Archive for category Good Wine/Beer Selection

Wicked Restaurant and Wine Bar, Mashpee

We found ourselves in Mashpee on a wicked hot weekday afternoon, and we were wicked hungry. We were skeptical of Wicked Restaurant’s strip mall setting and silly name, but we were rewarded with an ultra-cool atmosphere and very good food composed of extraordinary ingredients.

We sat at the bar, as we almost invariably do, and our tender was a gentleman whom your tab will identify as “Rager” and who looks and acts so much like Gina’s brother that we were a little creeped out. His real name is Kevin, and he’s been with the restaurant since its opening a decade ago, he said. By the end of lunch, we were swapping restaurant and pub suggestions with him and other patrons as if we were regulars.

But this is not a neighborhood bar. This is the kind of place at which serious, international Mashpee Commons shoppers and serious golfers refuel. The silly name, and the silly names for some menu items, is inconsistent with the sleek vibe.

The Big Dog started with an appetizer of “wicked meatballs” ($7.50), alongside a vodka and soda made with Green Mountain Lemon Vodka, an organic offering from a Vermont craft distillery ($8.50). He enjoyed both and took a photo of the vodka label so we could track it down at our local retailer.

Gina started with a Nero D’Avola ($11.50 for a 9-ounce pour) and a fork, to assist with the meatballs. We agreed they were dense but delicious, and particularly liked the tomato sauce in which they floated.  Two young men seated near us at the bar ordered the same dish immediately upon getting a whiff.

Gina’s entree was a special: caesar salad with steak ($17). The flavorful, abundant, and properly medium cooked steak tips were served over fresh romaine and tossed with roasted red peppers, black olives, and grated parmesan. Two triangles of flatbread — think naked pizza — garnished the dish, and the whole thing was topped with house-made croutons and a light dressing that we think contained a welcome hint of anchovy. The combination was excellent.

The Big Dog ordered the “Chubby Sicilian” pizza ($19 for a “full size”). We’re not sure how big the pizza was, but it was so loaded up that it could likely feed four. Toppings included house-made sweet Italian sausage, sliced meatballs, pepperoni, spinach-ricotta, marinara sauce, and mozzarella over baked penne pasta. On a pizza.  This is one pizza. With penne. It was really good for lunch, and excellent the next morning reheated for breakfast.

Here’s how the pizza section of the lunch menu is introduced: “Our pizza dough is made with Non GMO Italian Caputo Flour, purified water, and natural wild yeast baked in a 600 degree stone hearth oven. Wicked pizzas are carefully designed by our chefs; we ask you to avoid the temptation of substitutions in order to experience the pizzas as the chefs intended.” The cognoscenti will look at the highly descriptive menu, in the pizza section and elsewhere, and recognize true quality and high value. The restaurant uses local and/or organic ingredients wherever possible. That was evident throughout our meal, but most striking in the steak on Gina’s salad.

We would have to call Wicked Restaurant a hidden gem, but it’s hidden because of a name that makes it seem like a tourist trap, a location where excellent food is unexpected, and a website that doesn’t tout its best qualities. We can assure you that you will be pleasantly surprised.

Wicked Restaurant and Wine Bar
680 Falmouth Road, Mashpee

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Bucatino, North Falmouth

It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon at the start of summer, and we’re on Cape Cod. We’re in a lovely restaurant recently opened by a highly regarded restaurant group. We’re about to enjoy some delicious food and wine at reasonable prices. We battled some significant traffic to get here.

And we are alone.

Regular readers will recall that Gina and the Big Dog deliberately avoid restaurants at typical meal times, preferring a late lunch as a way to avoid the lax service and unpleasant atmosphere that peak times can bring. We braved Bucatino at 12:30 anyway, mostly because we happened to be in the North Falmouth neighborhood. And inexplicably, we were the only ones there.

It’s a wine bar, so we started with wine. Larissa, our pleasant bartender, offered a taste of anything on the menu. We shared samples of a California Cabernet Franc, “Writer’s Block” (on special for $10), and a Barbera, “Marchisi di Barolo” ($9), and quickly ordered one of each.

