a beach point, you can admire the food and the sunsets almost any night.

This year, they have moved to an two-course prix-fixe menu for $89, with several dishes having supplemental charges. They also have taken a big step and added the 23% gratuity to every check, which means the prix-fixe is really over $109. Oh, and they charge $15 for valet parking, an almost unavoidable charge since street parking is pretty difficult.

We’ve written about Galley Beach in 2019 and in 2015, praising its cuisine and service. This year, the service remained of high quality, but the food seemed far less successful than in past visits.

We started with an appetizer of Caesar salad, described as having white anchovies, parmesan croutons and creamy garlic dressing. As you can see from the picture there is one huge anchovie and one crouton, and the shredded cheese may ore may not be parmesan. We didn’t taste any parmesan, garlic or egg in the dressing, nor any lemon, vinegar, mustard or olive oil. We called this a “perfunctory Caesar salad.” We also note that it was served on some mixed greens rather than on romaine.

The right hand picture shows they one they served in 2019, which was very good.

Caesar 2021
Caesar 2019

We also had a Crab Cake for our other appetizer, which required a $15 supplemental upcharge, or $18.45 with the mandatory gratuity. It came with tomato, cucumber & mint salad. champagne beurre blanc. It certainly had plenty of crab and little filler, explaining the upcharge, but very little flavor. Now Maryland style crab cakes always contain spicy mustard, or sometimes just hot sauce, but this contained none of those, and was just kind of bland.  We had the same dish in 2015 and praised its flavor.

Crab cake

Our entrée was Pan roasted halibut with duck fat Brussels sprouts. summer squashes. sunchoke puree, and a $10 upcharge. The halibut was perfectly cooked, but without much flavor from the minimal puree. The “duck fat Brussels sprouts” were supposed to be sweetened by browning in duck fat. Actually, they were burned. You would think some head chef would be checking plates before they go out the door and catch things like that. We were not impressed.

Halibut

Our other entrée was housemade orecchiette. rock shrimp. buttered corn. capers. lemon. old bay. midnight moon. Not a lot of shrimp. Tasted like mac and cheese, but we’ve had better mac and cheese.

The waiter suggested desserts and there were only four rather standard choices, each $19:

  • Warm chocolate brownie with ice cream and salted caramel
  • Crème brulee with macerated blueberries
  • Turmeric Panna Cotta (Come on! Really?)
  • Strawberry shortcake

We chose to skip the dessert. Our bill, including 3 glasses of chardonnay, tax and a $57.50 service charge was $325. It’s not that we begrudge the inclusion of the service charge, but for an indifferent meal, this was an awful lot of money. Even so, it was cheaper than the Company of the Cauldron!

The Proprietors: an excellent Nantucket evening

The Proprietors: an excellent Nantucket evening

We’ve been to The Proprietors Bar and Table several times since it opened. Chef Michael LaScola has crafted a small plates/large plates menu made up of fascinating small dishes and some larger ones. This year, they changed the focus a bit, with there being three large plate entrees at the bottom of the menu, inviting you to build your dinner around several appetizers and finish with a main course sized entrée. These entrees currently include Roast Chicken [for two] ($48), Chicken Fried Trout ($37) and Korean Short Ribs ($41). This approach is a really successful change and we had a terrific evening with our appetizers and entrée.

It is perfectly possible for two people to share any of the small plates and certainly they can share the roast chicken, and that is what we did last night.

The waiter was cautious in suggesting that we really didn’t need to order more than two small plates, since several of them that we suggested were quite rich, and suggested that we might consider the Red Lentil Falafel with roast garlic achaar, sumac yoghurt and salted cucumbers ($18) as a lighter alternative. We ended up choosing two others and thinking seriously about having three, It just depends on your appetite.

We started with the Roasted Beets ($19.50) with Vermont Burrata, roasted strawberries, garam masala and chickpea crackling. There was plenty of this for the two of us: happily spreading the burrata on the chick pea “bread,” and topping it with beets and the occasional pistachio. Even people skeptical of beets will probably love this preparation. We certainly did.

Our second appetizer was Bijou Goat Cheese ($23) with apricot mostarda and green onion “biskits.” This hot appetizer was amazing. You could cut the biskit in half or thirds and spread it with the hot cheese, making it easy to share, but I didn’t want to: it was so good.

Finally, for our entrée, we ordered the Roast Chicken. It was served with a Farro Risotto, mushrooms, little roasted onions and a gooseberry agrodolce ( a sort of sweet-sour condiment). There were two quarters of chicken on the platter, one of leg and thigh and the other of breast and wing. This approach allowed the kitchen to cook them separately, so the dark meat is cooked and the breast not dried out. This was completely successful: all of the meat was tender and juicy, and we finished every bite.

