My husband took me to Summer Winter for my birthday this past week and I wanted to write it up.
First, the awful location. It's in the Marriott at Burlington Mall, on a road ringing the mall. There’s very little signage in the large parking lot for the restaurant. I was expecting a separate entrance, but since there wasn’t, we parked in the main lot and went into the overly-lit, large and unremarkable Marriott lobby, dodging the giggling girls there for a bridal party. Even in the lobby, the only sign for the restaurant was a small one sitting on a side table that we only saw on the way out. We had to ask for directions, then walk down a long hallway, past a noisy bar, still with no signage. Really. If they can’t have a separate entrance (and I don’t think the building layout lends itself to that) then they should at least have valet parking or a greeter at the main door. There’s no sense of anticipation, walking through that lobby, of getting ready to dine at a really nice restaurant. More a sense of dread!
Once you get to it, the restaurant itself is really lovely - wood and stone, nice big white windows, but just a HUGE amount of space. After checking in with the receptionist, we walked past the bar, past the oyster bar, past the open kitchen, down some steps and into a large open dining area. The tables were good-sized and spaced well apart, although the copper tops aren’t holding up particularly well. The chairs were comfy, the linens were good and the table was set well.
But no service. Bread and water landed on the table within a minute, but after five minutes, I finally had to flag down a manager to ask him to send a server over. I suspected our server was the harried woman working a nearby needy four-top, but she should have at least acknowledged our existence, or a manager should have come over. A waiter (not the harried woman) showed up and took our drink and appetizer order. The oysters came out before the (warmish) champagne, brought to our table by the harried woman, who was indeed our waitress. She was young and visibly nervous, constantly apologizing.
Her knowledge of the menu was generally good, although she said the Island Creek oysters were from Prince Edward’s Island, and frankly I didn’t want to ask for clarification (Island Creek oysters are from Duxbury, MA) because it would initiate another round of apologies. The six oysters were a mix of three kinds, but while she knew the three kinds, she didn’t know where they were on the plate. So we didn’t know what we were eating, but they were all good and very well handled. The oysters came with a selection of home-made sauces, including a really, really good red onion-tomato-vodka chutney.
We decided on the paprika-roasted duck for two, and I ordered the warm cabbage salad and my husband had the smoked trout salad. The menu neglected to say the cabbage in the salad was pickled, which I just can’t stand. I expected something green, not pickled. Fortunately, my husband liked it and I liked the smoked trout salad so we swapped. The waitress never noticed.
We were having trouble what wine to pair with the duck, so I asked the waitress if the restaurant had a sommelier. She either didn’t understand me (although I repeated myself) or she didn’t know the word sommelier, so I asked for the wine steward. She sent over the bartender, who was great! He was knowledgeable and generous with his time, and made very appropriate recommendations. He even took the order, so we didn’t have to repeat it to our waitress.
The duck was perfect, split into four pieces before it got to the table. We took half of it home, where it made its way into a risotto and chicken stock. The sides – a potato-yam gratinee, a corn custard and especially the brussel sprouts salad (so good!) were all yummy.
We didn’t go for any of the desserts; we split a bowl of vanilla ice cream (Haagen Daaz, according to the waitress) and had dessert wine.
Overall, a great food experience, but a not-so-great service experience and a not-so-great entrance experience. I don’t know how they’re going to get the traffic they need to fill up that huge space without better signage and a better entrance from the parking lot. It’s nice to have something out in the suburbs – parking and traffic weren’t an issue – but I would’ve chosen something more in the open and visible. I’m pretty sure we’ll go back, but probably only when we’re at Burlington shopping or running errands in the area, and not as a destination.