Saturday, January 5, 2008

Summer Winter: Lunch

Burlington is becoming a significant dining destination. A few new high-end restaurants have recently opened there and I have been checking them out. So far, I have generally been impressed with what I have found. So what would I think about the new Summer Winter?

Summer Winter opened about two months ago at the Burlington Marriot and is open for lunch and dinner. A hotel restaurant? It might make you a bit leery until you learn that the restaurant is a culinary collaboration between Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier. They Gaier and Fraiser are the chefs/owners of the renowned Arrows Restaurant located in Ogunquit, Maine. Arrows is considered by many to be one of the top restaurants in New England, as well as one of the best restaurants in the country.

So I certainly had some high expectations for Summer Winter. My first experience has been for lunch and I did have a very good experience. I certainly will be returning again.

First, the restaurant has a very appealing decor with a modern look though accented with some rustic notes, such a stone walls, as well as a certain Asian flair. It is elegant without being pretentious. As you enter the restaurant, there is a long, marble-topped bar on the right side. Straight ahead, and to the left, is a smaller raw bar area that almost seems to be like a sushi bar. To the right is a large open kitchen area. The dining areas are behind the raw bar and I believe further straight down. You certainly do not feel like you are in a hotel.

In the dining area, the tables are spaced apart so you don't feel like the neighboring diners are too close to you. We sat next to a window overlooking the greenhouse. The restaurant built a greenhouse so that they could grow their own herbs and spices. It is much smaller than I expected but then they do not grow vegetables there so they need far less room for just the spices and herbs.

I reviewed their drink/wine menu first. Unfortunately I was not able to get a copy of it and they don't have the list on their website. I was impressed though with what I did see on their wine list. The list is quite diverse and they carry wines sfrom Spanish Albarino to South African Pinotage. They even carry about ten different chilled Sakes. Prices generally looked goodand I even saw one bottle for $16. They had Caymus Conundrum for about $42-45, a 50% markup on retail, far better than the usual 100%-200% markups which are more usual. They did have some far more expensive, trophy wines as well.

The lunch menu was more extensive than I realized. Their website gives a small lunch menu, neglecting to mention that the Oyster Bar and Appetizers/Salads are a part of the lunch menu as well. So you actually have plenty of options for lunch.

We began with the Roasted Garlic ($3) from the Small Bites menu. All of the small bites are the same price and many are veggie dishes or spreads. We received a plate of a dark garlic spread and 6-8 triangles of warm pita bread with sesame seeds. We slathered the garlic spread on the bread and greatly enjoyed it. The spread has a very strong, creamy garlic flavor and the warm bread was excellent. A very nice way to start our meal.

We then moved onto a couple of appetizers: Salt Cod Brandade with a Jonnycake & Butter Poached Oysters and Clark's Crab cakes with Remoulade and Cole Slaw. The Salt Cod was a large pile of the brandade atop a thin, crispy edged pancake. The outer circle of the plate had three oysters and three piles of pickled ginger. The brandade was creamy and had a nice cod flavor. It went great atop the jonnycake. I could have eaten a stack of just the jonnycakes. The oysters were delicious as well, both buttery but with a salty edge. This is an appetizer I would highly recommend. The crab cakes though were not as good. You did receive three fried crab cakes but I did not care for their flavor. I found them a bit bland and lacking a strong crab flavor. Plus, they were very moist inside, almost like they used lots of mayonaisse though it did not have a strong mayo flavor. Not a dish I would order again.

For main entrees, we tried the Chiang Mai Style Chicken Curry with Fried Noodles ($12)and Grilled Cheese & House Made Cream of Tomato Soup ($10). The Curry was a large bowl filled with a coconut curry sauce and chunks of boneless chicken topped by crispy, fried noodles. I am a big coconut fan and loved the curry sauce. It was not really spicy, more of a creamy curry with a strong but not overpowering coconut flavor. There was plenty of white-meat chicken in the sauce. The crunchy noodles were also a good addition to the dish. A definite hit. For comfort food, the Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup certainly hit the spot. You receive a large bowl of soup that was very well done, with an excellent creamy texture. Certainly one of the better tomato soups I have ever had. The sandwich was large, on thick sliced white toast, and had a tasty cheese. A simple dish but quite good.

We did not get dessert but did take a look at the menu. They only have about six options, though the menu also has numerous Sherries, Ports, and Dessert wines. The Mom's Traditional Devils' Food Cake with Chocolate Icing sounded good to me and I will try it another time.

Service was generally very good though our main server was initially a bit pushy in trying to get us to order. We needed some time to check out the wine list and menu but our main server came over too many times asking whether we were ready or not. For the rest of the meal though she was good. The servers seem to work as a team, or at least they have staff to fill your water glasses and take away your empty plates. They did a good job without being obtrusive.

Overall, I enjoyed lunch here very much. Prices were reasonable, portions were good-sized and the quality was generally very good. I like the devor and ambience and the wine list was impressive. I will definitely return for lunch again, as well as trying dinner.

No comments: