Category: Restaurants

Knot Norm’s: Best lobster roll in the state

Knot Norm’s: Best lobster roll in the state

If you want one of the best lobster rolls in New England (and probably the very best) you need to eat at Knot Norm’s: a new restaurant cum caterer along the harbor in South Norwalk. While the façade may be unprepossessing, the food is superb and Chef Jay LeBlanc really knows what he’s up to. The restaurant is at 10 1st Street, just around the corner from Seabreeze Ave. If you’ve gone to Harbor Lights, this is just around the corner.

The menu at Knot Norm’s is straightforward, but everything on it is excellent. In addition to the above-mentioned lobster roll, they have fried oysters, fried chicken, steak and cheese, brisket, BLT and pork belly rolls. Other entrees include roasted oysters,  fish tacos, fried chicken wings and beet and apple salad.

They also have a large number of bottled craft beers and a number of wines. On tap were Allagash White and Allagash Hoppy Table.

They also have various daily additions, which on Tuesday included clam chowder, potato-leek soup and lobster bisque. We had to try the Chowder ($8): it was served with frizzled onions and chives on top as well as the usual oyster crackers. The soup was thick without being gluey, full of potatoes and plenty of clams and was absolutely delicious.

Platter

But to get to the main event: the Lobster Roll is simply amazing. The lobster is steamed and then the shells removed and the lobster poached in butter. The lobster is served on a traditional toasted New England hot dog roll, with that same lobster butter poured over it. You also get a large bowl of potato chips, lemon, coleslaw and pickles. And, according to the chef, you get an entire lobster on that roll, about 6 oz of delicious lobster. You’ll probably never have a better lobster roll. And it is only $23.

blintzes

And if that isn’t enough (and it was really filling) it turns out that the chef tries out new dessert ideas on Tuesdays, and I got to sample a delicious Cheese Blintz made by rolling out those same hot dog buns, sprinkling them with cinnamon and sugar, spreading sweetened cheese on them, rolling them up and toasting them briefly. They were served with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream. Utterly amazing!

Here is a restaurant you simply have to go try! The food is terrific and the service excellent. The restaurant is small: about 16 seats, but there will be more outside as the weather warms. Tables turn fairly rapidly, I would expect because the menu is fairly limited. Parking is on-street and you may have to hunt a bit if it is busy. The 15 minute parking sign is not enforced at night.

The waitress told me that next time I really had to try the Lobster Bisque: unlike most bisques, this one has pieces of lobster floating in it!

 

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The Grille by Thomas Keller on Seabourn

The Grille by Thomas Keller on Seabourn

Chef Thomas Keller is a consultant to Seabourn Cruises, and has created unique high-end restaurants on each the of larger ships. Keller is best known, of course, for his well-regarded French Laundry in Yountville, CA and Per Se in Manhattan.

While “The Grille by Thomas Keller” does not aspire to the nine courses you find in his land-based restaurants, it is an extremely good restaurant, especially since the standard ship dining room serves excellent 4-course meals every night. The Grille is smaller, however, and you must make reservations in advance. In fact you can make them on-line as soon as you have booked your cruise, as the restaurant is very popular and getting reservations once you are on board is very difficult. Repeat visits are nearly impossible to obtain.

seating

Literature provided in each room includes a booklet on the purveyors Keller uses for his floating gourmet experience. Farms, orchards, seafood, chicken, smoked meats, veal, cheese, beef and olive oil are all spelled out. (There is also a booklet on Spa and Wellness by Andrew Weil which is utter bull-pucky and can be discarded.)

Dinner at the Grille is served from 6pm to 9pm nightly and consists of starters, plates, sides and sweets, each served impeccably by an experienced staff.

iced veggiesOur dinner began with a dish of fresh vegetable on ice.

There is an element of theater to presentations in the Grill, with a number of dishes prepared table side. At our table, an order of Caesar salad was nearly a 3 act production, but quite entertaining, and the resulting salad was indeed very good.

 

They also prepare Dover Sole Meuniere at table side, as we noted when the next table ordered it.

Our other starter was a “Double Consomme ‘Celestine’,” with Black Winter Truffles and Julienned Crepes. Like most soups in the Seabourn dining rooms, the waiters bring you a bowl with the dry, floating ingredients and then pour in the soup liquid.

