Monday, August 25, 2014

Two great New England restaurants mix it up ( Myers + Chang , Central Provisions)

Being from one side of the Atlantic and living on the other, I'm often wary what to expect when dining out in the US. As a person who has to be up to date on the food world, I'm pretty well informed on what's going on in New York, Los Angeles and to a lesser degree other cities where I have friends or where there might be some new trend going on, or a hot new chef appeared on some list. Often, the best restaurants are French inspired, pale imitations of great bistros in my hometown of Paris, so I tend to shy away from Gallic grub of any sort. This time around, two places caught my eye. The first, Myers + Chang drew my attention, and after a bit of research seemed my kind of place. The iconoclastic chef owner Joanne Chang, is a local TV celeb chef, is a baker by trade, and before that a Harvard trained mathematician, and her husband Christopher Myers, a local restaurateur. The spot, located in a somewhat post industrial/hip neighbourhood in the South End of Boston, has a buzzing bar, communal dining space and a few tables strewn here and there, all full of people sharing dishes and looking happy. There was a good mix of families, hipsters, local folks, foodies all tucking into a menu composed of a mash up of Thai, Chinese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese comfort food. And it was gooood. Generously portions, affordable , accompanied by local craft beers. The Tiger's Tears and Green Papaya Slaw were faithful renditions, but the General Myers' Chicken Wings, glazed in a deep, earthy orange sauce and just spicy enough and the Chicken and Ginger Waffles with sesame honey butter really hit the spot, especially with a chilled can of Rhode Island Narragansett.

The second place, Central Provisions, opened up early this year in the seaport area of Portland, Maine, a hour and a half's Amtrak ride up the New Hampshire and Maine coast. Located in a period brick building, the restaurant is comprised of a few tables and a bar along the open kitchen. Recently chosen as the 6th Best New Restaurant in the USA (and the only one in New England) by Bon Appetit magazine's Andrew Knowlton, I thought I'd give it a whack, as I always trust his friendly judgement. A couple days after the announcement, they still seemed very calm, so I'd go now if you want to sample this walk in only hotspot. BA especially noted their crudo style cuisine, with lots of raw and sashimi like dishes (Gould once worked at Boston chef Ken Oringer's Uni Sashimi Bar) and the menu is comprised mostly of small plates meant for sharing. Their sea bream ceviche with kumquat, rhubarb and puffed rice won dish of the year 2014.  We burned through a number of small plates, some of the best of which were local heirloom tomatoes with burrata, tuna crudo, spicy beef salad with LOTS of peanuts and not a whole lot of beef , their famous bread and butter (fresh bread with a giant farm egg yolk reconstituted and mixed with nasturtium butter) , forgettable "spicy" fried potatoes, green curry lobster toast , and a selection of local (Vermont?) cheeses with candied dates. They have a nice little selection of local craft beers, and wines are mostly Spanish, Italian and Austrian. Pretty much the perfect lunch and a quick rail journey from the family compound in SE New Hampshire.

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