Category: Nantucket

Nantucket restaurants: big changes in 2017

Nantucket restaurants: big changes in 2017

Every year brings changes in the Nantucket restaurant scene: chefs leave or move to new restaurants, business are sold and reopened, and the intense competition for continuing excellence continues. Realistically, the main tourist season is little more than two months long, and they have just a little time to get established, get their kitchen routine going, build a reputation and attract customers. This is going to be the big challenge this year as two “bigfoot” restaurants have changed hands.

Company of the Cauldron

cauldronChef Joseph Keller who worked with his brother Thomas at the French Laundry and at Per Se has purchased The Company of  the Cauldron from long-time owners All and Andrea Kovalencik. Keller also was the chef at the Woodbox on Nantucket some 18 years ago and developed a beloved popover recipe which is now featured at TCotC. Keller was able to keep much the same staff and promises to maintain the same style of a single prix fixe meal. Right now, their website is under construction, but you can see their weekly menu summarized on their Facebook page.

Keller has maintained the single menu per night for a fixed price that had been the policy of the previous owners  (their kitchen is probably smaller than yours), but that fixed price has gone up significantly. Lobster Monday is now $115, Tuesday Surf and Turn $98. Every Wednesday is now his ever-popular fried chicken $83, Thursday Grilled Hangar Steak $89, Friday Pan Roasted Swordfish $92, and Saturday Grilled Tri tip $98. Every dinner comes with a salad course, popovers and a dessert course. You can make a reservation by Email or telephone, but you have to give a credit card number to confirm, and they require a deposit of $25 for 5 or under, and $100 for 6 or more.

We look forward to trying them out when we arrive.

However to illustrate this year’s price inflation, last year’s menu featured 4 course meals for $75 with Lobster Mondays being $98, rather than 3 courses, (plus a popover).

The Club Car

Club carThe Club Car, right on the way to Straight Wharf has been a popular dining destination since Joe Pantorno and Chef Michael Shannon opened it in 1977. It was a white tablecloth restaurant with tuxedoed waiters and well-regarded food and service. After Shannon retired, sous-chef Tom Proch took over, continuing treasured dishes like Shannon’s Shrimp Scampi and Beef Wellington, but in recent years, especially after Proch retired, the restaurant’s service had become tired and the food repetitive, but much less impressive, while maintaining their high prices, where a number of entrees were over $40.

So it is with some excitement that we learned that Pantorno sold the Club Car to a new team: head chef Mayumi Hattori (formerly the chef at Straight Wharf) Ty Costa, director of operations, and general manager Tanya McDonough. In addition, the interior had been completely redesigned by Tharon Anderson with a lighter and brighter and less formal look (and apparently no white tablecloths).

Club car interior
New interior design- courtesy The Club Car

Hattori, who is of Japanese and Spanish descent, wanted to include some of her home cooking and has overhauled the menu, doing away with the formal dining experience, and replaced it with 6 tapas ($5-$10), 4 toasts ($8-$15), 12 small vegetable plates ($14-$19), 7 Land and Sea plates ($19-$31) and for people who want a traditional main course, there is limited availability of 3 larger plates: roast chicken $39, lamb shank ($40) and whole lubina for a jaw dropping $50. Lubina is just a word for sea bass. So any question that the Club Car is less expensive is easily dispelled.

In an interview in the Inky, Hattori indicated that she wanted to focus on small plates where vegetables are the star. She is also featuring 4 “toasts,” sweet pea, mushroom, beets and jamon Iberico. They do not plan to offer bread. Since the intention of the small plates approach is to get the table to order a number of dishes, this could run up quite a bill, although the food is most likely to be delicious, based on Hattori’s work at Straight Wharf. And of course, by not serving free bread, she hopes to sell more appetizers and toasts.

The pricey Club Car was always the home of the silver-haired yachting set often in formal nautical garb, and switching their menu to small plates with a vegetarian emphasis is intended to attract a younger crowd. This may or may not work, considering the prices, but these are experienced restaurant people and they can make changes quickly if this doesn’t pan out.

The Charlie Noble

That restaurant at 15 South Water Street that keeps opening and closing, once the beloved Atlantic Café, then the Seadog Brewpub and then Nix’s (which closed suddenly last August), is reopening as The Charlie Noble. It’s run by Fred Bisaillon and Denise Corson, who also run the B-ACK Yard BBQ. The name “Charlie Noble” is nautical slang for the smokestack over the ship’s galley. The owners intend this to be a family restaurant much like the Atlantic Café, and open year round.

