By The BaldOne
There are often times when you tune out a place even though your experiences in the past have been positive. This is especially true of restaurants, and most especially true in Salem. Our choices here are vast and varied.
The Hawthorne Hotel, with four options for dining, two each at the hotel itself and two at the PEM may have one particular spot that has fallen victim to its own success. Many of us visit the Tavern. It is a favorite winter time spot of ours. The museum draws its own crowd.
NAT’S, known formally as Nathaniel’s Restaurant seems in our eye to be the primary victim of so many Salem options. Maybe it is seen only a more formal, “tie and jacket” option.
Not any more, not to us. We recently visited and were favorably impressed all the way around. The fact that a couple of us hadn’t been there in a while, and at least one had never eaten there created a situation that the NAT’S team was well prepared to use to their advantage.
The decor is formal but not stuffy. A well lit room is pleasant to see and the locally themed artwork and photos present an opportunity for conversation and perhaps a little reminiscing. The Grand Piano at the far end, which on a Monday night featured an actual piano player was a surprising plus. I spoke with him of the days when the Piano Man himself would visit Salem with Christie Brinkley.
Klassic Geoff started with the Moules Mariniere. For those who do not parlay francais, that would be mussels in white wine. He was quite impressed. “Generous, plump, flavorful, broth was bright and fresh with a nice color.”
The First Lady and Salem Jean split the Beet Carpaccio, which is baby arugula, evoo, parmesan, sea salt, and fresh black pepper drizzled with a balsamic glaze. The staff plated it for two and it was quite the hit. Jean found that “the light dressing really allowed the beet flavor to come through.”
For me it was the Non-Traditional New England Chowder of shrimp, clams, scallops, diced potatoes, and cream. Like Goldilocks and her porridge I prefer my chowder neither too thick or too thin. The consistency of the broth was perfect and there was plenty of non-potato ingredients in each spoonful. This particular bowl had some nice chunks of scallops.
The main courses around the table were the Spiced-Honey Rubbed Half-Chicken for the First Lady, Chimay Infused Short Ribs for Salem Jean, Roasted Duck Breast for Klassic Geoff, and for the BaldOne the Steak & Fries.
Lets lay it out for all to see.
Spiced-Honey Rubbed Half-Chicken - In the First Lady’s own words. “My Chicken Dish was cooked perfectly along with the potato croquettes and grilled asparagus.” The First Lady eats out quite often and is not often so effusive in praise, so these are heady words. The plate comes with a grapefruit gastrique. The asparagus was a house substitution for the green beans listed on the menu.
Chimay Infused Short Ribs - “The taste was good and the meat melted in my mouth. The baby carrots were complimented by the herb topping (pesto and evoo),” said Salem Jean.
Roasted Duck Breast - Klassic Geoff opines, “I was a little afraid of the candied orange concept, but it brought out just enough sweet without overpowering. The grilled baby asparagus had a nice blackened tip and was really done very well. The blend of wild rices complimented the duck and matched the orange sauce nicely.”
Steak & Fries - There are a few good places for a steak in Salem. In this guys mind there are only two places for a great steak. NAT’S is one of them. Big Steve and his boys in the kitchen know their temperatures, something that is becoming rare these days. My steak was rare as ordered, tender, full of flavor and complimented greatly by the garlic herb butter. Roasted cauliflower and brussels sprouts were excellent, and the truffle-salted fries a nice touch on the side.
The service by Cody was excellent. He is attentive, polite, conversant, and able to withstand a little ribbing from a strange group of food loving local characters.
We will save the deserts, which went over very well for our soon to be seen “Deserts in Salem” feature.
Put NAT’S on your schedule for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and try the fare out for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
Address: 18 Washington Square W, Salem, MA 01970