****This Restaurant Has Closed****
The Night Kitchen, currently the Town of Montague's only upscale restaurant following the closing of Turners Falls' Ristorante DiPaolo, was a mixed bag for me. I went with family to celebrate my step-grandmother's 80th birthday, and there were some great moments, and some things that really fell short for me. They do get extra credit for naming themselves after the Maurice Sendak book In the Night Kitchen; Sendak was one of my favorites as a child, and though I don't specifically recall reading that book, Where the Wild Things Are will forever be on top of my list of great children's books.
As far as ambiance, the restaurant does well; it is located on the bank of a small, as best I can tell unnamed river that runs along Greenfield Rd in Montague Center, and is nicely decorated in a rustic sort of way. It is not too dark, though the lights definitely dimmed from when I arrived at 7:00pm to when we all departed at 9:00pm, to just on the edge of where I would have thought they were too dark. The kitchen is visible from the majority of the dining room, something which some people like, though quite honestly, unless I am eating sushi I don't really care about.
|Parsnip, Leek and Potato Soup with arugula oil and smoke paprika|
The polenta was flat out disappointing, served in a tiny cast iron "skillet" with garlic mushrooms and mozzarella. The polenta itself was flavorless, thick and with a cement-like consistency. I've made better, my mother has made better, and any Italian who ate it would probably take it as a personal insult. All in all, one of the worst items I have ever had in a fine-dining establishment; stay away. The flatbread, on the other hand, was spectacular. With white Spanish anchovies and some gruyere melted on top, it was salty and savory, as well as a tiny bit sweet from some caramelized onions. This was a great, simple, but elegant appetizer that any restaurant would be proud of, and I am still kind of regretting not grabbing another piece of it.
Entrées were also a mixed result, as I loved my dish, but my step-dad and his mother felt that theirs were served a little cooler than they should be. In fact, my step-grandmother sent her dish, the Seared Duck Breast, back to be re-warmed. When it returned, she very much enjoyed it. My step-dad's Grilled Bistro Steak, which he ordered medium, was on the medium-rare side of that, which was fine with me when I tasted it, and I thought it was both well cooked and tasted great. My mother had the Grilled Pork Rib Chop, a bone in chop stuffed with black mission figs; it was decent, better than I expected (though I must admit that I expect poor results anytime someone orders a pork chop at a restaurant, as they typically overcook them horribly; it's why I enjoy the pork chops at Hope and Olive so much), but still not as juicy as I'd have liked, though it certainly tasted good.
My entrée was solid, a Potato Crusted Arctic Char, served with an orange and radish slaw and
|Potato Crusted Arctic Char with orange radish slaw and horseradish crème|
|Salted Caramel Pudding|
Service was...interesting. Our waitress was friendly enough, but a little blah; she did not seem to have any kind of actual personality. Now, I'm not saying I want wait staff to be super effervescent, but my lord, be more than a soft spoken automaton! Timidity is a poor trait in a service industry, and I hope it was just that she was new, but she could not even muster much more than a "they're both really good" when I asked if she recommended the Char versus the Trout. The waiter who took our dessert order was much, much better, a strong personality without overdoing it. The waitress that my step-grandmother spoke to when she sent back her entrée was similarly good, apologizing profusely and immediately taking the dish back to be re-done, but never seemed to be overwhelmed by anything. She may have been a manager of some sort, because I don't believe I ever saw her actually taking orders from anyone.
All in all, this was a fine meal, one that was better than anything else you could find in Montague, but not really equal to the food you would find at Hope and Olive or at several places in Northampton, Brattleboro or even Sunderland. I would go back for two reasons: one, the deck outside is perfect for a summer date; and two, for that salted caramel. The prices are not unreasonable, but for the same money, I think you can do better.
With my dinner I had a glass of the Berkshire Brewing Company River Ale, a mediocre, at best, beer that I will never have again. I am a fan of BBC, with the Lost Sailor IPA, Drayman's Porter, and Steel Rail Pale Ale all personal favorites of mine, but this was just a poor beer. Their website says it has a "slight" sweetness, but it's really more of a whack you over the head amount of sweet. It is a high alcohol beer at 7%, and its saving grace is that it does not taste like it has that much booze; that said, I cannot in good conscience recommend this, as it is simply a more expensive, darker version of Bud Light Platinum. Stay away, and try one of the other three I listed instead.
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