Their menu includes similar dishes to the previous occupants, with appetizers including crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, crab cocktail, lobster quesadilla, wings, and crab cakes, and, of course clam chowder. The main courses feature seafood such as lobster and seafood stew ($32), fish and chips ($24), blackened salmon ($23), and golden shrimp plate ($28). They also offer prime beef short rib ($33), Mushroom Kale Bolognese ($24), and a12 oz NY Strip ($36).

They also offer a bucket of 8 pieces of Fried Chicken for $46, (maybe you can share with the next table) and a Seafood Tower for $65, for a hungry table, with crab legs, fried clams, shrimp, cod and fried clams along with corn. No word on what smaller families can pry out of them. Of course even if a couple ordered this chicken and ate only half, this would  only be a quarter of the cost of two orders of fried chicken at Company of the Cauldron. And you could take the rest home!

 

fat chad
The Fat Chad

And of course, their sandwich menu includes Lobster Roll, Big Pig ($18) American Burger ($15), Codfish sandwich ($16), Surf and Turf Burger, and the “Fat Chad,” with triple patties, bacon, cheddar and pulled pork for $22, and a Deep Fried Chicken Sandwich for ($17).

Oh, and they have 5 yummy sounding desserts. Looks like a great, relaxing place for dinner with your family and friends!

Greydon House Restaurant

greydonhouse
Greydon House – courtesy N Magazine

Greydon House (17 Broad St) had a long, slow opening, with hotel rooms available late last summer, but the restaurant, helmed by Michelin starred chef Marcus Ware didn’t open until late in the fall. While people have praised the elegance and décor of the hotel and its $750-$1100 rooms, the menu itself is about all we know about what is probably a really fine restaurant. Ware was the executive chef at Charlie Palmer’s restaurant in Chicago, and more recently at the Michelin starred Aureole restaurant in New York.

The menu features appetizers from $14 to $26 and oysters for $3.50 each. Some of these appetizers include Spring Salad, Grilled Asparagus, Potato Gnocchi, Crispy Calamari and Fusilli with Veal Bolgnese. The entrees range from $29 (chicken) to Halibut ($44), and also include Scallops ($42), Monkfish ($36), Pork Chop ($42) and Black Angus Steak ($36). In other words, at first glance, quite a conventional but somewhat expensive menu. We will be interested in seeing how Ware carries this out.

Afterhouse Raw and Wine Bar

Afterhouse-Raw-and-Wine-Bar-Nantucket
Afterhouse- courtesy Fisher Real Estate

Afterhouse is the project of Galley chef Scott Osif, with David Sylvia and Kevin Anderson, all of whom worked together at the Galley. Located at 18 Broad St, it takes over the space occupied by the Meursault Wine Bar, and in keeping with its informality, it has no web presence. The restaurant features crab salad, oysters, fish eggs, tinned fishes and a leg of Bellota ham, they serve on toast. Along with their beers and wines, this makes up an interesting seafood restaurant in a space without a stove. They are open from 2:30 pm to 12:30 am, so line cooks coming off shift. According to an interview in the Inky, the afterhouse is a room on a whale ship next to the galley, where a sailor could relax and get out of the elements. We expect a number of people will want to relax here.

Sandbar at the Jetties

Sandbar at the Jetties now has an extensive menu for lunch and dinner. The menu includes burgers and dogs, a raw bar, salads, chicken, steak and lobster. They also have an extensive drinks menu. Just the thing for beach refreshment.

Keepers

Keepers-Restaurant-Nantucket
Keepers- courtesy Fisher Real Estate

Keepers is a new mid-island family restaurant at 5 Amelia Drive, and run by Sabrina Dawson and Gaven Norton. The menu prices are very reasonable, and include appetizers like Shrimp Skewers, Seared Salmon Tacos and Crispy Arancini. Entrees include Meatloaf, Pork Tenderloin, Chicken under a Brick and Flat Iron Steak, and four salad items.

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Ventuno: Nantucket elegant Italian restaurant

Ventuno: Nantucket elegant Italian restaurant

signFive years ago Ventuno opened, replacing the old “21 Federal” restaurant with an elegant upscale Italian concept, created and managed by Scott Fraley along with chefs Gabriel Frasca and Amanda Lydon, who also run Straight Wharf restaurant. The Chef de Cuisine is Andrea Solimeo. In this time the restaurant has only gotten better, but maintaining its clever menu of Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Contorni (for sharing), Table Morsels and Dolci (desserts).

tablesMuch of the restaurant is on the second floor, although there are some first floor tables and a bar as well. The relaxed elegance includes white tablecloths and lovely place settings and attentive service throughout the meal.

A lot of the appetizers and antipasti are large enough to be considered full courses, and as it happened we both ordered their delicious meatballs (polpette, $16) as an appetizer.  These (shown above) are served in a tomato sauce with thin slices of pecorino and a sprig of basil. Three meatballs makes a pretty filling course, even though the menu classifies it as antipasti , it’s a good deal of tasty meatballs.

For our second course, we ordered the half-portion of pappardelle al sugo d’agnello or tomato braised lamb, with taggiasca olives, pecorino and marjoram ($19). The pappardelle was perfect for absorbing the lamb and tomato flavors, making an elegant dish.

Our other second course was a half portion of strozzapreti ($19), which is spicy chicken sausage with broccoli rabe and pecorino. This was moderately spicy and was enhanced by the generous serving of pecorino.

picata-gamberi

Just so you don’t think everything is a pasta dish at Ventuno, they also offer a fantastic piccata di capesanti e gamberi, or grilled Nantucket sea scallops and wild shrimp, with baby spinach, leeks, cauliflower, pine nuts, caperberry and lemon ($36). Order a small appetizer of salad if you order this one!

For dessert we sampled Bomboloncini ($12), consisting of bittersweet chocolate filled donuts, coffee gelato and chocolate sauce. Since there are two substantial donuts, you could split this one without feeling left out, but we noted they also offered Gianduja Semifreddo ($11) a chocolate cake, hazelnuts and a honey and bay leaf gelato which is pretty spectacular as well.

You are certainly not going to leave Ventuno hungry, and are likely to be more than satisfied with the more than imaginative food and excellent service. We try to get there every year!

Cru Oyster Bar: Nantucket’s newest bar

Cru Oyster Bar: Nantucket’s newest bar

Cru Oyster Bar opened about 5 years ago and received deserved praise from diners and the food press. In fact, Chef Erin Zircher was even invited to cook at a James Beard Foundation meal. The restaurant, at the end of Straight Wharf (site of the former Rope Walk) has a fantastic harbor view through the huge glass windows, some of which open when the weather permits.

We’ve eaten at Cru 4 previous times, and described most of the meals with high praise, as an elegant family restaurant with a terrific view. We remember seeing young people coloring on the provided menu pages with crayons, and seeing our own brood eating from children’s portions.

No more. The menu is simpler than it was formerly, but certainly not cheaper. Three minutes after we were seated at a nice window table, a group of about 8 men (ages 30 to 50) came in and began shouting to their comrades at the bar, which was just behind the window tables. This continued unabated. While this certainly showed a lack of consideration, it was apparently not unexpected, as the restaurant management did nothing to quell this disturbance.

We immediately asked to be moved to another table where we could actually converse, and they did move us to the second, darker dining room, where the noise was still substantial but more diffused. Here we were able to converse by cupping our hands behind our ears. In fact, this racket never really subsided during our entire meal. Cru is no longer a classy restaurant, but a raucous bar that serves some of the same food, albeit with less care.

For starters, we ordered a Blue Crab Cocktail ($23), served over lettuce and a horseradish crème sauce. There was plenty of crab, but it was kind of a dull presentation. On the other hand, the Shrimp Cocktail was priced a $5 a shrimp. (Really? Five dollars each?). It turned out that these shrimp made jumbo shrimp feel completely inferior. Each of them was gargantuan (we ordered 3 and couldn’t finish them). Something a considerate waiter might have alerted us to. Honestly, shrimp that big are just preposterous, and as you’d expect, not as tender as smaller ones would be.

One of our entrees was a really fine Nantucket Lobster Roll on a warm, buttered, toasted brioche roll for $36. There was a tremendous amount of lobster in this roll, and it was tender, buttery and delicious. In fact it was more than one of us could finish. This turned out to be fortuitous considering the other entrée.

