Tag: High end restaurants

Cru Oyster Bar: still raucous

Cru Oyster Bar: still raucous

“They all come here just for the mood,

And if you don’t believe me try tasting our food!”

–Jerry Bock- Lyrics to “A Romantic Atmosphere” in “She Loves Me”

tableWe went back last night to Cru Oyster Bar, the restaurant at the end of Straight Wharf that replaced The Rope Walk about 7 years ago. As before, we were seated at a nice window table in the main dining room. And as before, the music was very loud, and the noise from adjacent tables and the loud bar crowd made conversation impossible. And, as before, we asked to be moved to the middle room. Fortunately, it was still early and they were quite accommodating about moving us. The sound level in the middle room was much less oppressive and we even were able to chat with a nice young couple at the next table.

breadThey soon brought us bread, and with a little prodding, some actual butter. Since we dislike olive oil dribbling on our shirt, we usually ask for butter. It came in a nice little crock, with a little sea salt sprinkled on it. But, the bread was really tough. Not crunchy crust tough: stale bread tough. Very difficult to eat, but you could use the butter to soften it a little.

The menu was similar to that on their website,  but they had added a Chilled Cucumber Soup with crab meat, that we both ordered. (Their sometime Fried Clams shareable item wasn’t on the menu that night.) The cucumber soup arrived quickly, and it did indeed come with ample crabmeat as well.

cucumber soup

However the soup was very salty. And this comes from someone who loves salt bagels. The soup was inedibly salty. We sent it back and they  removed it from out bill. How could such inedible soup (and bread) ever come out of the kitchen? Doesn’t anyone ever taste anything? It’s part of the job, you know.

lobster roll

Soon, they brought us our Lobster Rolls ($38) served with fries, and they were impressive looking. The fries were acceptable, but most probably frozen.  As we picked through our lobster roll, we found a number of flat slippery, rubbery pieces that we decided must have come from the fins at the base of the tail. These are hard to get out, and most people don’t bother, since they don’t have much flavor. We suspect that they bought them in bulk to extend the amount of actual lobster they had to use. There were more of them than you’d find in a single lobster.

The other odd thing about this lobster roll was the eerie sheen of the meat and the top of the roll. While the menu only specified Lobster, butter and brioche roll, the top and much of the interior had a thick sort of buttery sauce. We suspect they may have added surimi, a fish paste made from whiting or pollock that is often used in fake crab meat. The lobster was real, but the weird gelatinous buttery filling is likely partly surimi. The overall effect was OK, but it wasn’t lobster and it wasn’t butter.

We got to Cru around 6:00 pm, because later reservations weren’t available. Thank goodness we came early. When we left around 7:30, the outer room was packed and really noisy. In fact we could barely squeeze through to get to the door. So, despite our strong reservations, people really come to this place in droves. They are probably mostly young people, and as a social experience, this is probably a lot of fun. But while the view of the harbor is really nice, the food really isn’t.

 

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Ventuno: refreshing and delicious

Ventuno: refreshing and delicious

Ventuno has been at 21 Federal for about seven years now, and has been a very good restaurant since its inception. However, it is an absolute delight to walk into a familiar restaurant and find fascinating new dishes on the menu. Not just variations on the old Italian theme, but truly creative dishes you probably never had before.

This is the case with this year’s Ventuno menu, which has undergone a significant upgrade. We were particularly struck by Faggiano e Funghi:   hand-cut egg pappardelle, braised wild pheasant & mushroom sugo, parmigiano & savory breadcrumbs. Imagine pheasant and mushrooms on pasta in any other Italian style restaurant. And it was absolutely delicious! It is available in appetizer and full entrée sized portions ($19 and $36). The textures of the pappardelle (noodles) and the thin slices of parmesan cheese, intermingled with pieces of pheasant along with a delicious mushroom sauce were truly a marvelous experience. In fact, we both ordered it: one as an appetizer and one as a main course and both were thrilled with it.

small pheasant fungi

Just as interesting, if not original was their Insalata: sweet gem lettuces, soft herbs, torn bread croutons and house red wine vinaigrette ($15 ). It was a feast for the eyes as well as in its consumption. Or, to put it clearly: it was a great salad.

salad

Finally, our other entrée was Agnello: slow-cooked & grilled lamb coppa, heirloom polenta, broccoli rabe & minted ramp gremolata ($38). According to our waitress coppa is lamb shoulder, marinated for three days and then quickly grilled to medium rare. Just inside the crunchy exterior is delicious, juicy, pink lamb. This was an entirely new preparation we’d not seen before, and we loved every bite.

lamb

This year’s menu is slightly simpler, but it is still organized into Antipasti (seven items), Primi (4 appetizers), Secondi (six items), Un Morsi (3 side dishes), Un Morso per La Tovalo (six table sharing items) and Dolci (six desserts).

bombolonciniUnfortunately, we didn’t have room for a dessert, but you can choose from Bomboloncini (chocolate donuts and gelato and chocolate sauce), Pistachio tart, Panna cotta, Granita (watermelon and strawberry), ice creams, and Crostata:  stone fruit crostata & cisco lemon thyme ice cream. All great ways to end a meal at Ventuno.