Finally, since we ran out of small plates, we ordered the fabulous dessert: Blueberry Sorbet ($15) with whipped coconut cream, a sesame/blueberry crumble and basil. This was probably the best sorbet we have ever been served.

This new approach at the Proprietors is a winner: we really had the best meal of our entire visit there last night. The Proprietors is at the corner of India St and Center St, and is open from 5pm Thursday through Tuesday nights, and closed on Wednesdays. You definitely should make a reservation.

The Company of the Cauldron: Beef Wellington

The Company of the Cauldron: Beef Wellington

This venerable Nantucket restaurant was a popular high end fixture of Nantucket dining when Chef Joseph Keller took it over from the retiring Kovalencik family in 2017. It has the same style: warmth and friendliness it always had, and still provides one single 3 course prix fixe meal each night. Each meal also includes one of Keller’s famous popovers, that he developed while the chef at the Woodbox. Here in the late season, Keller has only one seating a night: in high season there are sometimes two seatings.

We went last night (Wednesday) for an elegant meal featuring Beef Wellington. You nearly always will require a reservation here, because there are only 28 seats inside, where there were nearly 50 in pre-COVID days. They also have three 4-top tables under a tent just outside taking up a lane of India Street, as several other restaurants are also doing. You can see each week’s menu online to decide what day you might like the best.

We were seated right away for our 7:00 pm reservation, fortunately at a center row table at the end, where we had a good view of the open kitchen. Keller and his sous-chef produce all these meals in a kitchen smaller than some home kitchens, although he does have much better ovens.

We ordered a bottle of a 2017 Michael Pozzan “Annabella” cabernet ($69), which came with an interesting story from the wine waiter about how Pozzan became a winemaker and grower.

Soon after that they began distributing the popovers: one per person (sometimes you can get a second one if they aren’t too busy).

Popover

Soon after that, the waiter began distributing the Bartlett’s Summer Garden Heirloom Tomato Salad, with local lettuces. Cucumbers, picked red onions and the Company citrus vinaigrette.  We watched the chefs assembling the salads, taking the mixed lettuce from an enormous bowl where they had tossed in the vinaigrette and olive oil. Then they put a serving in each bowl and distributed the tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers into each bowl. 

Summer garden salad

It looked beautiful, but that citrus dressing seemed awfully sour to us, and the tomatoes not very flavorful compared to what we have in our home garden right now.

The Beef Wellington was Snake River Farms tenderloin of beef in house-made puff pastry, local organic mushroom farce and a house demi-glace. We watched Chef Keller take the long puff pastry “loaves” out of the oven, check their temperature and return them for just a bit more time. You can see one of those puff pastries in the background. Meanwhile, they laid out the plates and poured the demi-glace onto each of them. Then, Keller sliced them into almost 2-inch slices and plated them, with his associate adding a bit more mushrooms to each plate. Then, the waiters worked with a pile of folded white napkins to pick up the very hot plates and began delivering them to the diners. All of this took about 45  minutes, so we were glad we could watch the show.

Beef Wellington and green beans almondine

The beef was uniformly tender and delicious, and it was certainly a substantial portion.

While we were eating, we could watch Keller and his sous-chef laying out the crème brulees, sprinkling sugar atop each of them and then torching them to melt the topping. You can see this at the top of the article. They then added a shortbread cookie to each and served them.

Creme Brulee

This last course was served about 8:45pm: we ate it eagerly and paid the bill.

The prix-fixe cost for Beef Wellington is $135 per person, bringing the bill with wine and tax to $347. With tip, two people would easily spend $400 here for a 3-course meal with an added popover. This is just too expensive, even for Nantucket, and we don’t recall paying that much anywhere else on the island. So, the food was very good (well, except the salad) but be prepared to carve a new hole in your credit card!

Company of the Cauldron is open Tuesday through Sunday with at least one seating each night. You can find the menus (and their varying prices) on line. Sundays have become Chicken and Waffles night. We had that a few years ago. That price is currently $95 per person.

Cauldron outside the door
Dune: always a favorite

Dune: always a favorite

We try to dine at Dune almost every year, because the cuisine is always imaginative and the service excellent. The cuisine certainly impressed us this year, with an excellent menu of seafood, veggies and meats. It consists of seven appetizers and eight entrees, as well as several imaginative vegetable side dishes.

We started with a stunningly beautiful roast beet salad ($19.50) with whipped goat cheese, beet vinaigrette, pistachios, and balsamic vinegar.

