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Ackislander and others:Nantucket Summer 2009 restaurants

Ackislander and others:Nantucket Summer 2009 restaurants

Jun 3rd, 2009, 04:41 PM
  #1  
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Ackislander and others:Nantucket Summer 2009 restaurants

Planning our annual trip to nantucket and thinking about making reservations now to beat the crowds. I 'm wondering,for those "in the know" what the good restaurants are this summer. I'm thinking the usuals, The Pearl, 21 federal, the galley, Lola... but looking for a few more suggestions.

TIA!
emcash is offline  
Jun 4th, 2009, 04:06 AM
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Okay, it is Restaurant Week right now, so we will be trying as many places as the waistline allows. I'll try to update this as time goes on.

In general, the good news is that the economy has at last hit the restaurant business here, and many places are trying very hard to have a range of entrees in the mid-$20 range, a lot for a plate of pasta or three scallops, not a lot for a nice pork chop or piece of chicken.

Last night we went to Dune, a new restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Cioppino's. It has been completely remodeled and is very modern and slick on the inside. We had the four course prix fixe menu: a salad of greens (standard Sysco mesclun) with asparagus, mushroom and parmesan; a pair of crispy fried oysters in a gribiche sauce; beef cheeks with black barley and turnip; and dense chocolate cake with homemade mint ice cream.

Service was excellent, attentive without being intrusive. The kitchen was a bit slow, but we were with friends and talking a blue streak, so I think the pace was to accomodate us rather than a problem. Couples around us were served and ate more quickly.

The portions were small, appropriately for four courses, but very tasty -- for the most part -- and sufficiently rich that we did not go away hungry. The beef cheeks were literally lip-smackingly rich, a really brilliant braise. Wonderful! The restaurant is on a black barley kick. It's okay, but barley is generally pretty chewy and boring. This was not a huge exception. The vegetable garnish was two small pieces of plain boiled turnip, not exciting enough in itself and not crisp enough to offset the richness of the beef. Dessert was probably the best dense chocolate cake I have ever eaten, and I have had plenty under different names. The ice cream was not heavily minty, not minty enough for some but fine for me. Would I go back? Absolutely! I am really looking forard to the sweetbreads on the menu, something that is always an attraction.

The only real disappointment was our drinks. The bar is apparently trying to become known for its cocktails, yet they couldn't make a Ramos gin fizz and our request for champagne cocktails was met with something like champagne spritzers -- the cute bartender clearly did not know how to make a champagne cocktail. These appeared on our bill as Prosecco, so maybe what we got was a prosecco spritzer. It didn't quite ruin a good evening, but I would caution you not to set your expectations too high at the bar until they get broken in and buy the bartender a bartender's book.

We also recently ate with friends at Sfoglia. I know people who love this restaurant, but despite excellent service and fairly-priced wine, we did not have a good experience. The food was, frankly, not very good. The pasta was beyond al dente (I have traveled enough in Italy to know the difference between al dente and crunchy), the salad greens were not properly dried (though apparently the same Sysco greens as at Dune), and it is not someplace we would go back to.

I like LoLa, I love the Galley despite its astronomical prices, but I have never eaten at the Pearl. I'll spend that much money in London or Paris, but not on Federal Street. The Raynors are opening a new restaurant where Vincent's used to be (there was a one-season wonder there) where they are said to be planning a moderately priced menu featuring Latin American specialties. I want to go there soon because I love this food.

More when I know more.
Ackislander is offline  
Jun 4th, 2009, 06:06 AM
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Ackislander, thanks for the report on Dune. I was curious about it. I'll tell my DH about the dense chocolate cake (one of his favorites).

We walked by the Raynors new place this weekend. The menu looked good and more reasonable than the Pearl (which we spring for about once a year).

Emcash, we also like the Boarding House (the sister restaurant of the Pearl) and Fifty-Six Union. We plan to try the Galley this summer for our anniversary dinner. I also noticed that Todd English has opened a Figs restaurant at 29 Fair but we haven't tried it yet. Maybe Ackislander can report on that if he's going there this week.
MarieF is offline  
Jun 4th, 2009, 03:32 PM
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Thank you both- Ackislander, love your report on Dune. Friends went recently and loved it as well.

I'm with you sfoglia. If you read my trip resport from last year, Sfoglia was our hugest disappointment.

We love The Pearl. I know it's pricey, but we love the food and the atmosphere. we have never had a bad meal there and i'd rather pay a little more and know the meal will be great, than a little less and (like at sfoglia) be disappointed.

Please keep the reviews/suggestions coming!Thank you
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Jun 4th, 2009, 03:42 PM
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How's Queegegs doing this year? Mrlou is still haunted by a red beet rissotto topped with fried shallots...

Loved the detailed report Ack! You're a natural food writer. Hope you do more reports or restaurant week!
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Jun 7th, 2009, 07:19 AM
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Well, I promised more from Restaurant Week, and here it is!

Last night, we went to the Pearl. I know that many of you love the Pearl, but in the 10 years it has been open, I had never been there. Deliberately. The Pearl broke a price barrier when it opened, and I just couldn't support that. I had experienced too many disappointing dinners at New York or London prices elsewhere on the island.

Well, Restaurant Week did what it was supposed to do and got me to try a place that I would not otherwise have tried. We had the prix fixe dinner with wines for $65 each. It was cheap at the price.

The Pearl is in a traditional Nantucket house on Broad Street and is lovely inside in a completely non-traditional way. The pale aqua color scheme, featuring walls draped in soft pleated curtains, lighted from behind, is very calming and completely appropriate to the Asian fusion theme of the menu.

Our meal consisted of three courses. For the first, we both chose quail, crisp in a dry, grease-free crust with a sweet/spicy sauce and served on a bed of non-standard salad greens, garnished with rectangles of pickled turnip or daikon and carrot. It was accompanied by a glass of dry Prosecco and was simply superb, a happy start to what would turn out to be an outstanding dinner.

We went our separate ways on seconds. My wife had fluke in panko crumbs, sauteed and served with ravioli of fresh pea puree and a garnish of peas and other baby vegetables. Fluke is a form of flounder, very thin and hard to cook without its falling apart or getting dry. This was perfect, and as a confirmed pea princess, my wife was in heaven with the ravioli.

I had steamed chicken, lightly napped with a black bean sauce, surrounded with an Asian-American salsa, on Boston lettuce, all in a lovely scented broth. I particularly enjoyed the grated fresh ginger that really spiked up the flavor. The chicken was simply the best I have ever eaten, the care that went into the cooking making up for the very simple ingredient. I can poach chicken with the best of them, but this was so tender that it almost floated onto the fork. With these we drank Jed Steele Carneros wines, a pinot noir for me and a chard for her. This was all so good that we gave each other tastes but would not share!

Before I go on to dessert, I have to write of our neighbors at the next table. This was a group of four, father and mother and their twenty-something son and his significant female other. They began with a round of oysters and a bottle of Prosecco. They went on to a round of the Pearl's signature raw tuna martinis and other similar starters, with cocktails, before continuing with soft-shelled crabs for three of them and what looked like a beef sate for the young woman.

At this point we were groaning from our own two simple but substantial courses, but we were curious about what our neighbors would do for dessert. Well, we never found out. They were not ready for dessert. Instead, four grand bowls arrived, each containing a disjointed lobster in broth and a collection of dipping sauces, and our neighbors proceeded, accompanied by another bottle of wine, to dispatch the lobsters, with evident enjoyment. It was an astonishing performance, since none of them was in any way overweight (unlike me), and I was jealous of their ability to pack it in with no apparent damage to their waistlines.

We never did see what they had for dessert. Our own, a honey cake with fresh fruit, cream, and an apricot and strawberry sipping and dipping sauce, soon arrived and we had plenty to deal with on our own. I am not a big dessert guy unless chocolate is involved, but my wife pronounced it a major success, and we both enjoyed the Banfi sweet sparkling rose which was served with it. We waddled home in a state of great contentment.

Service was excellent, the restaurant is lovely, and it was the best food I have had on Nantucket since Jean-Charles Berruet left the Chanticleer for Islamorada. This is a place worth saving for, with fusion cuisine that is world-class.

