143 MAIN ST.
ASSESSMENT: Star turn.
OPEN: Every day for dinner. Reservations necessary.
PRICE RANGE: Main courses, $28 to $39; appetizers, $11 to $23; six-course
tasting menu, $85.
CREDIT CARDS: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Steps at entrance.
DIRECTIONS: North side, diagonally across from Guild Hall.
Four stars mean outstanding; three, excellent; two, very good; one, good; none,
fair or poor.
The 1770 House is elegantly reborn in 2002 as the showcase of chef Kevin
Penner, the original chef at Della Femina and The Star Room, here completes
his culinary hat trick in a charming, very old and very new place.
Through the years, the vintage inn has hosted eateries sporting dishes as
different as Senate bean soup and monkfish foie gras. Penner makes all that
seem like fast food.
His performance takes place on a carefully fashioned stage, currently
framed by Christofle tableware and Laguiole cutlery. The set is in hues of
cream, with accents architectural and antique, tropical and modern. Overhead,
exposed beams underscore the inn's longevity. The handsome wood tables suggest
another era, too. Wicker brings in a country touch.
Penner's eclectic cuisine and ever-changing menu are a fine balance of
subtle and bold, full of harmonious, East-West interplay. Begin with a
decidedly Eastern approach: meltingly tender braised pork belly, atop Asian
greens, sparked by a sweet Thai chile sauce.
Continue in that direction with vivid, chopped raw tuna, precisely molded,
served with a radish salad, soy sauce and juice from yuzu, a Japanese fruit
that hints of grapefruit and mandarin orange.
Move westward with a slablet of roasted Hudson Valley foie gras, balanced
at the other side of the rectangular plate with a blueberry pancake and vanilla
essence, an unexpected coupling that works.
Enjoy salads. The selections include an Italianate union of baby arugula,
fava beans, prosciutto, pecorino cheese and walnuts in a lemon-black pepper
vinaigrette; another of heirloom tomatoes, yellow and red, with ricotta salata,
micro-greens and a garlic-caper vinaigrette; and a third, the savory alliance
of mache, endive, Maytag blue cheese, Charentais melon, bacon, candied walnuts
and sherry vinaigrette. A lot of the sourdough and olive-studded rolls will
have vanished by this course.
Roasted Maine diver scallops arrive with chanterelles, peas and a rush of
thyme. They're plump and delectable. Risotto Milanese goes lavishly local with
Montauk lobster, plus fennel, garlic and basil. But the rice stays a bit firmer
than necessary and the ingredients don't quite meld.
Montauk striped bass is deftly roasted and turned Provencal with tomatoes,
rosemary, sweet basil essence and a gratin of Nicoise olives. But it seems
almost common compared with the eastbound, sweet skate wing, a seductive number
with black rice, and a marvelous green curry sauce that adds an undercurrent
Turbot is roasted, sauced with tomato-and-tarragon, joined by pea shoots
and chanterelles. Miso-glazed Scottish salmon swims farther across the border
with wasabi sauce, hearts of palm, mango and scallion salad.
Thai yellow curry sauce fuels rosy, grilled squab. The bird receives an
added tingle from the company of spicy kimchi and mango. It's a stirring,
The grilled loin of Colorado lamb is exceptional, seasoned with rosemary
and emboldened by sweet garlic, cured olives and tomatoes. The hefty grilled
rib-eye of beef rests on a snowy potato puree, and is defined by its vinous
Desserts are artful affairs. The caramelized banana tart finds a foil in
toasted-almond ice cream. Steamed lemon pudding is matched with lemon confit
and raspberry sorbet.
Buttermilk panna cotta has nectarine salad on one side, peach sorbet on the
other, strands of basil weaving a bridge of sorts. The satisfying wild Maine
blueberry financier is improved by vanilla ice cream and a blueberry coulis.
Valrhona chocolate ice cream is the mate of warm chocolate cake.
You'll want to linger over these sweets, or the cheese plate with that
Charentais melon and white truffle honey. Perhaps decide on which vintage of
Chateau d'Yquem sings to you, or whether a glass of vintage Port will do. Maybe
consider sherry or grappa, Cognac or Calvados. Expect attentive, expert
All this activity, of course. will result in your giving a very personal
boost to the regional economy. But you'll also know very quickly that you've
spent more for less elsewhere.
Deep in September, 2002 is about 1770.
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