For those of you who’ve eaten at Seito Sushi – and we realize that includes pretty much anyone who is reading this – you know the care with which both the food and ambience is handled by restaurateurs Jason and Sue Chin. That pleasant fact is amplified as we realize that Mr. and Ms. Chin have created their own competition by creating Osprey Tavern directly across the street from Seito Sushi.
We’ll leave the business model of opening two very different businesses across the street from each other and its ramifications up to them, but the great news is that the same care and attention to detail has been lavished on the Tavern by these two exemplary hosts. My guest and I loved everything about the new eatery from the moment we walked in. This is especially true as I learned that my admiration for the décor is admiration for the taste of Sue Chin, who oversaw every detail of the Tavern’s welcoming atmosphere.
Allow me to mention a few details about the décor before going on to praise the food. Looking up from our table, my eyes landed on what looks like a chalkboard with a quote from Ernest Hemingway, opening on oysters, ending with “I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy.” Not only had I never heard that quote, but I’ll agree with anything that could make Papa H happy, and the first thing we ordered was the oysters. Looking around – there are those huge windows facing out on New Broad Street and across the restaurant – a gleaming “open kitchen” for those who like that experience. Greeting guests headlong through the entryway is a beautifully tasteful wall – painted a soothing grey – on which there are a mix of historical and family photos – each exquisitely framed and beautifully placed with the eye of a gallery curator. It’s worth taking a moment to look at those photos as their eclecticism speaks to the “eye” of one with truly refined taste.
Moving on to the menu, under the capable and often fun direction of Executive Chef Joseph Burnett, those oysters are among the offerings that will most likely stay on a menu that changes often. Your choice of either one half or a whole dozen oysters is drawn from three kinds of oysters – two from Massachusetts and one from Washington State. It’s very much up to you as to which is a personal favorite – each being a little lighter, firmer, sweeter, and more or less briny. But that is the wonderful thing about a plate like that – the adventure of what is happening in your mouth!
Staying with the seafood theme, we also tried the ‘Charred’ Peel & Eat Shrimp, which was for me the first “OMG” experience of the evening. Served beautifully mixed in a mound of colored potatoes, the charred-thing worked wonders to add real taste to the shrimp we adore. Add to that the self-named “comeback” sauce, and I was in seafood heaven … and the potatoes, with added taste from the shrimp, could truly be served as a side dish.
For our main course, my friend ordered the Smoked King Salmon Pizza (which pleased me enormously, because I wanted to try it). I could do paragraphs on this pizza, which I expected to be good, and which happily exceeded expectations. It also led to a fun/silly table discussion of how the salmon was on the pizza. Were they chunks of salmon or Carpaccio of salmon or? Anyway that salmon was held on to the perfect dough of the pizza by crème fraîche (clever) and a mix of tarragon spices. Highly recommended.
My choice was the Beef Bourguignon, which 1) I was surprised to find on the menu; 2) Is a staple of French cuisine, but is actually seldom offered; and 3) Is most often considered a winter dish, which I would be eating in August in Florida. What came to the table was fantastic. It is certainly Chef Joseph’s very personal take on the dish, and it is (happily) the lightest and most flavorful Bourguignon I’ve tasted. The flavor of the beef – even in the plentiful gravy – was pronounced in ways that never comes through when weighed down by more traditional cream sauces from France. Chef J presents braised short ribs in a magnificent red wine reduction along with grilled veggies for what should be a prize-winning offering.
We purposely saved room for dessert – sharing one serving (plenty) of the Chocolate Caramel. Now, listen up. It is worth a visit to Osprey Tavern just to experience this multi-chocolate dessert – especially if you are a chocaholic (as I am). On one plate you find small cookies of flourless chocolate cake, a salted caramel dressing, caramelia cream, and a scoop of cocoa nib ice cream. Uh huh! My guest said, “It’s like a hundred kinds of chocolate all in one dish,” before going on to address the variations of how each bite could be a mix of this with this with … you get the idea.
I could go on about how much I love the Osprey Tavern, but if you’ve read this far you have a pretty good idea that it comes to you with my highest recommendation. Go and enjoy. I only hope you love it half as much as I do.