Last night, Barbarella and I, together with my parents dined at the new State Road Restaurant in North Tisbury. The restaurant is located on State Road (duh) across from the Vineyard Glassworks on the site previously occupied by (depending on one's history with Martha's Vineyard), Hortense Haynes's ice cream stand, Fat Tony's, Tony's Garden, The Red Cat, Icehouse, Bittersweet, and most recently Deon's.
The building is now owned by Mary and Jackson Kenworth who also own the Slice of Life Restaurant in Oak Bluffs. Over the winter, the property underwent a complete rebuild resurrecting it from the heavy damage caused to Deon's by a fire last fall. The 1,583 sq. ft. Deon's had seating for 44. State Road has been able to expand that to 2,154 sq. ft. with seating for 60. One of the restaurant's staff told us that the chef used to work at Moxie -- a restaurant at which we've had some enjoyable meals -- before it burnt down last year.
The quality of the renovation is first-class. Clearly a lot of money has been put into the project so one gets the impression that the Kenworth's are serious about staying in this location for a while. The style is what I am oxymoronically calling Contemporary Colonial. Dark wood tables sans table cloths, splindle-back chairs, high, peaked farmhouse ceiling, chandeliers of bare edison bulbs hanging from hoops of rustic iron, and a beautiful handwrought stone fireplace. The quality of the restoration continues outside with the beautiful landscaping. Hydrangeas along the front side of the building and raised beds growing a wide variety of herbs along either side of the flagstone walkway to the door. We'll see how long that herb garden lasts before the rabbits and deer find it. The gravel parking lot behind the restaurant is bout as nice as a parking lot can be and it has been expanded from the old restaurant to include more spaces. It runs back to a shed (now expanded to make an office) that sits at the back of the property along side a decent-sized vegetable garden.
The acoustics of the restaurant are quite lively -- lots of bare surfaces to reflect the sound. Based upon their menu pricing and the preponderance of spry, well-heeled, people of retirement age that live in the area, my guess is that the median age of their clientele is likely to be about 60. Not that they are serving old people food -- they are not, but I wonder how long it will be before they add some sound treatment to the ceiling to aid those whose hearing may not be what it once was.
Prices at State Road are on par with a number of the upper-middle end restaurants on the island -- apps in the teens, entrees ranging from $19 - $38. North Tisbury is a dry town so it is BYOB -- corkage is $9/bottle. The style of cuisine is Contemporary American.
When we were there the restaurant had just been open a week but service was smooth and professional. The owner and the chef would occasionally walk the dining room to make sure things were going well.
We began with two apps and a soup:
Fried artichokes with a yougurty dipping sauce and lemon. Light and delicious.
Mussels in a light, thai-style coconut sauce. The mussels were good -- fresh and plentiful, and the sauce nice enough though a bit bland I thought. No spice, and only the barest hint of coconut left me wishing for a bit more oomph.
The soup was a fresh green pea soup with some whole fresh peas, a bit of orzo, and lobster meat in it. This was perhaps the best thing we put in our mouths all night. I thought that the lobster meat and the orzo were a bit gratuitous, because the soup itself -- light, buttery, resplendent with the flavor of freshly-shelled peas -- was a delight that needed no tarting up.
Four our "entrees", two of us opted to order a second app and the other two ordered true entrees.
The first app/entree comprised braised sea scallops, two kinds of beans (fava and one brown type I forget) and Indian curried onion rings. When queried, our server indicated that the app came with "two or three scallops", but that if we wanted to super-size it (she didn't use those exact words -- she asked if we wanted to make it an entree) the dish would have "five or six scallops". Choosing to stick with the app size, Barbarella was served two scallops. Overall the dish was very nice -- I especially liked the curry flavor on the onion rings -- though we would not have been disappointed by a third scallop.
The second app/entree was tempura lobster served with tempura green beans, pickled bok choy and a spicy/sweet Thai-style chile dipping sauce. The tempura batter was feather light and the frying was done well -- not greasy and not overcooked. The sauce was a perfect accompaniment for the tempura, and the small bit of pickled bok choy hidden beneath everything was a fun surprise (I had forgotten about it even though it was mentioned on the menu). The only quibble I might have is that the delicate flavor of the lobster was a bit overshadowed by the zing of the sauce.
The first true entree was bucatini with clams, broccoli rabe, and shaved parmesean. This dish had quite a lot of clams (in shell) a surprisingly small amount of bucatini -- which made it tricky to extract the pasta from among the rugged terrain of clam shells. My mother, who had ordered the dish wished there had been more pasta. The broccoli rabe was bitter, as would be expected, but I thought it distracted from the rest of the dish. The clams however, were glorious.
The other entree was a fig encrusted rack of lamb with spaetzle and spinach. The locally-raised lamb was cooked perfectly and quite delicious though the flavor of the glaze/crust was nearly undetectable and the spaetzle, while tasty, seemed to be an odd accompaniment.
We opted to finish with just two desserts. The first was a new interpretation of the classic s'more. In this case, chocolate pudding, graham cracker streusel, and burnt marshmallow. Served in a glass, the "s'more" was mainly overly-sweet chocolate pudding, with a thick layer of underly-burnt marshmallow on top and an almost non-existent strata of graham cracker streusel. Everyone agreed that the dessert was too cloying. If the chocolate were more bitter, the marshmallow more burnt, and the amount of graham cracker streusel increased substantially, this could be a nice dessert, but in its present form, I couldn't recommend it.
And lastly, our other dessert was a fig and apricot brioche bread pudding with creme fraiche ice cream. The brioche was tasty -- though barely "bread puddingized" -- and the ice cream was a good pairing. I'd have this desert again, though I would know not to expect the usual texture and density of bread pudding.
To conclude, I think it is a good start for State Road. We've enjoyed the Kenworth's other restaurant -- Slice of Life -- and look forward to going back to State Road to further explore the menu soon. We very much appreciate the beautiful renovation of this property. Overall it is a most welcome addition to our upisland community. Presently, I would rate it as a 7.5 out of 10.
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