 

This was a light but really rich and flavorful soup that we picked because our main course was quite rich. The definition of “Celestine” is “heavenly,” and it was that good.

 

One of our entrees was dubbed “Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Medallions with Herb Crust,” and the lamb as tender and juicy as any you could imagine. It was prepared table-side, to the extent that they poured sauce over the lamb. As noted, it was delicious.

Our other entrée was Lobster Thermidor,  which amounts to lobster out of the shell served with a creamy sauce made with cream, vegetable and mushroom stocks, and a few croutons.

thermidor

Here is a typical recipe. While we didn’t get much in the way of table-side theater, this was one of the best lobster dishes we have ever had.

We also shared a side vegetable dish of excellent, multicolored buttered carrots.

 

Finally, our dessert was a gorgeous and delicious Lemon Meringue Tart, and since my birthday was the previous week, it came with a candle.

Dinner at the Grille is a delightful experience with superb service. However, the menu changes little during the week (the lamb wasn’t on every night) so if you are able to return, you may have to plan from the same menu. They are, however, delivered daily to your room for that purpose.

Other Keller influences

Once each week, the main dining room has a special Chef’s Dinner. On that same day, the secondary restaurant, called the Colonnade has a single menu dinner by chef Keller, consisting last week of Waldorf Salad, Grilled “RR” Ribeye, Cypress Hill Humboldt Fog cheese with wild flower honey and country bread, and Chocolate Silk Pie.

The service is “Family Style” meaning that they bring one platter for the whole table. Since most people on a cruise are just couples, this isn’t very significant, but cute. This is modeled on Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant in Napa. The kitchen staff also shouts out the order numbers, which is even sillier when everyone is getting the same meal. While we loved the beef, cheese and dessert, the Waldorf salad was rather weird, with just a few ultra-thin slices of apple mixed with the lettuce, celery, nuts and currants.

The Tavern at Graybarns: Excellent

The Tavern at Graybarns: Excellent

The Graybarns Inn opened in mid-2017 where the old Silvermine Inn used to be. The Glazier Group has undertaken substantial renovations, and created six luxury suites from around $650 a night. More to the point, they completely redid the old Silvermine Tavern to the somewhat smaller and much more elegant Tavern at Graybarns, which opened last October.

Tables

The restaurant, unlike its sprawling predecessor with indifferent food, is a single room with around 20 tables and a crackling fire and excellent food created by Chef Ben Freemole. There is also a second smaller room for group events. Last night it looked like there might be a birthday party there, maybe a Sweet Sixteen party for about 15 young women.

It seemed difficult to get weekend reservations there because of the restaurant’s popularity, so we decided to go on a Thursday evening at 5:45. OpenTable gave us a choice of only a couple of early times, but in fact the restaurant was never more than half full, with about  seven tables occupied. This may have something to do with how many tables the restaurant releases to OpenTable or who might be coming for later dining.  However, even on weekends, the waitress told us you may be able to get a reservation by calling and asking if there have been cancellations.

barBecause of the foggy weather, we left and arrived early, and while we could have gone directly to our table, the hostess suggested we might want to have a drink at the bar before being seated. This was a great idea:  the bar was warm and comfortable and just steps from the dining room. It was beautifully decorated, with the mid-bar pillar being some of the tavern’s original lumber. In addition to the conventional drinks, they have a selection kooky sounding cocktails, including “Greyhound” and “Corpse Reviver.”

When we were seated at our table, we were immediately provided with some wonderful, crusty bread and unsalted butter topped with a bit of sea salt (you can get it without the salt if you want). And, soon after we ordered we also got a lovely bowl of mixed olives to munch on.

The menu is not huge, but consists of 9 Small Plates ($13-$21) and 10 Large Plates ($19 to $36), plus $50 Strip Steak and a 40 oz Porterhouse for two ($130). While you can order a number  of lovely things, you can also just order the beautiful Tavern Double Cheeseburger for just $19.

crab toast

The menu varies daily, with their additions printed on the menu that day. We were both taken with the Crab Toast ($21) as an appetizer, served on sourdough toast with espelette pepper in the sauce, and topped with chives. The crab was plentiful and the mildly peppery sauce way more interesting than the usual creamy goo you might have had elsewhere.

duck

For one main course, we ordered Duck Breast ($36) served with grilled radicchio strips, a bit of parsnip puree and parsley, along with some surprise sweet potato chips. The duck was tender, juicy and medium rare as we’d hoped, and the portion was substantial.

