Tag: Nantucket restaurants

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!

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B-ACK yard Barbecue

B-ACK yard Barbecue

We haven’t  been back to this great barbecue spot on Straight Wharf since they opened in 2014, and we’re glad we did. The food is much better and the menu a bit bigger: they added  Burnt Ends. The service is extremely good as well, as our waiter checked with us at least 4-5 times during our meal.

To some extent, large groups will have more choices, because you can order a platter of each of their specialties and shared around the table.  For two people, there are two options: the  Selfie Special, which gives you two meats and two side dishes and warm rolls for $28. The other option is to just order a half a pound of a couple of the meats and get one or two sides as you wish.

The main barbecue meat choices on the menu are

  • Smoked kielbasa
  • Pulled pork
  • Pork ribs (half or full rack)
  • Half roast chicken
  • Chopped brisket
  • Sliced brisket
  • Beef burnt ends

The side dishes include baked beans, coleslaw, mac and cheese, grilled asparagus, Corn bread, potato salad, French fries, pickled vegetables, and stewed greens. You can also get sandwiches of any of these meats.

ribs

We decided on a half rack of pork ribs, a half pound of burnt ends and coleslaw. We probably should have rounded this out with fries or cornbread, but there was plenty of food there just as it was.

burnt ends

Our beers came nearly instantly, and the meats maybe 5-6 minutes later. There are 4 sauces on the table, Sweet, Golden (mustard like), hot and vinegar (to simulate North Carolina style). All were good, and even the “hot” sauce was not really all that hot.

crowdThe informal atmosphere includes several large screen TVs showing whatever sport is playing at the time,  but the crowd is relatively calm and families will feel welcome here.

Sometimes the most unassuming places will end up being some of the best on the island, and that is certainly true here. The pork and beef were tender and juicy and perfectly cooked. What more can you ask? Our bill with 3 beers and tax, but before tip was only $78. A delicious bargain!

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.

 

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.

The Sea Grille: always a delight

The Sea Grille: always a delight

 

facadeThe Sea Grille has been a mid-island gem for 26 years. Founded by EJ and (the late) Robin Harvey, the Sea Grille has been an island favorite for both visitors and islanders. The menu is a clever synthesis of the simple and the wonderful Island Favorites, appealing both to families, children and adventurous diners. CIA graduate Tucker Harvey has joined the staff as chef de cuisine, continuing the family legacy.

We visited the Sea Grille last night for our annual pilgrimage for fine seafood. The hostess and waiters are always gracious and helpful and we were quickly seated. We both started out with EJ Harvey’s famous Quahog Chowder ($9).

chowder

This is a meaty, thick chowder full of clams and potatoes. It also is really filling, and you might ask if cup sized portions are available. Nonetheless, it is one of the Island’s best chowders, having earned many awards over the years.

linguica cod

Our first entrée was Linguica Crusted Cod ($38) with Lobster Mashed Potatoes, carrots and leeks . This dish was hugely successful, not only because of the rich, buttery sauce over the cod. But the big surprise was that their “lobster mashed potatoes” was smooth, creamy mashed potatoes served over several amply pieces of lobster. Probably 2 or 3 claws worth of meat. And under those lees and carrots  was indeed some chopped linguica (sausage) enhancing the cod’s flavor. All in all this surprising dish was simply terrific.

shrimp

Our other entrée was Baked Stuffed Shrimp ($30), where the stuffing in the baking dish is crab meat, served with lobster sauce, mashed potatoes, beans and cauliflower. The shrimp were tender and flavorful, enhanced by the copious crab meat, and the mashed potatoes excellent. This was simply a perfect dish in every way.

We finished by splitting a chocolate and caramel brownie sundae ($12) and didn’t leave a bite behind.

brownie sundae

The Sea Grille is always one of our favorites, because they do everything so well: we are always delighted with our visits.