We started with an order of the steamed mussels ($12), imagining multiple courses to follow. Its arrival coincided with that of a house-baked bread basket with olive breads, red pepper breads, and some plain rolls, all of which augmented the grilled bread slice that came with the mussels for dipping in the rich buttery sauce. The mussels were briny and clean, and the tasty breads went well with the sauce.

The expansive lunch menu included two intriguing-sounding soups, so again we ordered one of each (cups for $5). The one called Vongole e Fagioli (clams and beans) is a creamy delight that will not disappoint purists looking for clam chowder. The “escarole and white bean” is a classic presentation in a thick, creamy tomato stock. We enjoyed both.

When we arrived, we envisioned salads, sandwiches, and pasta entrees as sides. We would order grilled pizzas, we imagined, and perhaps share a panini.

But no, we were sated with the soups and mussels, and those dishes carried us hours into the evening, when we told a friend about our wonderful experience at Bucatini. “I heard it was expensive,” the friend said. We shared that our delicious, inventive, filling lunch totaled $22 for food: truly a bargain for a lovely restaurant on a beautiful Friday afternoon at the start of summer on Cape Cod.

Bucatino Restaurant and Wine Bar
7 Nathan Ellis Highway, North Falmouth, MA

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Moby Dick Brewing Co.

We stopped recently for lunch in one of New England’s most vibrant cities, a place shaped by a beautiful working waterfront, historic sites, unique and world-renowned museums, and a thriving cultural scene.  Boston? Providence? Portsmouth? Portland?

Nope, New Bedford. And if you haven’t been there recently, you need to visit.

Here’s a good reason: the Moby Dick Brewing Co., an authentic brewpub which recently opened on Union Street, one block from the Route 18 artery, and two from the state pier in one direction, and the famed New Bedford Whaling Museum in another. The food is delicious, the service excellent, and the space is a thoughtfully restored old building.

But let’s talk about the beer.  Park on the South Water Street side and walk up and you’ll see the beermaking equipment, smartly separated from the restaurant so the odor doesn’t permeate. We had the good sense to do a flight of four each, so we could sample each of the seven beers on offer that day, five weeks after the restaurant opened.  The range and variety of beers was remarkable, from a pale yellow unfiltered wheat to a frothy and nearly black Irish stout. Name any mass-produced beer, and the bar staff will match you up to a Moby Dick brew. Gina, not a beer drinker, liked the amber Ishm-Ale, and the Big Dog enjoyed the hoppy Sailors’ Delirium, a double IPA. All of the beers were good, though, and it was just a matter of personal preference.

A tray of four five-ounce pours is just $10, which felt like a very good value. And non-beer-drinkers shouldn’t feel left out — they have an excellent wine list, and we spotted some very special liquors on the shelf above the bar.

The lunch menu is short but wide-ranging, with a little bit of exotica balancing out the standards, and the dinner menu is as well.  (The website, we notice, does not include prices, but don’t be alarmed — we noted prices to be on the low side of reasonable.)

Gina started with a sweet potato and apple soup ($5), a thick and spicy blend topped with toasted sesame seeds. The Big Dog chose the salt cod chowder ($6), a very good twist on the standard chowder.

We split the marinated beet salad ($10): thick slices of beets that were likely roasted, then arrayed over what they call a whipped ricotta, mixed with shallots, which would have been outstanding on toast. The whole thing was topped with chopped cashews and microgreens and looked as good as it tasted.

But the star of the show for us was crispy fried fish sandwich ($12). A buttery bun was piled high with pickles, tartar sauce, lettuce, and a giant pouf of fried fish. If you’ve sworn off French fries, these need to be the ones for which you make an exception.  The whole thing was a messy, high calorie treat, plenty for two.

We think that a well-designed space can really enhance the experience of dining out, and the Moby Dick vibe is truly outstanding.  Every detail, from the beam over the bar from which bulbs dangle, to the iron pipe toilet paper dispenser in the restroom, to the subway tile behind the bar, celebrates the history of the building, and the oversized windows are a textbook tactic for enlivening a city block while connecting the people inside with the world beyond.