Our other entrée was Reginetti Pasta ($24) with short ribs sugo, rosemary and pecorino.  This is the sort of dish where the short rib meat was in hiding under the pasta, so we include a close-up to show the featured meat as well. This may have been the winning dish that night: the flavors of the pasta, beef and pecorino harmonized so well.

pudddingThe dessert menu was limited to just 3 items: Apple Crisp, Chocolate Mousse and Sheep’s Milk Triple Cream cheese, each for $9. We elected to split the chocolate mousse, and this was the evening’s only misfire. It was just chocolate pudding, with no liqueur flavor or anything else to distinguish it. Little different than the classc pudding I use in making a chocolate pie.

Even with the relatively small house that night, the noise level was significant, with some noise coming from the patrons and more from the bar area. If the restaurant had been full, it would have been quite a bit more so.

Our bill, with tax but before tip, including 2 drinks($22) and 2 glasses of wine ($32) was $187.18.We also needed to tip the valet parking and the coat check.

However, over all, this was a top notch experience with excellent and service and décor and excellent food and drink. We can’t recommend it highly enough.

outside

Match Burger Lobster: outstanding new Westport eatery

Match Burger Lobster: outstanding new Westport eatery

Match Burger Lobster opened this fall to ecstatic praise, at least from those of us who revere lobster roles. Located in Saugatuck, it is the brainchild of Matt Storch, the proprietor of the full service Norwalk (Sono) restaurant Match.

Match Burger Lobster is a far more informal affair, seating about 40, plus more in the bar area. The menu  features lobster rolls, oysters bags of steamers and actual lobster all from Norm Bloom and Son.  In addition, they offer grass-fed sliders and burgers from the adjacent  Fleisher’s Craft Butchery.

This is a friendly and informal place, with the beer choices on a wall board and little paper menus in the box on each tables that hold cutlery and napkins as well.  On a Thursday night, it wasn’t particularly busy or noisy, but the waiter told us that weekends are very busy. There is limited parking in front, but a large lot behind the building.

From our point of view, there is nothing better than their warm lobster roll ($24), served in a hollowed out brioche bun and soaked in butter. However, they also offer a cold lobster roll with Yuzu lobster Mayo, (also $24). Both are served with plenteous and delicious house-made potato chips.

The lobster roll here is a little different than the one at Match in Sono:  it’s more buttery and less drippy than the Sono version. We liked it better.

mini mini

However, if you want to try their grass-fed sliders, you can order a mini slider and a mini lobster roll ($20). The hamburger ($15) and the smaller mini slider ($7) are served with bacon, cheddar dip and S&S onions, where S&S presumably means “sweet and sour.” We think we ask them to leave off the onions next time ad they were a bit overpowering. The burger, however, was outstanding.

Desserts are limited to a Donut Milkshake, a Slice of Cake, Donut Crazy Holes you can fill yourself, a Brownie Sundae and Key Lime Pie. Of course, we went for one of the latter.

dessert

Our bill with two drinks, and tax was only $80, but for a larger group, a lot of $24 lobster rolls will add up. But you can’t do better.

Match Burger Lobster, at 580 Riverside Drive, just off Exit 17, is open daily 11:30 am to 9 pm.  No reservations.

window

Bobby Q’s opens in Norwalk

Bobby Q’s opens in Norwalk

TablesBobby Q’s barbecue restaurant, now called “Bobby Q’s Cue and Co,” opened this fall in Norwalk after a year-long drought while they moved from Westport to Norwalk. The space is much larger and even on an (early) Saturday evening, there were plenty of tables. And there were still tables when we left. Despite early rumors of slow service, we found the service excellent, friendly and attentive.