Restaurant Week has changed my dining directions. Tuesday I will post about Queequegs, where we are going on Monday evening.
Ackislander is offline  
Jun 7th, 2009, 12:02 PM
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Yet another fantastic report. Although we have not dined at Pearl, we did devour the tuna martini and wonderful bartender, young, hip, personable, affable, and completely on his game. Tuna was a winning rendition and the bartender was one of those wow moments of, 'so that's what a celebrity bartender that is completely on their game is." Hopefully that guy is still running the bar or has trained in the 'art' his replacement.

Looking forward to all of your food reports ack. Hopefully we will be back at the basin this autumn for some grand dining. We have enjoyed Queeguegs for just being simply what it is, year round, on its game, friendly, and often with a suprise or two. Hope it is another great dining experience for both of you, before the crowds hit!

pssst....(for ack only)..........."all these years you have been my go to gal on all things Nantucket.I hope I never said any bizarre or innapropriate things all these posts gone by. So it is really nice to meet you sir ackislander, signed, madame gyppielou
gyppielou is offline  
Jun 8th, 2009, 03:03 AM
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Well, at last my secret is out! I am indeed a guy!

There is lots I don't know about Nantucket, even after visiting since 1984, owning since 1990, and living here pretty much full time since 1999 (with occasional winter periods elsewhere and a fair amount of travel).

I know virtually nothing about lodging or rental houses, though I am happy to drive by and tell people about locations if they have the address. I saved a friend of my son from renting an absolutely adorable cottage --- right behind Hatch's Liquor Store and gas station, something not ever mentioned in the rental sheet.

We also tend to eat out much less frequently than a visitor would, partly due to weight, partly due to not liking to fight crowds, partly due to my being a great cook if I say so myself and having a lot of great cooks for friends. We eat out a lot when we are off island. On island, we tend to go to favorite places, both budget and for a treat. Thus the restaurant week is a great way to get us out of our habits. Our visit to the Pearl means we will be much less likely to make the trip out to the Wauwinet. The food is more to my taste and the portions are larger, though I have never gone away from Topper's hungry since the tiny portions are very rich.

Well, off to Queequeg's tonight for a benefit dinner to support Sustainable Nantucket; mostly local food, several contributing chefs. Not a straight-up Queequeg's meal, but a good start.
Ackislander is offline  
Jun 8th, 2009, 05:04 PM
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THANK YOU! Again, I love your food reports, as i can almost taste each bite along with you.

I'm SO glad you liked The Pearl. It is really one of our favorites and if you hated it, well, I would have been stumped and questioned my own taste! Please keep the reports coming.

A friend did indeed dine at Dune and loved it, so that is on our list for July. I simply cannot wait.

And , PS, I thought you were a "she" as well, so hello and thank you mr. Ack from ms. Em.
emcash is offline  
Jun 8th, 2009, 05:10 PM
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em? what in the world would make you think?????

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3FnpaWQJO0
gyppielou is offline  
Jun 9th, 2009, 05:03 AM
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gyppie- that totally went over my head
emcash is offline  
Jun 9th, 2009, 12:49 PM
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We went last night to Queequeg's to a benefit dinner for Sustainable Nantucket, a group that supports local foods and other products, energy conservation, and waste reduction. They also sponsor our local farmers' and artisans' market in the summer and a winter film series on -- very broadly speaking -- sustainability issues.

Queequeg's is tiny, perhaps thirty covers, and attractive in a Tuscan way, though the space is long and narrow, like a diner. Oddly, the bar is at the opposite end from the entrance, and it will be interesting to go back and see how that works on a regular night. There are also about six good-sized tables outside that would be nice for a summer meal.

This was a four course meal -- more on this later -- with many ingredients contributed by generous suppliers. The first course was a panzanella salad with Bartlett Farm tomatoes and Sfoglia's home made goat cheese. Despite what I said about eating at Sfoglia, I have no complaints about their goat cheese, and Bartlett tomatoes are iconic. It was a nice salad, accompanied by a wonderful dry rose from A to Z Vineyards in Oregon. I love dry roses, which I first drank in Provence when our son was a student there, and this was lovely -- fruity and crisp and fragrant. Perfect with the garlic and basil vinaigrette.