Combined with the great food, delicious beer, and good service, Moby Dick Brewing Co. offered a great special occasion experience, and the reasonable prices make it a sensible regular spot for a meal. We look forward to returning.

Moby Dick Brewing Co.
10 South Water Street, New Bedford

 

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Quicks Hole Tavern, Woods Hole

2017-01-27-19-27-38Q. What kind of people would write a glowing restaurant review after eating approximately three square inches of pork belly?

A. The kind of people who got the right seats.

Let us explain. We weren’t all that hungry on a recent visit to Woods Hole, so we decided to stop at the bustling Quicks Hole Tavern on a blustery Friday night for just a glass of wine and light snack. The first floor level was jam-packed, and we made our way up to the second floor where the only two seats available were at the chef’s table, a four-stool bar facing the cooking activity.

Gina ordered a Terra Grande Portuguese blend ($8) and the Big Dog selected a Familia malbec ($9). Both were good wines we hadn’t tried before.

As we perused the menu, waitstaff serving both floors, and likely the floor above us too, dashed in beside us to pick up orders. And 90 percent of them were burgers, even though there was no mention of burgers on our menu.  Burgers on plates, burgers in boxes, veggie burgers with Harvarti, burgers with salads, burgers with little tin cups of crispy fries, etc., etc. — they all went flying by.

We finally asked, and learned that burgers could only be ordered on the first floor of the restaurant. We briefly contemplated calling in an order to go from our seat next to the spot where they were dispensed, but we opted instead for an appetizer they call “pig candy” ($9) four slices of pork belly on a sweet potato puree. They were awesome.

But back to our review.

We watched as the four men in the kitchen braised lamb shanks, grilled steaks, sauteed juliennes of vegetables, pan-roasted chickens, and fried, then filled, little homemade donuts they put in a paper bags. We watched them test beef for doneness with a finger (a trick the Big Dog swears by). We watched them navigate the tiny space with nary a bump, criss-crossing paths as if they had done the dance a hundred times before.

Interestingly, we also watched as the line of cars waiting to board the Martha’s Vineyard ferry started to move, and the anxiety level among the waitstaff increased palpably. Not so the kitchen staff.  If the customer wanted chicken on his kale salad AND wanted to make the ferry, he should have ordered three minutes earlier. The customer knew that too, and shook off the waitstaff apologies as he grabbed his bag of takeout.

Quicks Hole offers an ever-changing charcuterie and cheese board, with three choices for $17, five for $22, and seven for $26. The choices looked interesting on the blackboard, and the board of three we saw looked like a generous serving for two people with all its accompaniments. We’ll likely try that on our next visit.

But watching the professionalism of the kitchen staff, we’re certain we’ll enjoy any selection from any of the restaurant’s menus. We look forward to returning.

Quicks Hole Tavern

6 Luscombe Ave., Woods Hole, MA

 

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Sagres Restaurant, Fall River

2016-11-09-14-55-23There are likely many great restaurants in Fall River, but we stumbled across one that we would recommend for any occasion: date night, snack while passing through, impressing clients or in-laws, lunch with Gramma (or Vovo), drinks with the gang, or, as in our case, to celebrate the Big Dog’s upcoming birthday.

On a recent mid-week, mid-afternoon visit to the usually busy Sagres, we were lucky enough to be served by a bartender, Raquel, who was willing and able to guide us through the choices on the menu… and some choices only available to those in the know. We emphasize that at regular mealtimes, waits are long, parking is scarce, and the experience at Sagres will be very different from ours. You know we always recommend late lunch/early dinner if you really want to enjoy the food, and our experience at Sagres should show why.

We struggled with the wine list for a bit, then Raquel stepped in with a taste of the house Portuguese red (not to be confused with any of the house American reds). It’s Parras Vinhos 2014 Castelo do Sulco Reserva Red, and subsequent research (89 Wine Enthusiast points) suggest it’s a steal at $25 a bottle.

