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Restaurants & Bars 4

Delicious Chaos - Canteen

JojoA | Feb 12, 200611:25 PM

It’s been a place that’s received many reports on this board, but here are my two-cents on Canteen, which I’ve managed to sample for both brunch and dinner in the past few weeks.

The interior of Canteen is interesting - to me, it looks like someone sliced off the counter and kitchen portion part of a (tiny) diner and dropped it into a modern, hip-looking college dorm. And as most people know, seating is limited - 20 people maximum at any one time.

The construct of the space, plus the small number of people staffing the restaurant (two waitstaff each time I visited, with two kitchen staffpersons at brunch/three at dinner), leads to an “organized chaos” that is intriguing to watch. Sitting at the counter as a solo diner allowed me to focus in on this fascinating frenzy; it personally amazes me how they keep things running as efficiently as they do. I do worry, though, how anyone can keep working at the frenzied pace that seems to be the norm for extended periods at a time without eventually feeling burned out.

I managed to drop in without a reservation and secure the one lone chair available at the counter for dinner on Saturday (I wouldn’t try that strategy with a larger group; a group of four tried and failed to get a table just as I was about to leave.)

Frankly, I could’ve been content with the Spring Onion Soup (with tuna confit and a sprinkling of curry; I haven’t had a soup this creamy and rich in awhile) and the awesomely buttery brioche (a little tub of butter was given but hardly needed.) Next came my effort to be “good” for the night - a hazelnut-crusted scrod (the waiter informed me it was line caught from Massachusetts) with braised leeks and brown butter. I savored every moment of this dish - light, flaky, and definitely not fishy tasting. I’m not normally into wine, but I tried a glass of the Broadbent Verde Vinho - it went very well with the scrod, and the light carbonation was a nice surprise. Finally, I tried to avoid dessert, but I broke down when I saw one of the carmelized banana tart with rum raisin ice cream dishes scoot by. When my order arrived and I took my first bite, I knew I had pretty much lost any gains I made on my morning run, but I didn’t care - the dessert was a great topper to a wonderful meal.

Everyone around me at the counter seemed equally satisfied with their respective choices, which looked yummy on their own, especially the braised shortrib and the coquettes with chocolate sauce. The bill for dinner, including tax and tip, was $60.

I also had a nice brunch a couple weeks prior involving a yummy chupacabra - soft-scrambled eggs, stewed peppers, black beans, and chorizo - and an orange juice. I guess my only nitpick was I wished there was more chorizo (a pleasantly spicy version) present in the dish.

I can see how Canteen’s constant frenzy and the space itself might be distracting to some (it's not a place for a quiet dinner or a romantic evening out for sure). But I’m guessing for most, it’s the food that counts, and Canteen’s definitely got the goods in that area.

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