I guess it is all about anticipation and expectations. The more I heard and read about 'Market' the more conjuring I could do, envisioning a flavorful, creative menu with selections of fresh local seafood, brimming with local produce and products. Reading how the source of the seafood is Cape Ann Fresh catch and the owner's singular mission and dedication to the 'eat local' movement - we were primed for a bon vivant dining experience. Since the menu is headed with a lobster motif and the website picture shows a freshly herbed pile of steaming crabs and bivalves, we had only good things to expect.
Unfortunately, this place is all hype and no heart. The menus' only seafood offering was literally, a single sardine, supposedly a 'local' one although I have lived on Cape Ann for 15 years and have never known anyone to catch a sardine, let alone serve one. But order it we did and it was grilled and served on a plate with a shred of cucumber and some kind of creamy horseradish. It was nothing special, if just plainly uninteresting. Another appetizer, a beet salad, was just passable, with nothing noteworthy about any of it. A break of fresh cracked pepper and a teaspoon of olive oil might have made all the difference but it was not to be. Perhaps too it might have tasted better if one could see it; the lighting was very low and made all the food look gray and uninviting. Part of the sensory experience was missing: good visuals. I am all for heirloom tomatoes but I like to be able to see them too.
Considering the proximity of this eatery to the plentiful seas (down the gangplank!) of Ipswich and Essex bays and onto the Atlantic Ocean which are brimming this time of year with clams, squid, bluefish, bass, flounder, scallops, tuna, haddock, lobster, mussels....none of these prized harvests made their way onto the menu. The local markets throughout the region are fully stocked with these selections; all local all fresh. But not at Market. Very odd. Were there some local choices? Sure, Russel Farms cider, some goat cheese from Topsfield - good enough but nothing out of the ordinary. I can open my fridge at home for the same but I digress....
We had three dinner choices, each unremarkable: A short rib dish, a spaghetti dish and a wild sockeye salmon dish. How a North Pacific species made the swim all the way up the Annisquam is quite an accomplishment, no doubt, and it was a very tasty dish for all the effort. We don't however expect to go to seaside restaurant in the heart of Cape Ann and find the only seafood offerings to be a slightly suspect sardine and a west coast salmon. I had the short rib since I never order salmon and had no interest in the spaghetti. I hate ordering by default and the short rib (not from a local beef producer I would guess) left me wanting. A single rib on a few shards of 'rocket salad' - $24.00.
Service overall was chaotic and inconsistent; dishes were placed without regard to who-ordered-what; we had to re-arrange our plates once the service left. After we ordered the disappointing sardine and beet salad, it seems that the server forgot that we had not ordered our mains. A wine glass went unfilled after a forgotten refill request, we had to ask for olive oil...just the little things that matter when you are out for a fine meal that seemed here to get overlooked. There is no 'wine list' - they had two wines - a Merlot and a house white; their pouring license is new but a couple of recognizable reds and whites. vintages, maybe a proseco, would be nice. We did start with our BYO chardonnay which had a $10 corkage fee.
Details matter - from top to bottom - menu choices, overall quality, service - this place did not impress me at all. I so wanted to love it and perhaps therein was the source of my disappointment. Then again, the hype, the promise of something special with emphasis on fresh and local - what can I say: Market did not deliver. Rarely can I recall when the hype so far exceeded reality. Dinner for 4, with tip and two glasses of wine: $200.00
No reason to go back.