|The Brick Bistro, Inside|
It's really not all that often that I rave about a restaurant on Nantucket. I love this island for many, many things -- its wild, fierce beauty in parts; the down-to-earth locals; the remarkable histories; the wild blackberries in the summer; the surfing -- but in truth, the restaurants have never had much of a draw. If you can forgive my snobbery for saying so, the fancy pants places, here, just don't compete with their NYC counterparts. And I'm conceited enough to think that I make much better lobster rolls and other sandwiches, salads, soups and maki at home than any of the casual joints on the island.*
* Pupusas at the now defunct El Rincon Salvadoreno were the one great exception. I will miss them so very much.
This baseline snobbery on my part is one reason why I was so pleasantly surprised to discover Brick Bistro, the new restaurant by Michael Sturgis (former proprieter of Cinco), tucked inside the Jared Coffin House. The place is legitimately good.
Executive chef Alex Sigeti's menu ought to appeal to both conservative diners, with its requisite steaks, lobsters and roast chicken, and to more adventurous ones with its duck confit taquitos and Buffalo-style pork belly. But even simple dishes are more deftly prepared and ingredients better chosen than at many restaurants, on the island and off.
We started with a strawberry and goat cheese salad, which came with frisee lettuce, candied walnuts, pomegranate arils and a balsamic vinaigrette. Frisee was very fresh and pleasantly bitter, though perhaps cut into overly large, unwieldy pieces; two small, perfect strawberries on the plate were intensely sweet and fragrant, as only field-ripened strawberries can be; and three half-dollar-sized croquettes of goat cheese had been breaded and fried. All of these components came together as a pleasant-to-eat salad that was just a smidgen off the beaten track for us. (One of our favorite, make-at-home standards includes baby spinach, strawberries, crumbled Coach Farm chevre and homemade spicy, candied walnuts.)
|Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad|
An attractively plated appetizer of coriander crusted bay scallop with fennel creamed corn and tomato jus was of mixed success. It included two small scallops perched atop a bed of corn kernels, which I think had been mixed with a creamy sauce after cooking, not cooked in a cream sauce in accordance to the traditional recipe. The corn (or the cream sauce, really) was slightly oversalted. I didn't notice any tomato jus and if it was there, it was overwhelmed by other flavors. The scallops were fresh and sweet and nicely browned on the surface, though the smaller one was a smidgen overcooked.
|Coriander Crusted Bay Scallops|
My main course was a huge honkin' piece of grilled bistro salmon with roasted garlic ciabatta, and a caper and heirloom tomato broth. The salmon, whose freshness was highlighted by the slightly rare serving temperature (a preparation I happen to enjoy for this fish, but others may not), was topped with a strongly garlicky, delicious pesto and served with four mussels. Two of the mussels were excellent: meaty, succulent and very fresh. The other two were small and slightly rubbery. Cherry tomatoes in the dish were as sweet as candy. As much as I loved the pungent pesto, the star of the dish was the incredibly delicious, flavorful broth at the bottom of the bowl. I drank every last drop and could've put away another five bowls of it, at least.
Justin's Brick Bistro steak frites, made with char-grilled flat iron steak and served with roasted garlic aioli and house-cut fries, were nearly as good. The meat was impeccably tender and cooked to a perfect medium rare, per request. The jus it came with tasted just a tad bit burnt to me, but Justin thought it tasted fine. Frites (1/2 centimeter thin-cut fries) were greasy, not drained or blotted, but they were nicely fried and delicious wit the fabulously garlicky, thick aioli.
We finished with a "Napoleon" of chocolate mousse, flourless chocolate cake, malted banana ice cream, and raspberry puree. On the bottom, there was a thin layer of flourless chocolate cake, almost cookie-like in texture, topped by a layer of ice cream, another thin layer of cake, and then a pyramid of raspberry puree-filled mousse. The plate came bedecked with a few attractive droplets of creme Anglaise and raspberry puree, and a schmear of liquid chocolate. This was a lovely dessert to eat and look at, though not really Napoleonic in any way, other than the layered presentation.
I was in awe of the ice cream component, which didn't taste strongly of bananas, but had a distinctive, intensely milky, even yolky, flavor that Cody Mirman, the very sweet and personable pastry chef / sous chef / tattoo(ed) artist, told us derived from condensed milk.
|Sous Chef / Pastry Chef Cody Mirman|
The restaurant is clearly still in opening mode and it's actively courting customers. On the recent evening when we were there, proprietor Michael Sturgis and Chef Sigeti were both highly visible in the dining room. (The large party next to us lined up to take pictures with Chef Sigeti, who seemed both pleased and a bit embarrassed at the attention.) At the slightest mention of our curiosity about the ice cream in our dessert, our friendly, loquacious waiter had Chef Mirman come onto the floor to speak to us.
At this stage, it's hard not to like Brick Bistro. The decor is sophisticated, yet homey, with squares of brown butcher paper laid over white tablecloths, pretty green-gold cruets of olive oil on the tables, interesting photographic prints on the walls, and hanging window frames to nowhere that divide the room and give it structure. The food is good to excellent, the staff is charming. We can't wait to see how the restaurant matures when we return later this summer.