A kitchen with a light hand, dishes with a distinctive Californian ease, full of elegantly clean and seamless flavour combinations.
The crab and cod brandade beignets are beignets only with poetic license, but it's still very good. Substantial crab mingles well with a hot puff of cod and pureed potato, breadcrumbed and deep fried. It's touched with suitable dabs of a tangy remoulade (a tartare like sauce). The sharpness of watercress cuts cleanly through the richness.
Many flavours and textures come together artfully in the Moroccan lamb. Firm but tender lamb against soft eggplant, crunchy twigs of almond slivers, and large pearly nubs of Israeli cous cous (quite unlike the fluffy Moroccan rendition). Complex spices build in the woodsy sauce, with perhaps coriander and pepper being the most haunting. This comes against the orange peel in the eggplant, melding with a whisper of herbs (mint?) and the tang of yogurt over the cous cous. A loving match with the dark fruit laden syrah (a quick check of their website reminds me it's the 2001 Tardieu-Laurent, Les Grands Augustins).
I truly admire the kitchen's dedication to New England cheeses, all stunningly good. Descriptions of all the cheeses are on their website, I'll just say that my favourite was the 'Capri' Hubbardston Blue Cow, with a nutty flavour that somehow reminded me of fragrant shrimp sambal. Medjool dates are a great match for the cheese, the marinated figs pleasant and light but not nearly as complementary as the intense dates.
The gorgeously dense Valrhona chocolate cake, when paired with caramel ice cream on a platform of dates, recalled a sherry or tawny port-like match with chocolate. I bet a tawny port would be great here.
If the other dishes are this good, Arbor would definitely rank as one of my favourite places in the area. Prices are reasonable, main courses maxing out at ~$24.
Best seat in the house is easily the bar seat in the corner round from the espresso machine -- offers an exciting view of everything that comes out of the kitchen.