Taking a turn away from the Nantucket’s emphasis on fine local seafood, we ordered their Chicken Under a Brick ($36). This is essentially half a spatchcocked chicken roasted under weights to help with uniform cooking, and served over a “summer bean salad.” Here is how Mark Bittman describes this recipe. In this case, it didn’t work very well. While the dark meat was good, the breast meat was tough and dry. When the waiter checked on us, we told him it wasn’t very good and he said he’d “tell the chef.” This did not, however, result in any changes. Fortunately, I was able to eat the rest of my wife’s lobster roll instead.

As soon as we could finish we asked for the check without even considering dessert in that din, and were shocked to find a bill of $171. OK, we had 4 glasses of wine, 2 while we waited interminably for our entrees, but they had offered no price adjustment on the terrible chicken dish. The waiter protested that my wife had “finished the chicken” so we weren’t due a refund. When we set him straight, he went away and eventually came back with a $139 bill. This is still a lot of money for at best middling food with none of its former distinction, and no dessert or coffee, but we paid and left.

If you’ve ever been hired for a job that turns into quite a different one after a couple of years, you can understand the chef’s predicament. She is doing a huge business with a rowdy crowd not really there for the fine food, but probably making a lot of money. And the waiter assured us that this was a quiet night after Labor Day and that it has been louder than this all summer. But this is not a place for comfortable dining and we won’t be back.

 

Le Languedoc: echoes of past island elegance

tablesWalking into the lovely upstairs dining rooms at Le Languedoc is like walking into a time warp, revealing island elegance we thought long past. In fact Le Languedoc has preserved it in the wonderful service and décor, and apply classic French techniques to dishes made from local or nearby ingredients.

And no wonder! The same partnership: Alan & Ann Cunha, Neil Grennan and Ed Grennan have been running Le Languedoc for an astonishing forty years! The food and service are as elegant as ever, with a warm, friendly staff attending to your every need and request.

The menu at Le Languedoc includes appetizers, main course entrees and “bistro favorites.” At one time, the lower level served only the simpler bistro items, but now you can order any item in either dining room. And that means that you could, if you wanted, order their famous cheeseburger, considered one of the island’s finest anywhere, as well as the more elaborate courses.

We proved that by ordering their fantastic chopped salad ($14) from the bistro menu as one appetizer. It’s a huge salad mixed with blue cheese and buttermilk, and simply delicious, although you may not be able to finish it.

And, in a show of versatility, we were delighted to be able to order the Escargot with Lobster Roe Fettucini, garlic butter and lemon ($18.50) for our other appetizer. Again, this one is also pretty filling, but the flavors in the pasta and sauce were unique, and there were an amazing number of escargot buried in that pasta. You won’t find either of those two dishes anywhere else on the island.

One of our main course items was actually listed as an appetizer, but as substantial as any main course: Pressed Veal Sweetbreads ($18.50) with parmesan, pancetta and pea risotto. Again, a truly creative mix of tastes in an excellent presentation.

Finally, our other main course was quite traditional: Traditional Steak Frites ($29) with watercress, truffle vinaigrette and béarnaise. The steak was as tender as any we’ve had, perfectly prepared (medium rare) and the béarnaise perfect. The French fries were clearly freshly made and very hot, and stayed that way served in the tall paper-lined dish. Just about perfect in every way.

While we could easily have left without it, we were interested in the Duo of Custards dessert ($12.50), where one was a traditional, but perfect, Crème Brulee, and the other a Butterscotch and Sea Salt Budino. They were truly irresistible and vanished in seconds.

custards

Despite the excellent food and service, our bill with 3 glasses of an excellent Pinot Noir was only $142. We’ve been coming to Le Languedoc for 20 years and have never been anything but delighted.

The Ship’s Inn on Nantucket

signLast year, we were pleasantly surprised and pleased with our first visit to the Ship’s Inn on Fair Street, a pleasant basement restaurant which we found elegant and understated.  Perhaps Chef Mark Gottwald had the night off, or perhaps the crowd got ahead of the kitchen, but this visit wasn’t as successful.

We arrived at 6:15pm, when things were still quite quiet, and placed our drink order and our dinner order. The drinks and the starters arrived fairly soon, before the crowds did. But by the time our main courses arrived, the restaurant was packed and deafeningly noisy. Conversation was nearly impossible, probably because of the low ceilings, and the chairs got increasingly uncomfortable during the meal.

The serving staff was professional and courteous, but the food was far below what we had expected from our previous visit. Almost every dish seemed to be accompanied by a similar, somewhat sour brown sauce.

