Local 121 got a new executive chef, Tyler Demora, last fall. Frankly, I was glad to hear it. Local 121 was one of those place where the food was always fine, but rarely great, which was too bad given how awesome the restaurant space is. The dining room has such an elegant, luxe feel, and the historic bar is a true classic. Meals never quite seemed to come together, however, despite the occasional hit. Chef Demora has been in the house for six months, and we finally decided to go back and see what he'd made of the menu.
What a wonderful surprise--our meal was top-notch! We brought some friends to try it with us, and needless to say, we were pleased and relieved by the quality of the food. We started with clam chowder, the charcuterie board, seared scallops, and calamari. It all sounds pretty standard, but there was enough originality in the execution to keep it interesting. The clam chowder was, in my friend's estimation, "perfect," served with fresh steamed clams. The fried calamari could have been slightly crispier (probably the only culinary ding against the meal,) but it was tender and came with quick kimchi and black garlic sauce that were both so so tasty. The charcuterie board was a huge hit--enormous portions of high quality cured pork, duck liver pate, head cheese terrine, some sort of (tasty) roulade, house mustard, pickled spring vegetables, and grilled bread. What a feast! Alas, we didn't get to taste much of the scallops, because my husband inhaled them too quickly.
For entrees, we tried house spaghetti with prosciutto sauce (an umami explosion between the cured meat, black olives, and parmesan), the house pappardelle with rabbit, prunes, and bitter chocolate (probably our least favorite entrée and still better than most of what we've had out recently,) fluke with rhubarb, cauliflower, pistachios, and champagne crème (perfectly tangy to go with the moist, fresh fish,) and the modern burger (I didn't taste it, but it went fast.)
For dessert, maple mousse and the ice cream sampler, both thoroughly enjoyed. Drinks were fantastic, and the bartender gamely fulfilled my request for an interesting virgin cocktail. Our only complaint is that the draught beer selection was pretty boring (Allagash White, Narragansett, Sam Adams, etc.) For a restaurant with an emphasis on the local, they really need a few good local brews on tap.
If you'd given up on Local 121 like we had, you might want to give the restaurant a second shot. It will definitely be going back into our regular rotation.
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