Seagrass Bistro, Yarmouth
Driving down Route 1 in Yarmouth will reveal what is basically the town’s entire restaurant scene spread out over a few miles. Being a native myself, I grew up associating these offerings with old staples like Bill’s Pizza, Romeo’s Pizza, and Pat’s Pizza. Clearly, there is a pattern to my thinking, which would hint at just how long it’s been since I have evaluated my dining options here.
Seagrass Bistro was one of the first eateries to throw both conformity and caution to the wind when chef/owner Stephanie Brown opened the doors in 2005. Since then, she has built a steady and loyal clientele, eventually moving the restaurant to a new location right up the street from the original, in 2010. Her focus, like most great chefs, is to utilize the best seasonal ingredients, though she takes the concept one step further by changing her entire menu every three weeks. This is important for both the guests—who have grown so accustomed to this practice that they actually remind her when the change is due to take place—and the kitchen alike, ensuring that the gears never stop turning and complacency never sets in.
I recently enjoyed my long overdue inaugural visit to the new location, the decor of which is modern yet inviting. In the early evening, sunlight pours through the blinds onto dark wood furniture, giving way to the dim flicker of tea lights and the fires of the open kitchen as night sets in.
We begin with a bottle of 2009 Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture from the south of Italy, a soft, well-balanced red that is redolent of white pepper, blackberries, and just a bit of funk that imparts a leathery quality. This pairs brilliantly with our first course, a roasted pepper stuffed with ground lamb and feta. The boldly seasoned meat plays off of the tangy, salty feta, with a hit of mint oil to round out the finish. I really can’t stress enough how well this worked with the Aglianico.
Also in the first round are butternut squash and goat cheese wontons, which I can’t help but to dub “autumn rangoons.” The squash has been deeply caramelized to bring out its sweetness, which is accentuated with a garnish of apple cider gastrique, small cubes of poached pear, and slightly bitter micro greens.
Service is relaxed and professional, and there is noted enthusiasm over the recent menu change. Yet another benefit reaped from the challenge of an ever-changing menu is keeping the front of the house crew interested and, as a result, “in the game.”
The second wave of appetizers begins with a lobster tortellini, and though this dish appears on countless restaurant menus, it is the quality of Brown’s pasta dough that sets it above most. For the sauce, the essence of the lobster itself is captured beautifully by reducing stock with tomatoes, which is quite effective with earthy, sautéed brown alba mushrooms and the slightest hint of aromatic white truffle oil. The second dish is comprised of a single seared scallop glazed with salted rum caramel, grilled pineapple, and dense, smoky pork belly braised with Jamaican jerk seasoning, a concept that, after sampling, makes perfect sense.
I make a visit to the kitchen counter to snap photographs of a few completed dishes, and after offering to carry my own food I show off my “thumbs off the plate technique.” Any false sense of pride quickly transitions to terror as I consider what an absolute loser I would be if the plates were to drop on the dining room floor. Thankfully, everything proceeds without incident.
My entree of fig glazed Cornish Game Hen stuffed with mushrooms and barley, and served atop sweet, oven roasted parsnips and baby carrots, is yet another harbinger of fall. The skin of the bird has remained perfectly crispy, and the flesh tender and flavorful. The root vegetables are delicately spiced, imparting overall warmth to the flavor of the dish.
Though I have no business consuming another bite of food, this does not stop me from ordering a small dish of chocolate and toffee ice cream for dessert, my logic being that it I may not find it on the menu next time I visit.
I find that I can justify damn near anything when I put my mind to it.
305 U.S. Rte. 1 | Yarmouth | 207.846.3885 | seagrassbistro.com