Roasted beets with whipped goat cheese

And for our other appetizer, we picked the pork and mushroom dumplings ($19) with citrus ponzu, pickled carrots and daikon, sesame fried garlic and cilantro. While this is in the style of Chinese dumplings, these were far more imaginative and flavorful, and they disappeared in moments!

Pork and mushroom dumplings

Both of our entrees were spectacular. The Pan-seared Atlantic Halibut ($48.50) was extraordinary, served with a buttery coconut lemongrass broth, shiitake, purple potatoes,  boy choy, romanescor (those little Christmas tree broccoli relatives), basil, fired garlic and lime. Every bite was a treat.

Pan seared Atlantic Halibut

And finally, or other entrée was Grilled Prime Sirloin Steak ($49.50) served with crispy garlic fingerlings, Bibb lettuce and cherry tomatoes, bacon vinaigrette, blue cheese butter, and “D1” sauce, which seems to be more or less bearnaise. Steaks are sometimes variable, but this one was outstandingly tender, and easy to eat. We both loved every bite.

Grilled Prime Sirloin Steak

Every restaurant on Nantucket (and everywhere else) is having staffing problems you have to allow for, and Dune is no different, but we know how difficult COVID has been for the restaurant business, we are not about to criticize any of their difficulties.  Go to Dune and enjoy excellent, imaginative meals!

Via Mare at the Greydon House

Via Mare at the Greydon House

This is the third season for Via Mare at the Greydon House and we returned to enjoy another meal after our delightful visit two years ago. The menu suggests that Via Mare is a Venetian style restaurant, with Cichetti (tiny bar bites), Small Plates and a few Secondi (main course entrees).

It is perfectly possible to make a meal out of a selection of small plates, or have a few small plates and perhaps split an entrée: they consist a Fish of the day ($44), Rib-eye steak ($79) and Roast chicken ($34).

For the two of us, having a series of the small plates seemed like a fun way to go, since each small plate would give a small serving to each of us.  For larger parties, you could just order a larger variety of small plates, as the group of six diners next to us was doing.

No matter the order on the menu, the staff will bring each plate when it is ready, although one at a time for the two of us, but in clusters for larger tables.

Our first plate was Jonah Crab toast ($26), with celery, apple, jalapeno and parsley on a slice of their house-made bread.

Jonah crab toast – one of two poritons

The photo shows one of the two portions of the crab on toast. This came first, probably because it is served cold. It was, as you can see, really diminutive for the price, and wasn’t our favorite.

The next serving was our favorite: the Hot Chicken Milanese with Moroccan pancakes. While as hot as Nashville Chicken, (children, beware) it was really delicious. Since it was only $9, we should have order several and made a meal of them!

Hot chicken Milanese with Moroccan pancakes

Next to come was the Stracciatella Crostini ($14) which the menu describes as crostino: hand-pulled stracciatella / our bread. This differs markedly from the description in 2019 “Hand pulled straciatella, olio verde and flakey salt,” and was not particularly flavorful.

Stracciatella crostino

Our final plate, was called Crispy Taters, twice fried & smashed / straccino / prosciutto crumble / chilis ($14). This was delicious: crunchy and a little spicey, and in another world, we’d just eat that and the chicken.

Crispy taters

We’d reached a decision point here. We could have ordered the Rigatoni Shrimp, Calabrian Chili, lemon and breadcrumbs, or we could have ordered and split the roast chicken. We saw both on neighboring tables and thought they looked great.

Or, we could try out the desserts. There are only two: Chocolate Budino, which is essentially a rich, dark chocolate pudding, with toffee caramel, cinnamon meringue and whipped cream ($13), or we could have the Peaches and Cream rice pudding ($13) with peaches, lime tuile (a butter cookie) and saba (an Italian syrup). We got one of each. Even though we favor chocolate desserts, we really think this peach dessert was outstanding.

Chocolate budino

Peaches and cream rice pudding

Since the day’s menu is different from that on the internet, we post a copy below.

Menu from August 31, 2021

Via Mare is located in the Greydon House Hotel at 17 Broad Street, and is open for dinner from 5:30-9:30, Tuesday through Saturday. They also serve brunch 11:30-3 on Saturday and Sunday until September 5th.

The Sea Grille is always excellent

The Sea Grille is always excellent

The Sea Grille has always been an outstanding Nantucket restaurant. Locate mid-island, near Stop and Shop, it has been serving visitors and locals for thirty years. The fact that it is still run by the same family explains not only its longevity but the quality of food and of the service. And in these troubled staffing times, that is quite a compliment. Our waitress was hard working, cheerful and experienced and made the whole visit that much more fun.