All the wines this evening were either organic or from vineyards using sustainable agricultural practices. With our second course we had a fabulous Chenin Blanc from 65 year old vines at Graham Beck Vineyards in South Africa. I usually find Chenin Blanc to be too sweet, but this was very well balanced, slightly less crisp though just as fruity as the preceding rose. It accompanied pan-seared halibut with local mushrooms in a sherry beurre blanc, served on locally grown micro greens. The fish fell into nice big flat flakes, and the mushrooms and spoonful of sauce were super.

The main course provided a difficult choice between pan roasted chicken breast and NY strip steak. The chicken came with a leek, mushroom, and herb ragout, and the steak featured spinach puree, mashed potatoes, and bearnaise sauce. I opted for the steak, wanting the spinach and knowing I would get a share of my wife's chicken.

The spinach turned out not to be steak house creamed spinach but a swirl of bright green sauce on the plate, really the essence of spinach -- in cream, I think. The steak and portion of potatoes were sustainably small and perfectly cooked, any pretensions to healthiness disappearing with the rich bearnaise. I had the most delicious chicken of my life at Pearl earlier this week, but my wife's substantial portion was equally tender and moist, and the sauce was superb, with lots of bottom from the leeks and plenty of slightly chewy complexity in the Nantucket-grown mushrooms.

I did not care much for the wine served with this course and the dessert, though you would not have known that from the amount I drank. It was a Languedoc Minervois, from Chateau Coupes Roses. I drink a lot of Languedoc wines, and I drink as much minervois as I see on menus. This was not to me a typical minervois but has what I call a "barnyard" flavor thata good many Languedoc wines seem to have. This isn't a bug, any more than tannin is a bug in Bordeaux, but it isn't entirely to my taste.

By the time I got to the fourth glass, more or less, with the cheese course, it was tasting better, but any cheese makes any red wine taste better. The cheese course was the dessert course, and we had a dry sheep cheese, a cheese a bit like a cantal, and a gorgonzola dolce, with crisp bread, strawberries, and a schmear of local Concord grape jam. As if this were not enough, as at Pearl, there was a shot glass of Italian strawberry soda!

On my earlier posts I have noted that we couldn't take full advantage of restaurant week or other dining opportunities because it was just too much for our waistlines and our digestion. With three big meals this week -- not to mention a lunch at the new Cy's Lobster Pot, where the Atlantic Cafe was located -- we hit our limit! None of the portions at this dinner was large, in fact a big eater might look at the servings in despair, but I am a big eater (260 lbs worth) and I could hardly move by the time I finished. We walked home, breathing deeply, and we both had very restless nights, with plenty of "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" remorse. I might even have awakened with something like a hangover this morning. But we loved it at the time and will go back to lettuce leaves and lemon water for a while now in order to be able to enjoy the restaurant again with some of our summer visitors.

Well, this is the last round in this group of reviews in response to emcash's query. When we recover and eat out again, I'll post under my own heading. In the meantime, it looks like we will take a break from the lettuce leaves tomorrow, since my friend Larry is braising short ribs!
Ackislander is offline  
Jun 9th, 2009, 01:14 PM
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Oh please don't stop! i love your food reviews. Thank you so much for your wonderful reviews. I am absolutely salivating at the thought of our upcoming trip. I don't know if we will be able to pass up a night of dining out while there, since there are so many outstanding places to choose from.

Thank you.
emcash is offline  
Jun 29th, 2009, 02:03 PM
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Ackislander: I must also thank you for your fabulous restaurant reviews for Nantucket. I followed you over from the other thread of Suetibu's to get your ideas for our week on Nantucket.

I can definitely feel for you with the big meal- can't believe I ate it all- Blues! but we too usually say, we'd do it again for a REALLY good meal.

We're not actually going to Nantucket to EAT, but these restaurants do sound awfully good. So I guess we'll eat in some and eat out some.

Should we avoid Saturday nights in July at restaurants, as we do here at home in the Hudson Valley, due to noise and overcrowding??
taconictraveler is offline  
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