If you haven’t visited recently, do come by and try their excellent new menu.

Toppers at the Wauwinet

Toppers at the Wauwinet

Toppers calls itself “one of the nation’s most acclaimed restaurants,” and there are plenty of articles praising the fine cuisine of Chef Kyle Zachary and his creative associates. In fact we wrote a similar paean when we visited two years ago, calling it “absolutely outstanding.”

We visited again yesterday (Saturday, September 1) and found the old adage of “don’t expect good service on Saturdays” applies even at Toppers. The restaurant was busy, but far from packed and there were plenty of staff on hand, but it seemed to us as if they were late season replacements who were still learning, including our waiter. Many of the dishes we were presented were very good, though, and we can certainly praise them.

The menu is structured so that you pay $30 for the first course, $48 for the main course and $18 for the dessert.  In other words, consider it a prix fixe of $96.Certain dishes like lobster, Wagyu beef and cheese plates have supplemental charges, and wine is, of course, not included. However, we each had a glass of a good North coast Pinot Noir for only $17 each.

They started us with a little amuse bouche of a bit of steak tartare and two scallops ceviche, in little scallop shells. The steak was OK, but the scallops were exquisite.

 

Then came the bread basket with warm breads, bread sticks and brown bread, along with two “butter eggs.” In the past, one of the eggs was butter with some sea salt on it, and the other  a smoky butter. This year, one was pure butter and the other some vegan horror made from coconut oil. It tasted awful. We ate the butter.

oystersThen came another little treat: two oysters in their shells right from the bay outside, with a bit of watermelon on top. These, too, were truly delicious.

For our appetizers, we ordered Hudson Valley Foie Gras with peaches, kohlrabi, pistachio and a cocoa waffle. This may sound bizarre, but the slightly sweet, slightly chocolaty waffle was a perfect vehicle to spread the foie gras on, and was absolutely delicious.

Our other appetizer was described as Carnaroli Risotto “Fruits de Mer” with red rock crab, Judith Point squid, uni, bottarga and brown butter. As you can see, this was an elaborate presentation with the bowl sitting in a larger bowl containing decorative rocks and shells. The trouble with it was that it tasted like any ordinary risotto, and we never discovered any of the promised seafood. We might have complained to our waiter, but we never saw him again. Otherwise, we might well have sent it back.

lobster

One of our main courses was Butter Poached Lobster ($12 supplemental) with “variation” of cauliflower, golden raisins, almond chutney and madras curry Sabayon. As you can see, there are 3 or 4 colors of cauliflower on the plate: the red ones are pickled, and this made a nice presentation. The Sabayon in this incarnation is closer to a hollandaise, with the sugar component nearly absent, and it made a nice dipping sauce for the lobster. We weren’t sure that the raisins contributed much to this dish, and wished the lobster seemed more tender and seemed as buttery as the menu title implied. Compared with the version two years ago, this one seemed less successful.

porceletDuring ordering, we asked the waiter whether to pick the Porcelet, essentially roasted young milk fed piglet, or the lamb. He praised the porcelet as being far the better choice: flavorful and juicy, so we ordered it. We actually found it kind of dry, except for the square of pork belly, and since the pork slices had little fat, they were not particularly juicy. Neither the waiter nor anyone else ever came by to check on us, however.

When we’d finished our main courses, one of the staff came by with cute little egglike dishes with vanilla custard and a thin slice of pineapple, simulating an actual egg. Very delicious and cute, but the bird’s nest was overkill, I think.

Finally our dessert course came (we’d preordered it with the other courses): a chocolate tarte with candied walnuts, ice cream and what may have been a few dabs of chocolate mousse on top. It was pretty dry, too.

As we were finishing, our invisible waiter returned to offer coffee. We said he was way too late, as we’d finished. He went away, and we never saw him again.

cookiesThey did bring some little cookie like things, but honestly, they were dry too.

About that time one of servlets brought out a leather folder that we assumed had our bill in it. Actually, it only had one of their advertising postcards: they’d forgotten to include the bill. One of the adjacent waiters found the actual bill and brought it to us. Funny, but it looks like their late summer staff needed some more training.

This year, we’d give them a C+.

 

Brant Point Grill: extraordinary

Brant Point Grill: extraordinary

When you go into the Brant Point Grill at the White Elephant, you know you’ve made the right decision and come to a lovely, luxurious restaurant right on the Nantucket Harbor. You feel welcome from the moment you arrive, and everything about this restaurant is top notch from the food to the service to the gorgeous harbor view.

