by victoria abbott riccardi | June 27, 2012 | Food & Drink
Savory ssam at The Pearl
The Pearl’s yellowfin tuna with crisp Gyoza skin, wasabi, tobiko, and crème fraîche
You’re sure to run into people you know while dining at The Pearl.
Outdoor dining at Dune is a sunny, relaxed affair.
The Dune burger on a homemade brioche bun is nearly irresistible.
Robert Downey Jr.
Nantucket’s best restaurants offer gourmands beach views and A-List company.
The breakfast buffet at Brant Point Grill offers cheese plates and salads plus waffle, omelet, cured meat, and smoked salmon stations.
For the great and glamorous, Nantucket has long been the It island escape, where privacy and celebrity go hand in hand. In fact, summer on the island feels like a never-ending cocktail party, buzzing with jet-setters and hipsters who either have just arrived for the season or have flown in for a couple of days. Since eating out is all part of the fun, we’ve picked a handful of top spots to visit, where you’ll find great food and a happening scene.
Too new to review but worth considering is Met on Main. Part of The Metropolitan Club and Met Back Bay group and located in the old space of Even Keel Café, it offers breakfast (including a pancake bar with sweet and savory toppings), lunch, and dinner (hello, tartar and raw bar!) with Polynesian, Asian, and Mexican influences.
However, the most storied Sunday brunch on the island, whether it’s post-sunrise run or post-Chicken Box dancing, is the buffet at Brant Point Grill in the White Elephant. Here we find our fellow revelers making a beeline to the Bloody Mary and mimosa bar for an eye-opening elixir that’s tastier than aspirin yet just as effective. Then we grab plates and survey the mouthwatering offerings: two carving stations, a selection of vegetables, eggs Benedict, salads, paella, Belgian waffles, an omelet station, raw bar, and new this year, a selection of tapas and cured meats as well as a smoked salmon station. We may or may not have been seen dipping elephant-shaped cookies in the caramel sauce at the kid’s table. Live jazz, lovely views, and indoor-outdoor seating options complete the scene, frequented by such A-listers as Drew Barrymore, Bethenny Frankel, David Gregory, and Robert Downey Jr. And one of our favorite parts of this brunch is the camaraderie struck between tables as we all try to trace our steps from the day and night before, which inevitably include the following stops.
We began the day with the best intentions at a teak table at Dune, which has the most private of in-town patios, thoughtfully shaded, lush with ferns and palms. Our plans are immediately compromised by the outdoor bar’s dreamy drink called Ivy’s Poison, made from muddled strawberries and mint, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, and prosecco. I’m always torn between the Dune burger served with everything homemade— the poppy-seed bun, golden fries, and tangy ketchup—and the lobster roll, brimming with chunky, sweet meat in a lemony-chive aioli and served with garlic fries. This time I choose the roasted red and golden beet salad with goat cheese and pistachios, thus giving me an excuse to sink my spoon into that warm fig and brioche bread pudding with smoked bacon maple ice cream.
Happily, Dune sits in the middle of the shopping district. After a few stops, we need a bite to tide us over until dinner at Angela and Seth Raynor’s 12 Federal Street. We pause for a French raspberry macaron at Petticoat Row bakery, then pick up a few extras, anticipating the need for a late-night nosh.
After a quick snooze in the sun and freshening up, we’re ready to hit the town for dinner, where reservations are an absolute must—at least a week in advance—if you want to dine well. At 12 Federal we have two choices. First is the unparalleled elegance of The Pearl on the upper level with its white tablecloth dining and a menu that’s 95 percent Asian and 75 percent fish. This year the raw seafood options have expanded to include much more crudo, ceviche, and sashimi. There is a Southeast Asian BBQ section with Korean flame-licked beef, Vietnamese sizzled pork, and Thai grilled chicken, as well as more ssam plates (ssam means “wrapped” in Korean), including lobster tail tempura with Singapore black pepper sauce and avocado to wrap in Bibb lettuce leaves.
Or we can choose the casual dining experience under the same roof, downstairs at the Boarding House, which has a new chef, new menu, and new look. Burnished copper walls and a variety of cozy nooks, including the “jewel box,” offer intimate spots to enjoy chef Steven Marcaurelle’s modern comfort food twists on farm-to-table cuisine. To wit, instead of finding Niçoise salad on the dinner menu, you’ll find yellowfin tuna crudo bound with a tapenade of oven-roasted tomatoes and dehydrated olives served with gaufrette potatoes and a pickled green bean vinaigrette. We opt for The Pearl, and are happy with our choice when tables of our friends are seated nearby. After dinner we all convene at the bar. On the way home, we get texts from friends that the party now has moved to the patio at Lola, so we head there, already savoring the vodka and Thai chile-lime cocktail, Excuse Me Mr. Hot Pants (named for the bartender affectionately called Hot Pants). And, well, you know the rest. We probably saw you the next morning, making brunch at the White Elephant last through the afternoon.
photography by katie kaizer photography (Brant point grill); wendy mills photography (Dune); courtesy of Gauthier Stacy (Cru); Lisa frey, nantucket event media (Pearl); gregg deguire/picturegroup (downey Jr.)