We each chose one of the soups available for $4 for a hearty bowl. The Big Dog’s Caldo Verde was a creamy potato broth with kale and slices of linguica. Gina’s Sopa Portuguesa was a hearty blend of chopped vegetables in a tomato broth. We liked them both, and particularly enjoyed the Portuguese “pop” rolls that came alongside.

The Big Dog ordered one of a half dozen lunch specials: Peixe Racheado, fresh cod with a shellfish stuffing, served with the day’s vegetables, rice, and a couple of boiled potatoes ($21). The generous serving of cod was outstanding; the blend of broccoli, carrots, and green beans perfectly cooked; and the potatoes and rice were very good.  Both of us liked the taste of the stuffing but were put off by the goopy texture, and we were kind of surprised by the lack of discernible seafood in it.

Gina was unable to decide on an entree, and once again Raquel was there to help, telling us that not only was the shrimp mozambique available as a dinner, but we could do half shrimp and half scallops.  Sold, at $19. Gina’s selection came with the vegetables and a good green salad, tossed with oil and vinegar. It was a yummy, spicy take on mozambique sauce, and while the shellfish were a tad overcooked, anyone who enjoys mozambique sauce will love this dish.

As if all this wasn’t enough, we split a delicious Três Delicioso ($7), a new offering, known only to Raquel, featuring a layer of custard, a layer of chocolate mousse, a layer of whipped cream, and a coating of cocoa. Raquel brought us a takeout container for what we couldn’t finish, to tuck in the bag with the rest of our take-away, but we blasted through this enjoyable dessert, leaving only a pile of ashes where the decorative mini-trifle bowl had been. (Not entirely true, but we were unstoppable.)

Sagres is a white-tablecloth restaurant in a blue-collar neighborhood. Its decor is beautiful, food excellent, and, if our experience was any indication, its service is beyond outstanding. We will gladly return.

Sagres Restaurant

177 Columbia Street, Fall River

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Fishermen’s View, Sandwich

fishermen's view restaurant review sandwich maQ. What kind of person eats dinner at 3 in the afternoon?

A. The kind of person who wants a seat at the fabulous new restaurant at the Sandwich Marina.

Gina and the Big Dog planned a lunch visit to Fishermen’s View, only to find that this beautiful new spot at the Cape Cod Bay end of the Cape Cod Canal didn’t open until 3 p.m.  We enlisted reinforcements for another day and concluded that a mid-afternoon visit would be the best approach, given the many somewhat agitated comments online about long waits for dinner.

The four of us were seated on the deck overlooking the marina.  We saw no land mass on the horizon there but knew the next stop was Orleans on the Cape, and after that, somewhere in Portugal. The view of boat traffic on an early fall afternoon was entertaining and relaxing.

The restaurant is family owned and operated, and co-exists in its sleek new space with a fish market. We felt like we learned everything we needed to know about the business during our first visit, when we sat at the crowded bar, marveled at the view, ordered a glass of wine and insisted that’s all we wanted, and we were still treated to a basket of the restaurant’s outstanding herby cornbread with sweet butter.

During our more recent visit with friends, the cornbread was back, and once again set the tone for what was to come. We all loved it.

After the bread, we started with a half dozen Wellfleet oysters ($2.50 each) for the gentlemen and a buffalo cauliflower appetizer ($8) for the table.  The former were perfectly shucked and served with a trio of sauces. The latter was a linear arrangement of cauliflower florets that were deep fried and tossed in the familiar chicken wing sauce, then garnished with a Great Hill Blue cheese dressing and carrot ribbons. It’s a tasty, classy, somewhat healthy twist on the traditional bar snack, and a pretty hearty serving for the price.

The Big Dog ordered a burger ($11) with guacamole ($2) and chose potato salad from the extensive list of sides. It was good, but with its two angus patties, onion, “yellow cheese,” and puffy bun, it was just too tall to be easily eaten.

Gina can’t pass up a beet salad, so ordered this one ($11) with a Jonah crab “cocktail” topper ($9). She later likened it to a Twinkie, with a delicious muddled kale in lieu of creamy filling, and crunchy quinoa in lieu of yellow cake. And smokey roasted corn, and crisp pepitas, swirls of pickled onions, and sweet chunks of red beets, all topped with cotija cheese. The crabmeat came naked in a mound on the side. Don’t order this expecting a light meal — it was hearty and filling.