The restaurant is in an open porch with the harbor just beyond. In between is a lawn where children play until their bedtimes.  Brant Point Grill is essentially a steakhouse, although there are a number of other entrees on the menu if you aren’t steak-minded. The current menu shows Veal Osso Buco, Halibut Filet, Yellow fin Tuna, Corn Risotto and a Half Roasted Chicken. They also offer Lobster, Surf and Turf and Lobster Mac and Cheese (of course).

bread basketRight away, our waiter brought a basket of breads and a kind of cheese crackers along with some chilled butter. After deciding that we were both having steaks, we were going to order the Beringer cabernet by the glass, but ended up getting a bottle ($69), as this was far cheaper than their higher pedigree wines.

For salads, one of us ordered their Mixed Green salad ($14) and the other their Burrata salad with Backyard Beauty tomatoes. In both cases, these salads had some of the most flavorful tomatoes and greens of any we’d had yet had on the island. They were truly excellent.

One of use had the Filet Mignon ($49) and the other the Prime Aged Ribeye ($59). Both were perfectly cooked to medium rare and served with a dab of butter and a pitcher of béarnaise.  Several other sauces are available as well: Red Wine Jus, Peppercorn and Great Hill Bleu Cheese. You can also have your steaks Oscar style (with crabmeat) for $14 extra.

We got a dish of Truffled  Mashed Potatoes ($12) which were served on a trivet because they were so hot. They were smooth and delicately spiced.

mashed potatoes

We can’t say enough good things about the Brant Point Grill as it was a simply perfect evening. It is not inexpensive, but the service, food and view are exquisite.

night ferry

Greydon House slips off its pedestal

Greydon House slips off its pedestal

We were thrilled with our visit last year to the restaurant at Greydon House, Marcus Ware’s new, elegant restaurant, and said so in an enthusiastic article. We looked forward to our visit this year even though it was clear the menu had changed. (The current menu differs from that posted on their web site.)

The dining room has the same casual elegance as before, but we were greeted by rhythmically repetitive pseudo-disco music, whose volume increased when more guests arrived. Since it was making it hard to talk, we asked that they turn it down, and  they complied.

Since one of us decided on a light vegetable meal and the other on duck, we each got wine by the glass. This turned out to be a good deal at $15, since many of the wine bottles were priced close to or above $100.

BreadThey quickly brought us their delicious focacia and a dish of butter patties so soft that a couple of swipes of our knives took up all the butter. We asked and they brought more.

For one appetizer, we ordered Hudson Valley Foie Gras Terrine ($24) with strawberry gelee, pistachios and roasted brioche. For comparison, we also show you last year’s version  where the foie gras was “sandwiched” between a peanut butter crust and a cherry gelèe, and served with brioche, strawberries and figs. That version was substantially better, and there was considerably more of it.

 

Foiie gras 2018                  Foie gras 2017

Our other appetizer was a Summer Salad ($18) with petite salad greens, roasted beets and aged gouda cheese. The beets had a pretty strong flavor to have been roasted, and tasted pretty earthy; the salad was mostly bitter greens. Last year’s version was Pumpkin Pond Farm Salad ($16) which was made up of yellow corn, peaches, blue cheese, pine nuts, radishes and lettuces. More imaginative and better tasting.

 

Beet salad 2018       Summer salad 2017

Since the duck was coming soon, we asked for salt and pepper in case we needed it. We had to ask three times before someone produced some. It turned out we had no need for the salt, but adding a bit of pepper was nice. We noticed that last year’s silver salt and pepper mills have been replaced by 2 little dishes and a spoon.

duck

The Roasted Duck Breast with cherries, sweet  potatoes and broccoli rabe ($46) was the best dish of the evening. The duck was tender, juicy and flavorful, cooked medium rare. The sweet potatoes were actually whipped with conventional potatoes to make a milder mix and that worked very well.  “Cherries” may be a slight exaggeration as we found two whole cherries and a few small slices. Say 2.2 cherries. And while chefs like to serve charred broccoli rabe, these were scorched to ash. Not that great.

artichokes

The Poached Artichokes ($42) was probably the biggest disappointment, served with beet ricotta gnudi and Nantucket honey. There were little artichoke halves on the plate, amounting to three artichoke hearts. Call it a half-hearted presentation. The artichokes were pretty flavorless, and despite the presentation, this was an awfully small amount of food for $42. We didn’t think much of it.

They never offered to refill our wine glasses, so we saved some money, but would have preferred another glass.

We chose to skip dessert and head for ice cream at the Juice Guys, but we noticed that they aren’t giving away little boxes of chocolate this year.

Overall, this was pretty disappointing and we hope they get back into gear by our next visit.