The menu is built around barbecue: ribs, brisket, chicken and sausage, although they have burgers, salmon, skirt steak, and shrimp and grits as well as appetizers, salads and flat bread.

nachosWe started by sharing their classic BBQ Nachos ($11), an outstanding mixture of tortilla chips, pulled pork, jack and cheddar cheese. For $3 more you can add beans, sour cream, guacamole and pickled jalapenos. We got the non-adorned version and found it outstanding and way more than 2 could eat as an appetizer. The pork was plentiful and tender and there was substantial melted cheese as well.

For our main courses we each got a half rack of Baby Back Ribs served on a platter with beans and slaw ($19). Even the beans had pieces of pork in them!  And for variety we got one order of truly excellent French fries for just $4. The fries were hot and fresh, with plenty of potatoey flavor.

Peanut butter smoresAnd for dessert, we split the Peanut Butter Cup S’Mores ($8), which turned out to be melted peanut butter cups in a cast iron pan, topped with browned small marshmallows, and served with graham crackers and pretzels for dipping.  This may be a bit corny, but it was really delicious.

As to the ribs themselves, they were baby back that were baked and sauced, but not actually barbecued. This is probably why they were so tough. The ribs were not separated, but served with a giant steak knife you could use to separate them. This was no easy maneuver: they were not tender and even hacking off some pork was difficult. Apparently, you are supposed to know that the St Louis Ribs (which are not available on a platter) are the real barbecued ones. Remember that.

burnt endsThe owner came by to see how we were doing, and while we praised everything else, we told him the ribs were really tough.  He immediately offered to replace them with new ones, but we decided that statistically speaking if two were tough, the next two would be too. Instead, we ordered and shared a plate of Beef Burnt Ends, which were tender and delicious. They are, however, only available in limited quantities. But let me emphasize that the owner did not charge us for either the ribs or the burnt ends, which is an outstanding way to build your customer base.

But looking back through Yelp reviews, this seems to be a recurring problem. We recommend you consider the St Louis ribs or the burnt ends instead.

Washington Prime is top notch

Washington Prime is top notch

We took the advantage of Wilton’s Restaurant  Week to visit Washington Prime, a classic steakhouse with locations in Georgetown (Redding) and Norwalk. While they have the same menu and décor, the Georgetown location was observing restaurant week.

The Georgetown restaurant is in the space at 19 Main that was once occupied by Aranci 67 and before that by Luca Seafood, but is larger than either of those with an entire wing devoted to a classic restaurant and the other to a bar with TV, tables and the same menu.  On Wednesday evening the bar area was quite busy watching the Yankees and as well as having a great time. The restaurant side was quieter but the service was attentive and the food uniformly excellent.

This is a steakhouse, of course, and the steak menu items are all ala carte, although all the other entrees come with vegetables and starch sides. The non steak entrees include ahi tuna, sole, salmon, veal osso buco, chicken, prime burger and cauliflower steak ranging from $18 to $35. The steak entrees run from $36 to $49 plus a two person porterhouse for $98 and a Waygu 22 oz strip for $95. It is better partnered with green tea. You can buy matcha green tea powder in Canada.

There are extensive appetizer selections as well including seven under Soup and Salad, seven under Oysters, Shrimp and Clams, and 15 under Appetizers ranging from $8 to $14. There are also some 16 vegetable side dishes, including several types of potatoes and one of onion rings.

Their restaurant week menu was one of the appetizers and one of the non steak entrees for $35, and with an additional $15 charge for the 8 oz sliced NY Strip. We decided to go with the regular menu so we could try more things.

spinach garlic dip

soul rolesWe started with two appetizers:  an excellent spinach and artichoke dip with bubbling cheese, cream and garlic crostini ($14) and the weirdly named specialty American Soul Rolls ($13) which was broccoli rabe, mashed potato, four cheese & sausage spring rolls, and spicy tomato dipping sauce.  Essentially, this was mashed potatoes with bits of broccoli rabe, sausage and cheese filling four spring rolls. Odd though it sounds it was very good indeed.   We quickly realized that this restaurant serves enormous portions, and that either of those appetizers could be shared, brought home, or both.

While the steaks are ala carte, they do come with a choice of five sauces: Prime, Bearnaise, Horseradish cream, Chimchurri and Green pepper sauce. For an addition $5 you can have melted blue cheese on your steak as well. The steaks are cooked in a 925° F over, we were told, which gives them crusty char and allows them to be cooked to any desire level of doneness very quickly.