Our friends made their choice from the short but varied list of entrees: the pan-roasted halibut ($28) (shown), whose pancetta and red pepper sauce added a smokey flavor; and the skirt steak ($22), arriving as rare as hoped for, atop a fig risotto.

Gina and the Big Dog opted for a bottle of Josh cabernet ($34), while our friends enjoyed a pinot noir and a sidecar, whose amber color warmed our table.

Our server, who was personable but not to the point of introducing herself, was professional and capable. The food was very good to excellent, the venue comfortable yet sleek, the view was unparalleled, and for all that, the prices were surprisingly reasonable.  We look forward to returning in the off-season, when we might be able to enjoy dinner at dinnertime.

Fishermen’s View
20 Freezer Road, Sandwich

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Stomping Grounds, Buzzards Bay

2015-08-08 14.37.49We recently had our first meal, and possibly our last, at Stomping Grounds.  The food was excellent and inventive, and the outside seating atmosphere was as expected when along Main Street in Buzzards Bay, but the service was so flawed that under ordinary circumstances we would not provide a review, especially without a second visit.

However, we concluded that there are so few optimal days, weather-wise, for a restaurant with outdoor seating in our region, so when those optimal days occur, we have every reason to expect the restaurant staff to be on its “A” game. We visited Stomping Grounds on what had to be one of the nicest Saturday afternoons this summer, and we didn’t expect the 150-minute ordeal it became.

First, the good news: the Stomping Greens salad ($12) is hands-down one of the better salads we’ve had this year. It included generous additions of sliced green grapes, toasted pine nuts, chick peas, and roasted brussels sprouts.  We marveled at how much prep time that dish must have taken, and wondered why no one else had come up with this delicious combination.  It’s tossed with a light lemony parmesan dressing that makes all the ingredients sing. Twelve dollars for a salad? When your licked-clean plate is taken away from you, we promise, you will be thinking you got a great deal.

We also ordered an appetizer called “Spuds MacKenzie” ($8), described as “our twist on a classic favorite and a must try.” We did try, and while we have no clue what “classic favorite” this was twisting and found the presentation kind of weird, we liked it. Thin wedges of roasted red bliss potatoes were served with a a little bowl of dipping sauce that included gorgonzola blended with ground walnuts and bacon. Gina initially objected, saying it was too rich, but in no time was slathering it on the end of her salad.

We also enjoyed the Mediterranean Fish Stew ($16), another unexpected bargain. Served in an oversized bowl — too big, really, and it was difficult to get the spoon at the right scooping angle as a result — the soup had a rich tomato broth in which we found giant shrimp, scallops, tuna, mussels, carrots, celery, and potatoes. It came with grilled pita bread with a subtle curry topping, excellent to dip into the soup. This was Gina’s entree, and she took half home after sharing much with the Big Dog.

The Dog’s lunch was a Buzzards Bay Reuben ($10), which seemed like a regular Reuben.  There’s a choice of corned beef or turkey, and it comes with Cape Cod brand potato chips and some crisp, fresh, slaw made of red and green cabbage.

We ordered a bottle of Josh Cellars cabernet ($34), as it’s one of our favorites, and this proved to be a wise move, because we were able to pour ourselves a second glass while we were waiting for our food to arrive.

It took a bit for our waitress to make her way to our table, and she apologized excessively for the delay, and then for the fact that she had not brought menus.  When that finally happened, we selected the Josh from the short but carefully considered list of beer and wine options, plus artisanal spirits. Soon, the wine was delivered, opened, and ceremoniously poured by a young man in a grubby tee-shirt who we assumed to be a bus boy but who we later learned was the chef-owner. Note to chefs everywhere: Call us old fashioned, but we’ve chosen to spend a special occasion with you, and we think you should be dressed as if it’s a special occasion for you too. We want to believe you’re working magic in the kitchen, and if you feel more comfortable wearing a stained hoodie or a flour handprint on your pants, please don’t dash our illusions — stay in the kitchen.