The menu lists appetizers, salads and Simply Prepared Seafood, as well as Island Favorites and Creative Coastal selections. Even though we have tried a lot of their menu over the years, we keep gravitating to these last categories, because they are so very good.

One of the specials last night was a Fried Clam appetizer ($26), served on a salad base of pickled onions. Since fired clams cam be kind of heavy, this was a welcome change to try a few without committing to a whole meal of them. They were greaseless and really flavorful: just the right amount for an appetizer.

Fried clams appetizer

Our other appetizer was a little more elaborate: Lobster Bisque ($16), baked in a dilled puff pastry. It arrived piping hot, but with delightful pieces of lobster in the bisque. This dish has apparently been on their menu since the very beginning. It is very impressive.

One of our entrees was Grilled Lobster and House-Made Fettucini ($44) [shown above], with roasted tomatoes, garlic, marinara, and beurre blanc. We hadn’t had this one before either, and there was a lot of lobster, and excellent fettucine. The mixture of roasted tomatoes with the marinara and the beurre blanc made a delicious sauce for the pasta and enhanced the lobster’s flavor.

Our final entrée was their Free Form Ravioli ($37), a sort of playful version of the dish where the ingredients are cleverly hidden under a sheet of ravioli pasta. The dish includes lobster, shrimp and scallops, served with mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, garlic, and topped with crispy leeks. Odd though it may seem, it is outstanding.

Free form ravioli

Finally, we had to try one of their desserts, although frankly we didn’t really need it after this delightful but filling meal. We decided to split an order of the Chocolate Brownie Sundae ($14), which comes with vanilla ice cream and copious caramel sauce. It was a great finish, though.

The Sea Grille is at 45 Sparks Ave, and is open Monday through Saturday from 5pm till close. You should make a reservation for sure!

43

American Seasons: very disappointing

American Seasons: very disappointing

American Seasons has been helmed by chef/owner Neil Ferguson since 2015 and they had been doing quite well. But last night was simply an embarrassment. Maybe Ferguson was away and maybe the B team was in the kitchen, but we came away really disappointed and downright annoyed.

menu

The diminutive menu was delivered on one side of a single 8 ½ x 11” sheet, somewhat rumpled and stained. It has only 7 entrees and 7 appetizers, and last night it was hard to pick one we really wanted to have: none of them sounded very good. And they weren’t.

To be fair, the hot dinner rolls they served with butter were very good and one of the appetizers was quite good, but it went downhill from there.

parfait

That really good appetizer was the Chicken Liver Foie Gras Parfait with House Made Vegetable Pickles, and Toasted Brioche ($19). In Paté speak, a parfait is a smoothly ground mixture of meats. And it succeeded: it was silky smooth and delicious. We probably could have used more brioche to finish it off, but we held back to save room for our entrée. Bad decision.

beet salad

The other appetizer was a fairly ordinary beet salad ($18). Nothing special about it.

fluke

But my entrée, the Pan Roasted Local Fluke Brown Butter Vinaigrette, Capers, and Island Grown Salad ($45) was a horror. It was smothered in capers, the vinaigrette was very sour, and the fluke was tough and dry. We left it unfinished.

chicken

And the other entrée, Crisp Skinned Giannone Chicken ($39) with Fondant Potato, Carrot Purée, Honey Roast Carrot, and Sherry Vinegar Jus, was tough and dry. All of the chicken was chicken breast and it was just overcooked. Now the Giannone chicken procedure involves brining the chicken overnight and then air drying it to produce tender meat and crisp skin. Neither was in evidence.

We’ve written about American Seasons here, here, and here, and in all cases the result was better than this disappointing evening. It doesn’t seem that the kitchen was trying very hard especially considering the prices. Our bill with 3 glasses of wine, including tax was $186.18.

 

The Sea Grille is always excellent

The Sea Grille is always excellent

The Sea Grille on Sparks Ave, just next to the Shell Station has an unprepossessing exterior, but serves some of the island’s finest seafood in a friendly, family-style setting. The menu includes simply prepared seafood, broiled, fried or grilled as well as appetizers, soups, salads and Island Favorites, and more elaborate Creative Coastal items. The soups include E J Harvey’s famous Island Quahog Chowder.

bisque2

For dinner last night we had their Lobster Bisque, dilled in Puff Pastry ($13). This was a delicious bisque with the puff pastry floating on it, and with a number of tender lobster chunks included. Utterly delicious, and there is a lot of it.

salad

Our other appetizer was a special salad ($18) which seemed to consist of red lettuce, mini greens, tomatoes, croutons, thinly sliced radishes and goat cheese. Again excellent!

fried clams

If you want to have fried clams on Nantucket, this is the place to go. In fact, there aren’t many restaurants that do offer them, and you should be pleased to learn that the Sea Grille’s fried clams ($28) have been voted the best on the island. Worthy of the ones you get in Ipswich!  And the fries are freshly made from actual potatoes. One way you can tell is that the ends of each fry have a bit of actual peel still included. And they were also piping hot!

