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Restaurants & Bars 5

Tweet for dinner; Friday: long

mrbarolo | May 16, 200403:51 PM

First, the caveat: We just don't get out that much, so my impressions do not come with an automatic benchmark against half a dozen similar places. I'm just happy to be in a restaurant at all, so figure that into your reading of the post.

That said, I was really, really happy to be at Tweet.

Putting the bottom line first, they seem to be doing just what a small upscale neighborhood place should do. Not getting over-ambitious, not trying to do too much, but still pushing the envelope for the locale and keeping things interesting, backed up with real good-neighbor friendliness.

And I say this having gone there with a bit of trepidation. Vettel's review (3 stars, I think) seemed a bit too-good-to-be-true. I worried that a) it really was too good to be true and b) the result of the review might be that they would be absolutely swamped and have a hard time holding it together. Especially on a Friday night.

These fears seemed to be borne out by the wide range of reader reviews on Metromix, which were either raves, or stories of inexplicable rudeness that made you really wonder about the place.

Not to worry.

They did everything really right. And the rightness started before we got there.

Called for a res. early in the week and they were already filling up for Fri. They had a 7PM, but in the 20 min. it took to call my friends, the 7PM slot was gone and they only had a 6PM left.

I knew that my wife would have trouble getting there right at 6 and I asked if they would seat us without her, knowing she would be about 15 min. late. They said no problem as long as more than half the party was there. I liked them already.

We arrived, minus my wife. In the end, she was delayed by a late-arriving babysitter and was ultimately about 30-35 min. late. Though they would have had every reason to chafe at this, no one there made us feel the least bit uncomfortable as we waited. (Knowing that this really could play havoc with their scheduling, we put in our app. orders after about 20 min. to get the ball rolling.)

Then, when we were all set, the cork of the wine we brought crumbled when the waiter opened it. He wasn't remotely fazed; took it away, and brought it back, decanted in a carefe - pausing only to comment on how good it smelled, and how we were probably better of having decanted it. He was right.

The menu - which, I gather changes weekly and can be viewed on-line - was a good omen. Just 6-8 items in each category. Not trying too hard or doing too much. Among the entrees, 3 or 4 dishes were stew-ish, which meant they could be very flavorful and interesting, but also would hold well, leaving the kitchen free to focus on doing fancy stuff with specials without getting overwhelmed when they were slammed at peak time.

Nice bread basket to start: baguette, a softer white, and oddly some soda bread with currents. Very good all round. Plain butter served. (No olive oil, butter not herbed or flavored, no bean puree, etc.)

My wife started with a salad of greens from Avalanche farms. To be honest, it was rather small, but she said the greens were very nice - a bit of bite to them - and the shallot vinaigrette was very well done. I'm always impressed by a really good salad because so many places with far grander ambitions fall down on the basics like a green salad. Either over or under-dressed, or just an indifferent dressing.

I started with seafood in a sherry fume with wild mushrooms. Very rich, a tad sweet (possibly a slightly sweet sherry was used), lovely. Octopus, squid, mussels. Generous portion and wonderful juice to sop up with bread.

Someone else had a salad with smoked duck breast which she said was good, except that the duck breast appeared only in the form of small slivers, like lardons, and she was expecting it to be more of a central component.

Main dishes were all stewy things and everyone was very happy. I had veal cheeks. Fall apart tender pieces of meat, very deep flavor, onion, garlic (in whole or half cloves, but thoroughly mellowed by long cooking), peas. Served with straight-ahead, well made mashed potatoes. (Not blue potatos, no blue cheese, or parm, or rosemary. Just very good mashed.)

A friends had the porchetta with creamy polenta which she also pronounced moist and delicious.

The birthday boy had duck confit with "foraged" morels. He too was very happy.

Overall, the dishes were all rich and deep in flavor, and without spurious twists or innovations.

Dessert: I had a choc./hazelnut ganache with espresso involved in some way. It was a generous piece, but ultimately just ok, not transcendent.

My wife had the ubiquitous chocolate cake with molten center and said it was very good indeed.

Upon leaving we were presented with 2 small desserts to take home. One was a lemon tart, and I missed the other one.

By the time we got to ordering entrees they were quite full, but service never flagged.

The place is BYO, so dinner for 4: 5 apps., 3 entrees, 3 desserts tax and 20% tip came to $150.

Especially for wine lovers, I don't see how you could beat it.

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