(Rant over.  You know we believe that chefs and other restaurant staff are the hardest-working humans and we hate to criticize them.)

Our appetizers were delivered with another round of apologies, and this time, the Big Dog stepped in and asked the waitress to stop doing that.  We were enjoying a relaxing afternoon on a beautiful patio with a nice glass of wine, and the waitress’ implication that something was going terribly wrong was detracting dramatically from our enjoyment.  The young couple sitting near us snickered audibly, clearly having thought the same thing.

Twenty minutes later, with the sun beating down mercilessly, the wine bottle nearly empty, and our entrees yet to arrive, we regretted saying anything.  The waitress returned again empty handed, said she really needed to apologize now, and blamed someone else for losing our order.

Entrees arrived, we thought they were excellent, packed half for home, and that was that.

We realized, driving away, why this scene seemed not just unpleasant but inappropriate: because in the universal language of restaurants, the second “I’m so sorry” is followed immediately by, “… Save room for one of our outstanding desserts, on the house!” or “… We’ve taken that weird potato thing off your bill.”  None of that here.

Will we return? Too soon to tell. The food was excellent, but the fact remained that we spent $99, with beverage, tax, and tip (yes, 16.5 percent despite the flaws, mostly because Gina is not good at math) on a lunch that consisted of soup and salad, a sandwich, and an appetizer. We thought the food was a great value, but we did not get anything close to hundred-dollar service.

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Lobster Trap, Monument Beach

2015-02-27 14.35.28We have had many outstanding meals at the Lobster Trap in recent years.

Generally speaking, it’s our kind of place  Stretched along scenic Shore Road is first a wholesale fish market, then a retail market, then a room for takeout, then a delightfully rustic dining room, then a pub area with a handful of hightop tables on one side and a copper-surfaced bar on the other, then an outdoor patio, then the brackish Back River, which flows forcefully to and from Buzzards Bay with each tide.

Some come for the lively bar scene with periodic live music, some for the off-the-boat fresh fish in the market, some for the reasonably priced yet inventive meals in a dining room that’s as comfortable for toddlers as for Gramma.

We come for the water fowl, and we’re never disappointed.

Sure, the fish tacos featuring corn and black bean salsa ($12) are excellent. We love the beet napolean salad ($9) a composed structure of beets with blue cheese and not much else. The seafood stew ($8 for a 12-ounce cup) is rich and creamy, and the lobster roll ($21, but often available as part of a lunch special) makes you glad you live in New England even when it snows every day for two months. We like our Cabernet Sauvignon, and they have two good ones by the glass: Josh ($9) and Five Rows ($7).

But if you have any interest in wildlife, you’ll want to visit the Lobster Trap for lunch or an early dinner during the summer, and the food will take a back seat to the scene playing out before you at the bar.

The Back River is a tidal estuary which flows into a protected area known as Phinney’s Harbor.  During our visits, we’ve watched heron, egrets, osprey, swans, hooded mergansers, buffleheads, black ducks, and more. Most recently, we watched two flocks of Canada geese converge upon one another as if they were playing out a scene from “West Side Story.” The undertow is vicious, and the birds take full advantage, propelled inland under Shore Road, then bobbing back under the railroad bridge.

Others, we’re sure, come for the unusually pleasant staff.  This being a seasonal community — one we tend to avoid in the season — many patrons are greeted with a cheerful, “When did you get back!?”

During our most recent lunchtime visit, we experienced a rare misstep: the oversized “house-made brioche croutons” accompanying the caesar salad were like bricks.  The Big Dog’s topping of very good steak tips saved his salad, and Gina thought the classic dressing on her side version offset the crouton debacle. And the slightest expression of dismay on our part drew effusive apologies from our server, and complimentary wines for each of us. Things go wrong even at the best establishments, and the front-line staff’s handling of a complaint makes the difference between a customer who won’t return, and one who enthusiastically recommends the place.  As we recommend The Lobster Trap.