Finally, we ordered their Free Form Ravioli ($36),  (above) a creative dish with the handmade ravioli noodle on top of lobster, shrimp, scallops, ricotta, mushrooms, garlic and roasted tomatoes, and topped with crispy carrots. You will find this one amazing as we did.

The Sea Grille is beloved by both locals and tourists and you will love it too! The staff are knowledgeable and friendly and the prices reasonable. You can’t go wrong.

 

The Brotherhood of Thieves- still great

The Brotherhood of Thieves- still great

The Brotherhood of Thieves has been a fixture in Nantucket since 1972, with several renovations to improve its interior and add and improve the patio dining. The menu is mostly  burgers and sandwiches, but they do have some specialty items and additions daily.

Last night we went for dinner and I ordered their basic Brotherhood Burger.

burger

The burger was tender and juicy and perfectly prepared. And unlike the bizarre fall-apart Lola Burger, it stayed in its bun and had a really excellent flavor. By contrast, the competing burger was pretty tasteless.  The curly fried were  hot and had a good potato flavor, although they were clearly cooked from frozen.

wings

I also had a sampling of their Buffalo Wings (6 for $14) and found them well cooked, but a lot spicier than the ones I am used to. If you are expecting spicy wings, you’ll be getting them.

reuben

Finally, my companion had the Smokehouse Reuben (Slow-smoked corned beef, Gruyere cheese, sauerkraut, Thousand Island, and marble rye bread) for $19. There was certainly a lot of corned beef there and we were able to take half home for lunch. Beautifully prepared.

The Brotherhood has a nice little wine by the glass list and a goodly list of local and regional beers.

Again, the Brotherhood is one of those cases where the last formal restaurant ends up with some of the best food. You really can’t go wrong there.

table

Oran Mor Bistro

Oran Mor Bistro

Oran Mor has been fine temple of New American Cuisine for years and was taken over by chef/owner Ned Claflin three years ago. After a shake-down period the restaurant is humming along nicely with excellent service and quite a varied menu of interesting items.

rolls

The lovely restaurant on the second floor at 2 South Beach St seems airier than it used to, and the staff is unfailingly helpful and friendly. They now ask if you want bread (it’s free) and you should ask for it, because it is delicious. The waitress told us that they only make the Pretzel Bread on Mondays, and this is a shame because it looks as tastes like pretzel, but is as tender as any dinner roll. The other bread was rosemary focaccia, which was also very good. Both were served warm.

octopus

 

I took a risk and order an interesting but odd appetizer called Spanish Octopus and Pork Belly ($18). This was what my wife would call a “novel idea.” They were served with Putanesca sauce, Niçoise olives, fried capers, white anchovies and Mizuna (Japanese mustard greens). The pork belly was nice and tender but there was so much octopus on the plate that we couldn’t finish it. It was an interesting idea, but I don’t think it worked that well.

gemelle

On other hand, my wife ordered an appetizer sized portion of Lobster Gemelle with chanterelles, corn, leeks, lobster, cream and tarragon ($19). This was elegant and delicious with quite a bit of lobster and quite a bit of pasta for a half-portion. Actually, she found it too much for an appetizer, but you may love how generous this dish is. The flavor is rich, and with umami flavor of the chanterelles quite stunning.

duck

For my main entrée, I ordered Long Island Duck Breast ($34) with honey glaze, warm duck confit and potato hash, spring onion, peach and Calabrian pepper salsa. This was a great success, with the duck and peach interacting with the terrific potato hash. Top notch.

roast chicken

My wife’s entrée was a Smoked Half Chicken ($34), Pickle Brined with pimento cheese grits, braised greens and white barbecue sauce. This was tender and juicy and not the least dried out as roast chickens often can be. The pimento cheese grits (which the waitress identified as polenta [close!]) were a little overpowering, but overall this is a really excellent dish.

Oran Mor has again come into its own and you should give it a try. As far as we can tell, there is no handicapped access to this second floor restaurant, but they may have a way if you ask in advance.