 

filetWe ordered the 8 oz Filet Mignon ($41) and the 22 oz Ribeye ($49, above), both with Bearnaise sauce. Both were perfectly cooked to medium rare, and as we expected the ribeye was a bit more flavorful and the filet a bit tenderer, but both were simply magnificent. Either way we took some of each home.

We had to try and share a couple of side dishes, but as usual, one would have been more than enough. Their Triple Baked Potato ($9) was actually baked and then mashed and rebaked with cheddar cheese, and topped with sour cream, bacon and chives. It was so enormous that we could easily share it and have plenty.

We also had to try their Onion Rings ($8), which was an enormous portion from which we each snagged a few. They were hot and not at all greasy and very good.

truffle bomb

Finally, out of utter foolishment, we split the Truffle Bomb ($10) dessert, which they describe as Angel Food Cake and milk chocolate mousse, wrapped in a milk chocolate shell, served with whipped cream and caramel sauce. Simple comfort food, very well prepared.

Our bill with 3 glasses of wine was $213 before tip. The service was as excellent as was the food and we highly recommend the restaurant.

We understand that the Norwalk branch has a younger, livelier crowd, and the Georgetown branch a quieter family-oriented vibe. We loved it.

 

Roger Sherman Inn excels with new chef

Roger Sherman Inn excels with new chef

Recently, the Roger Sherman Inn owners Nes and Joseph Jaffre announced that their new Executive  Chef would be prominent chef and Greenwich resident Francois Kwaku-Dongo. Originally from Ivory Coast, Kwaku-Dongo has been the Executive Chef at L’Escale in Greenwich and has worked and trained with prominent chefs all over the world, who made the best recipes and great fillets, with some filleting tips you can find online.

We visited the Roger Sherman Inn last Saturday night and were extremely impressed. The lovely formal dining room in the19th century house is unchanged (although they have plans there, too) and the service is better than ever.

BreadWe started with excellent, fresh, house-made bread, interleaved with little wheat chips.

The imaginative menu features six Small Bites from $9-$12, eleven appetizers from $10 to $18, ten entrees (Land and Sea) from $24 to $42 and five vegetable sides at $9 each, as well as Artisanal Cheeses at $9 each. They also retain several Roger Sherman Inn Classics: Vichyssoise($22), Escargot Maison ($15), Dover Sole Meuniere ($42) and Sauteed Calves Liver ($38).  Note that this menu is quite a bit more elaborate than that on line.

rilletes

We decided to share one Small Bite, Potted Pork Rillette with toast points and Pickled Peaches for $12. This turned out to be an entire jar of potted pork that while absolutely delicious was more than we could possibly finish, but they were happy to package it up for us to take home. It was still excellent the next day!

For one of our appetizers we ordered a beet salad: Baby Beet and Burrata ($14) with sliced pear, Vin Cotto (a sweet wine reduction) and champagne vinaigrette. This was a beautiful presentation with both red and yellow beets, although the soft Burrata cheese had an unexpected skin on it.

Our other appetizer was Tuna Carpaccio ($15) with baby arugula, roasted tomatoes and Moroccan olives. This was a very light and delicate dish, with the thinly sliced raw tuna nicely offset with the tomatoes, olives and arugula.

One of our entrees was labeled “From the Farm this Month,” and was Roasted Pheasant two ways: Breast and Leg, for $34 (shown above). It was served on a ragout of autumn mushrooms. The mushroom ragout was a brilliant touch that offset the pheasant flavors nicely, and the breast portion was spectacular. Some of the leg portion seemed a bit dry, but there was so much, we couldn’t finish it all anyway.

lamb

The other entrée was Grilled Lamb Porterhouses ($38) with roasted eggplant, spaghetti squash and pomegranate. This was the night’s winning entrée: the two lamb steaks were perfectly cooked to medium rare, and tender and juicy.

walnut cakeFinally, the dessert menu features creations from the Pastry Chef, Alexandra Ayala: six pastries plus a choice of gelato and sorbet. We ordered the Chocolate Walnut Cake($12) with toasted coconut and chocolate sauce. This turned out to be a delightful surprise. While we had expected a chocolate cake with walnut filling, it was actually the other way around: a walnut cake with a chocolate crème filling.