Our order of Oysters Mignonette ($18) was six ample oysters on ice, with a small bowl of mignonette sauce in the middle. Mignonette sauce is just a mixture of red wine vinegar, shallots and pepper, but this one just seemed to be vinegar, and you were misled by the amount in the bowl that you should dip the oysters in it. That is too much vinegar:  the sauce is best drizzled or dropped on the oysters: otherwise it overpowers them and your sinuses.

The other starter was their seafood chowder ($12), the only non-brown dish, and it had ample pieces of some kind of seafood in it. But, while it also had a lot of potatoes and was made with cream, the chowder was thin (more soup like) and, oddly, included pieces of tarragon, imparting an unexpected flavor. It didn’t seem to really be a chowder.

salmon

One of our entrees was Paillard of Wild King Salmon ($39) with balsamic and Malbec reduction. It was served with two little warm lettuce leaf towers with carrots, celery, lettuce pieces and a few mushrooms. Really lovely presentation, but low on actual flavor. Likewise, the accompanying brown sauce was pretty nondescript, and didn’t really seem to go with the salmon. The salmon itself was very tender and not at all over cooked, but also oddly flavorless.

 

vealFinally, and brownest of all was the veal scaloppini citron ($34) with house made spinach and egg fettuccini. The ubiquitous brown sauce went a little better with the veal, which consisted of a 3 huge sautéed slices of veal, relatively tender, and served with a carrot puree and a spinach or perhaps kale puree. The downside of this dish is the visual effect of these huge brown veal slices and only a limited amount of the very good fettuccini. The plate presentation was simply off-putting.

Finally, we let the waitress up-sell us a chocolate soufflé ($12.50), which was delivered soon after our meal was cleared. It was a perfectly standard, undistinguished soufflé that any of us could make in our kitchen, with nothing to recommend it.  The waiter poured the sweet cream sauce into the soufflé as expected and we dug in. It was fine, but nothing exciting.

While there was nothing really wrong about our visit other than the deafening noise, there was nothing really right either. Everything was sort of bland and OK. With two glasses of wine and tax, but before tip, the bill was $164. We found that kind of high.

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.

 

American Seasons: reliable quality dining

facadeThis is Neil Ferguson’s second year helming American Seasons and things are going fairly well. The menu is somewhat smaller than under prior management, but covers a broad range of well prepared dishes.

However, when we arrived, they had clearly lost our reservation despite the fact that they had called the day before to confirm it.The hostess had just a handwritten scrap of paper with names on it, and ran back to allegedly consult a master list. She immediately offered us a table in the patio area right by the door and behind the hostess station which we declined. They eventually found us a table inside.

The starters last night included farfale pasta with confit chicken, beet salad,  rabbit terrine, heirloom tomatoes and melons, sea scallops, roast carrots and puree and hamachi and grapefruit.

The entrees included pork chop, cod filet, ribeye of beef, lobster salad, roast chicken breast, summer squash casserole and halibut filet.

For our appetizer we chose the beet salad with gem hearts, candied walnuts and homemade yoghurt dressing  ($16), which was one of the better ones we’ve been served recently, and Rabbit and Foie Gras Terrine ($20) with spiced pickled plum and hazelnut pesto. This was excellent and the spiced plum made an excellent accompaniment.

For entrees, we pulled a switcheroo and ordered the scallops appetizer, Roast Sea Scallops ($!8) with field greens and Vinaigrette Antiboise. This turned out to be a real bargain, since we were served 3 scallops, which is a full meal by most measures. They were tender and perfectly prepared.

And, for our second entrée, we had Cod Filet ($36), with Roast Lemon Puree and a fennel bulb, and a brown butter whey dressing. The waiter delivered the perfectly prepared cod and poured a little pitcher of the brown butter dressing over top. While it was excellent, the portion seemed a bit skimpy, especially compared to those scallops, but it was absolutely delicious.

dessertFinally, we sprung for one dessert to split: Chocolate custard, caramelized banana and chocolate bouchon (basically a cylindrical brownie) for $15. This was a lot of dessert, and we each got a share.

For a Thursday evening, American Seasons was very busy. By the time we left every table was taken and the staff was running to keep up. This may be because it was right before Labor Day,  but it is certainly an endorsement of the quality of Ferguson’s cooking and the staff’s service, both of which were excellent. The sudden influx resulted in some delay before out dessert arrived, and the waiter was most apologetic.  The bill, with 2 glasses of wine and tip as $144.50 and a far better bargain than many island restaurants. Oh, and bread was provided for free, and without asking.

table setting

 

Oran Mor: a long way to go

facadeThe Nantucket restaurant scene was abuzz when Chef Chris Freeman sold foodie destination restaurant Oran Mor to popular island local Ned Claflin and his sommelier partner Jon Tacinco this winter. Both are graduates of the Culinary Institute, and Claflin had worked at several island restaurants previously.