The Lobster Trap
290 Shore Road, Bourne

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Antonio’s, New Bedford

2015-01-17 14.01.27Spend enough time in the Southcoast region of Massachusetts, and you almost become an honorary Portuguese citizen. Most local restaurants  have kale soup and some sort of Mozambique dish on their menu. We like traditional Portuguese dishes and the zing that the colonies, notably Cape Verde and Brazil, have introduced.

That said, we must acknowledge that we’re a coupla pale-skinned Irish kids, and no Avo ever made us bacalhau. That can be good and bad when visiting an ethnic restaurant like Antonio’s.  On the plus side, it means that we didn’t grow up with a single preparation of a traditional dish and find all others just plain wrong.  Conversely, we don’t know when something has strayed so far from the traditional preparation as to be offensive to some.

Antonio’s has a very good reputation, and we’re pretty sure it doesn’t stray from tradition.  It has been around for 25 years.  At 2 p.m. one recent Saturday, every seat in the house was filled, which is weird — as you know, that’s our favored lunchtime, and we have never, ever, had to wait for a seat at that time anywhere, until we visited Antonio’s.

We were joined by Gina’s mom, brother, and sister-in-law, for a late Christmas get-together and gift exchange. They all live in the New Haven, CT, area, where ethnic restaurants are so common that you can choose not just the continent of origin, but the specific country — if you don’t care for the Ethiopian style of sambusa, you can find a Somalian restaurant instead, for example. But apparently New Haven doesn’t have any Portuguese restaurants, so our choice was simple.

The beer and wine list set the tone.  Gina chose an Esporao Reserva from the Alentejo region of Portugal, while the Big Dog and Gina’s brother chose a Buzzards Bay Brewery IPA from the Westport region of Massachusetts. Everyone was happy with their selection.

For those new to Portuguese cuisine: It is carb-intensive. Most of our entrees came with a yummy yellow rice AND potatoes.  AND a delicious bread basket of fresh rolls and bread slices.  AND we ordered soups thickened by potato and/or beans. AND we ordered dizzyingly delicious custards in puff pastry for dessert.  We were all ready to run a marathon the next day, and we’re sure some people do that.

The kale soup ($2.99) was delicious, but Avo would probably be opposed. Most of the preparations we’ve seen feature an oily beef broth with red kidney beans, sliced kale leaves, and hunks of chourico. This soup base was velvety, creamy, and thick, unlike anything we had seen. There were white AND red beans in evidence.  AND macaroni. AND we’re sure there were some potatoes involved in the broth, all carrying on the carb tradition.  This version had some strips of kale leaves, but the unusual addition of cabbage, cut from the stem end in a manner that invited the curly leaves to hang together in a very appealing way. We loved this soup, and will go back just for that.

We’ll hope for bread with our soup. The overflowing basket included some slices of white bread, and a half dozen “pops,” the Portuguese rolls officially known as papo secos.

Gina’s mom ordered the Chicken Algavaria ($14.99), and it stole the show. We should have known what was in store when the affable waitress brought the rest of us silverware, and Mom a shovel.  The dish arrived in an aluminum vessel the size of a child’s wading pool.  It was chock full of shrimp, littleneck clams, and chunks of boneless chicken tossed with saffon rice. We’re kidding about the shovel and the wading pool, but after Mom ate her portion and shared oversized tastes with the rest of us, she asked for the leftovers to be divided into two separate to-go containers, and the one we took home weighed four pounds.  Four pounds! This was A BIG PORTION. At lunch!

Gina ordered the grilled swordfish ($13.99) which came with hunks of peeled white potatoes and broccoli, and took more than 60 percent of the fish and potatoes home. Big Dog ordered a lamb skewer ($13.99) which came with the saffron rice and a delicious salad, and took 70 percent of the lamb and rice home.  Gina’s brother ordered Steak Tips Diane ($15.99), a creamy preparation that came with rice and french fries of which he took home 55 percent. Slim sister-in-law ordered a crab cake dish ($9.99) and managed to finish it, which made us assume it was an appetizer portion.

Bottom line: the five of us ended up with 13 meals averaging less than $6 apiece.