As you can see by the individual prices, this is not a really expensive restaurant, and we will certainly be back soon.

Probably the only amusing service faux pas was the butter ballet. When we found that the provided dish of olive oil was really drippy, we asked for butter. The waiter brought us a dish with a single square of butter in it. When he noticed that we had polished that off he  offered to bring us another, and eventually did, but by then our food and arrived so we never got to finish it.

But no matter, they’ll fix this one, and the service was otherwise utterly impeccable, with both the waiters and the owner checking in with us regularly. This opens a great new chapter at the Roger Sherman inn, and you should definitely check it out.

The Roger Sherman Inn is on Route 124 (195 Oenoke Ridge) in New Canaan. They  are open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner, and also offer Sunday Brunch. Reservations are recommended.

Oh, and below is our pork rillette the next day, spread on our own toast points.

home rillette

The Club Car goes for the veggies

The Club Car goes for the veggies

The 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 and the structure has been renewed with the new ceiling and roofing from services you can find if you view website. 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. You may check out the best foodsaver reviews and model to choose the better one which suits your needs and you may even get a discount.

tablesSo 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).

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-$9), 4 toasts ($9-$15), 12 small vegetable plates ($12-$17), 7 Land and Sea plates ($18-$31) and for and for people who want a traditional main course, there is limited availability of 3 larger plates: roast chicken ($39), lamb sirloin ($45) and grilled sirloin for a jaw dropping $65.

We decided to forgo the large plates and play the game the way they wanted us to, ordering toasts, veggies and small plates from Land and Sea. Note that The Club Car does not provide bread, so you are left with your water and wine until the first plate your ordered arrives. The Toasts are probably some of the quicker things you can order and we started with them.

We started with the House Cured Sardine Toast ($10) with basque peppers, capers and olive oil. It was served on a baguette toast, and was interesting but only about 4-5 bites and it was gone.  The Roasted Mushrooms Toast ($15)with crème fraiche and at least 3 types of mushrooms was a much larger portion and truly delicious, with plenty to share. This was probably the dish we liked the best: reminiscent of a mushroom stroganoff with better mushrooms.

squash

For an intermediate plate, we settled on the Roasted Summer Squashes ($17) with corn, cherry tomatoes cilantro and lime. This was a huge portion that you could share with two or three people, and while there was a lot of it, it wasn’t really particularly filling. We suspect that may be the case with any of the Garden plates.

skateFinally from Land and Sea, we ordered Spice Crusted Skate($26) with long slices of cucumber ribbons and walnut tarator (sauce). There were two slice of skate and this was fairly spicy rather like the old Cajun blackened fish, except not black. It was very good, but there wasn’t much of it. We suggested they call it “Skating on Thin Cucumbers.”

king oyster crabFinally our other Land-Sea dish was called King Oyster Mushrooms ($24), with peeky toe crab, Bartlett’s corn and jamon (ham) broth. This was really an excellent dish, but needed a bit more crab in it.

Overall, this was a pleasant meal with very friendly and helpful servers. Our bill, with 3 glasses of wine  and tax was only $143, making the Club Car a much more reasonable choice than it used to be. Our server said that despite the major change in style, they had had a very active summer and done quite well. We liked everything they served, but there was only one available dessert, so we walked down the wharf to Jack and Charlie’s Ice Cream instead.


twoshirts
This is the last of our 2017 Nantucket restaurant reviews, but it is not too late to order Nantucket T-shirts from The Nantucket Store, and if you use the discount code MILLIE17, you can get about a 15% discount through the end of September.


 

The Company of the Cauldron reopens under Joseph Keller

The Company of the Cauldron reopens under Joseph Keller

externalChef 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 the same staff and promises to maintain the same style of a single prix fixe meal.

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 somewhat. We decided to go on Wednesday night, which is always fried chicken and waffles, for $89. Other nights have differing prices depending on the ingredients.