The new Oran Mor opened in May, and by June had finally put their menu on line. With all entrees in the mid to high $30 range (the Angus Beef Duo is $50) this is not an inexpensive restaurant. Starter courses range for $14 to $21.

For many years, this was one of the island’s finest restaurants. With the new owners, it has a long way to go to reach those heights. The décor of the restaurant is much the same, but the table tops have been refinished in a more appealing lighter color. Other than that, even the paintings are the same.

We visited Oran Mor Wednesday night, when they weren’t particularly busy, it seemed. We were greeted by a young man in a white T-shirt, who hopped down from the high table where he was typing into his Macbook. He went to the reservation stand and told the hostess which table to seat us at. We quickly ordered 2 glasses of wine ($15 each for a pretty good Pinot Noir), and placed our food order when the wine arrived. And then…nothing. We sat at the blank table looking at our wine glasses for nearly 20 minutes, wondering if there was going to be any bread or other little amuse bouche. Nope.

Finally we asked the busboy if there wasn’t supposed to be bread. This led to a piece of Kabuki theater we’ve decided to call the “Catch-22 Bread Policy.” The busboy explained that there was bread, and it was free, but that we had to ask for it. “And we were to know that, how?” That question went unanswered. Soon after that, our waitress came by and we again suggested that there should be bread provided. She stonewalled, saying that it was restaurant policy that you had to ask for it. Shortly after that our first course arrived followed by the busboy with the bread.

The bread was 5 tiny slices of cold, dryish bread cut from a baguette, and one warm roll that was actually very good. They even brought butter. We split the warm roll, since there was only one. Shortly after that the young man in the white T-shirt came to the table to explain their bread policy. It turns out this was Tacinco, and he said that they were throwing most of their bread away uneaten, so they decided to only provide it on request (but not tell anyone)!  We believe if you price your entrees in the high $30s, you can afford to include the fricking bread!

We ordered the Beet Rosace ($16), made up of smoked beets, pickled beets, hazelnuts, dandelion, parmesan, yogurt and mizuna. It was colorfully presented, and mostly rather good, but had some patches that were extremely sour, perhaps the mizuna.

Our other starter was a half portion of Lobster Gemelli ($19) with chanterelles, corn, leeks, lobster cream and tarragon. It also seemed to include some shaved parmesan. While you may think Gemelli is a Smurf villain, it is actually a twisted tubular pasta, and probably designed to soak up sauce. Not here, though, since the gemelli was tough and undercooked, and the lobster a bit tough. And somehow, this was a really colorless dish that could have benefited from a colorful veggie or herb. As it was, it had all the eye appeal of a tuna noodle casserole! Except for the tough pasta, the flavor was quite good with a rich and interesting taste.

duck

For our entrees, we ordered the Honey Peking Duck ($38) and the Roasted Berkshire Pork Chop ($39). The duck was actually duck breast with duck confit, farro salad, peaches, sweet and sour cabbage and glazed Hakurei turnip. We didn’t find but a bit of confit, but the duck was delicious and went well with the peaches and cabbage. The white crunchy turnip was an outlier.  The only trouble is: this isn’t Peking Duck. Peking Duck comes with crispy skin, moo shi pancakes, scallions and a sauce, usually hoi sin based. This was none of that. It was just roast duck breast, although very good, just not Peking.

porkchop

The pork chop was another story. It was tough, dry and overcooked, and except for a bit of meat near the bone just wasn’t very good.  It was served with fresh corn polenta, formed into a buttery little cake, roasted carrot, spring onion and supposedly mustard jus, but it wasn’t apparent.  It simply was not marbled sufficiently to cook as a chop, and it dried right out. It was served cut into long rectangles, and the chef should have know it was really tough when he cut it up. There were some weird black crunchy things under the pork, and we asked the waitress what they were. She said “rhubarb,” but we didn’t think that was likely, so she took my roll plate with one on it and ran off to the kitchen to ask. She came back to tell us they were purple carrots. Maybe so, but with no carrotiness about them.