We all ended the meal with a Nata Custard Tart, a special for $1.25 apiece. We’re thinking it was a puff pastry pressed into a muffin tin and filled with a thin custard. When we come back for our kale soup and pops, please add one of these to our order. It was delicious and fun.

The decor at Antonio’s is pleasant and clean but not fancy. The service is suited to a white tablecloth setting, not the stacking-chair-and-paper-placemat scene we got. Overall, we felt our expectations were exceeded throughout our visit, and there is no higher compliment to a restaurant.

Antonio’s Restaurant
267 Coggeshall Street, New Bedford
508-990-3636

 

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Brew Fish, Marion

hummingbirdBrew Fish opened at the site of the former Wave early last summer and we’ve made about a gazillion visits there since, each time fervently hoping that the restaurant would deliver the across-the-board good dining experience we know they can. We were consistently thwarted:  delicious food but inattentive service, bad food but we were treated like royalty, sometimes the food and service were both just plain weird.

Our recent lunch with our friends Lee and Carl seemed like a perfect time to stop waiting and just do it. Carl is facing the worst kind of health problems.  We’ve only known him for a few years and feel cheated that we didn’t have longer together, but we’re sure that even folks who have known him their whole lives feel the same way.  We know that he is a musician and a windsurfer and that he worked as a letter carrier in Lakeville, MA, where everyone on his route knows and loves him.  He explained what we were doing wrong with our hummingbird feeder and his fix resulted in a whole flock (see one above) invading our back yard, to our delight.

And he’s made us look a little differently at the notion of procrastination.

So we were bound and determined to tell about our experience at Brew Fish this time. And that visit was the best we’ve had.

Our friends started with cranberry juice, while Gina ordered a Bonterra organic cabernet ($9) and the Big Dog chose a Moby D from nearby Buzzards Bay Brewery ($5). Brew Fish’s emphasis on local beer and wine is a real selling point in our book, and we’ve found that indecision among those seated at the bar is frequently rewarded with a slew of complimentary samples.  Also flights are available for trying the ever changing seasonal taps.

So now let us tell you about the house soup, because it freaks us out every time we go there, and this time Gina ordered it.  It’s a steamy concoction of clams, chourico, potatoes, kale, and vegetables in a creamy broth.  Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?  It is!  Gina ordered a crock ($6) and loved it.

But on the menu it’s called “ch’ale” and billed as a combination of chowder and kale soup.  Yuck!  This poor soup definitely needs an agent.

Anyhow, Gina partnered her soup with a side Caesar salad ($5) and was delighted that when she asked server Colleen to hold the parmesan hunks that so frequently mar a perfectly good plate of romaine and delicious dressing, it actually happened.

The Big Dog ordered a chicken parmesan sandwich ($12).  It was a bit dry (“over cooked”) despite a slather of marinara sauce and melted cheese, but it was also enough for six people.  He swapped out the fries for a side salad without any drama.

Lee ordered a spinach salad ($11), and got a beautiful blend of fresh baby spinach topped with bacon bits, goat cheese, red onion, and red pepper, drizzled as promised with a raspberry vinaigrette.

Carl’s Brew Fish Cheeseburger ($10) was piled high with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion, and served with a heap of pale but crispy seasoned fries.

The folks who own Brew Fish did an outstanding job of renovating the Wave space.  The interior is sleek and urban, and on a previous visit, the bartender showed us how she can control subtle neon backlights behind the rough-hewn bar and around the tray ceiling.

During our visit with Lee and Carl we sat in one of the comfortable booths that surround the open dining area.  We usually sit at the bar, where the comfy seats are among the restaurant’s great features.

The Wave was an interesting place that attracted grizzled locals, sparkly students, and families, and it appears that Brew Fish is pulling the same mixed crowd. We wish the owners well and look forward to the day when we can say with confidence that they have worked out all the kinks.

As for Lee and Carl, they’ve also introduced us to a whole brew of cool music over the few years, and we’ve made plans to join them to see a show at the Narrows Center for the Performing Arts in Fall River this weekend.

Brew Fish
210 Spring Street, Marion

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