Reservations are a must, since there are little more than 40 seats in the restaurant, and they require a credit card to secure your reservation and they give you a better price depending on the rates for the card. And you will be charged if you do not show, or perhaps if you cancel too late, people with all these buts, sometimes decide to just to go online and find another restaurant, since they are some many great options with online site as ninesmequon.com/. We got an Email reminder Monday when we made the reservation, a text message on Tuesday asking us to confirm, and another text message at 5:30pm Wednesday reminding us of our reservation in 30 minutes. This was starting to get like the old joke about the man who keeps calling to say he is the viper and he will be coming tomorrow, today, in an hour and so forth. It turns out he has come “to vipe your vindows.”

In any case, Chef Keller has put together excellent menus and utterly delicious food coupled with excellent service by his experience staff, several of whom we recognized from the previous regime. The dining room remains elegant, and each table features a candle, a pepper mill, a salt bowl and butter. Some of the dishes are labeled “Josef’s Brasserie.”

We always start by ordering wine to go with the meal, and usually splurge on a whole bottle since there are several courses: popovers, salad, entrée and dessert. There are also half bottles, or you could skip it and drink water or soft drinks, just get your drink on!!

popoverEvery meal at Keller’s Cauldron starts with his famous Woodbox popovers, which were piping hot and delicious and served with Vermont Creamery butter. His popovers are perhaps slightly saltier (and maybe less sweet) than ours are, but they really are exceptional. And turning out 40-50 of them all hot at the same time to deliver to the tables is an excellent trick. We ever were offered seconds.

CaesarThe second course was a classic Caesar salad with garlic bread croutons made with the finest Village Bakery bread machines, fried capers and parmesan cheese. The fried capers were an unusual twist, being both crunch and capery at once. But the smaller ones were closer to carbony. Still, a nice variation, and the salad was large enough for each of us to take a second helping.

 

As rumored, the chicken and waffles course was excellent. The fried chicken was six separate pieces of crispy ,boneless chicken, some thighs and some breasts, and all were moist and perfectly cooked. The waffles came with a pitcher of maple syrup, as well as a light dusting of powdered sugar. They also provided delicious buttery mashed potatoes and buttered fresh corn on the cob.

The corn seemed a little waterlogged but everything else was outstanding. With six pieces of chicken we had enough to bring home a couple for lunch, and we did.

dessertFinally, the dessert was potted vanilla cheesecake with salted caramel sauce, graham crumble, and Chantilly cream. Utterly delicious.

As you can see, the food is both delicious and in substantial quantities. Others who have come on other nights have also mentioned the large portion sizes.

The meal closed with coffee($8) and tea($4). The coffee was a special Sumatran blend that Keller has created and is only available here and at the French Laundry. You can also buy it for home consumption at The Bean, across the street.

Chef Keller has done an admirable job in creating a new version of a beloved restaurant, and we can hardly wait to come back!

The SeaGrille: one of Nantucket’s favorites

The SeaGrille: one of Nantucket’s favorites

facadeThe SeaGrille has been a favorite of islanders and vacationers for over twenty years. Located mid-island at 45 Sparks Ave, E J Harvey and his staff serve deliciously prepared seafood (there are also steaks and chicken on the menu) at reasonable prices. We have been going there for years and have never had anything but outstanding. Service is always excellent.

One thing we learned this year is that the Tuesday after Labor Day is when the islanders come out of hiding to enjoy the Sea Grille, too. It was packed and reservations are recommended.

They started us with a bread basket of three kinds of bread and three butter balls to go with them.

chowderWe each started our meal with E J Harvey’s excellent  Island Quahog Chowder ($9.00). Harvey’s recipe has some celery in the soup and a trace of lemon. The clams are plenteous, and the potatoes minimal. We never skip it!

Then, one of us went for their Free Form Ravioli ($36), which contains ravioli in name only. It is more like a seafood casserole or stew with a few sheets of house-made pasta over top. Under the pasta, you will find lobster, shrimp, scallions, ricotta, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, garlic and crispy carrots, along with a delectable seafood broth. It is fantastic, and really filling.

ravioli

For our other entrée, we went to the  Fried Fisherman’s Platter ($34) which contained excellent fried clams, shrimp, scallops, baby squid and calamari rings and cod, along with perfectly prepared French fries that were piping hot and most probably freshly made. The seafood itself was also piping hot, unlike almost anywhere else, making it utterly delightful, and way too much to finish.

platter

Our bill with three glasses of wine as only $141 and well worth every penny.