If you look at the pictures of the meal, all the platings suffer from really dull presentations and overall colorlessness. In the case of the ill-fated chop, the whole plate was black and brown. Needless to say, we didn’t order dessert. The check with 3 glasses of wine ans tax but before tip was $168.

Overall, this was a pretty disappointing meal, and we think you’d better give them a year or so before going there, so they improve their cooking and service.

table setting

Fusaro’s on Nantucket: a family Italian restaurant

Fusaro’s has been around for four years now and have really hit their stride. The food and service are excellent and it is wildly popular: witness the packed interior on a Tuesday night. Fortunately, the patio was still available and fairly quiet. The parking lot fills up sometimes, but there is additional parking behind. You turn left out of the restaurant and take the first left to the additional lots. Fusaro’s does not take reservations, but they are quick and accommodating, and you probably won’t wait long.

Their menu is classic red sauce Italian, but exceptionally well prepared. It includes 10 antipasti, 5 salads, 9 pasta dishes, 6 “favorites” like Bolognese,  7 entrees like Veal Marsala, and Fisherman’s Stew, and a few side dishes like spiral cut zucchini. Among those antipasti is their favorite: Nana Jean’s Meatballs, with pomodoro sauce and herbed ricotta, which we recommend highly.


Most of the dinner entrees come with a small side salad, and you can “upgrade it to Caesar” for just $2. This amounts to adding focaccia croutons and shaved pecorino to the salad. This is a really nice touch.

On this visit, we tried their Veal Parmigiana ($23), a large slice of fork-tender, flavorful veal served on pasta and topped with parmesan and mozzarella. It may have been one of the best examples of this simple dish we have ever been served.

We also tried their amazing Lasagna ($19), which they describe as “five layers of ricotta, parmigiana, mozzarella, pork and beef ragu.” It was simply outstanding, and more than we could finish.

Desserts at Fusaro’s are fairly standard, (tiramisu, cannoli, gelato, brownie supreme and cheesecake,  but we were too full to indulge. Even with 2 glasses of $14 wine, the bill (with tax and before tip)was only $82.  It’s no wonder Fusaro’s is so popular, especially with families.

Fusaro’s is at 17 Old South Rd, and it is easy to drive right past it.Look for the flags.

diners

The Proprietors: delightful and imaginative

The Proprietors: delightful and imaginative

In New England history, the Proprietors were the original governing bodies of new towns, parceling out the land to settlers for farming, before real governments took hold. The Proprietors restaurant on Nantucket is named for these historic visages and was founded by Chef Michael  LaScola and Orla LaScola. (The other original partner and chef Tom Barry tells us he is now in Boston where he will “support younger, talented chefs in the role of Culinary Director at Yvonne’s and  Lolita.”)

The menu at The Proprietors is a mixture of appetizers and small plates along with a few larger entrée portions.  While the original menus designated these as “half shares” and “full shares,” these labels are gone, but you can figure out pretty easily the size by the price and position in the menu (the smaller ones are listed first).

There are five full-sized entrees: short ribs, scallops, suckling pig confit, buttermilk brined chicken and fluke, all priced in the $30 range. The remainder are priced from $14 to $18, and clearly are smaller portions. We are coveting the beet salad, Quail “Tikka Masala,” Roast Bone Marrow, Crispy Thai style broccoli, and Rock Shrimp for  another visit.

You can make a nice meal out of several small plates or one and an entrée. We were so happy to see the fantastic House Made Charcuterie Plate ($29.50) on the menu like that LaScola made while chef at American Seasons, that we ordered it despite the waiter’s warning that it probably could serve four! I probably does, especially if you want another course, but we arranged to take home some of the remaining sausages for sandwiches.

charcuterie

The platter consists of two homemade mustards, smoked duck, chicken terrine, several types of pork sausages, chicken liver pate and slices of Serrano ham along with pickled cucumbers and melba toast slices. Only the ham was not made in the Proprietor’s kitchen. Every bit was delicious and we only finished half of it.

We both ordered the same entrée, Kim Chee Pancakes with pork belly and pickled shiitake mushrooms. Kim Chee, of course, is Korean pickled cabbage, usually somewhat spicy, although the kim chee embedded in the pancakes was pretty mild. The pork belly was meltingly tender and flavorful and the overall dish a big success.

kimchi

Again, we are delighted with the Proprietors and will be going back. Maybe even as soon as next week!

Table setting