Chef Chris Jackson wants to keep diners on their toes. His menu at No. 8 Kitchen & Spirits in Amesbury changes with dizzying frequency to follow whatever is fresh, exciting, and local. A cone of Sriracha-dusted popcorn takes the place of the traditional breadbasket, heralding what is to come. Food is presented in novel ways—on trays, in jars, or deconstructed—to encourage customers to interact with their meals. Even the cocktail list is playful, with everything from shot-and-beer combos to a sophisticated gin and tonic that changes with the seasons.
The menu bridges “social plates,” designed for sharing, with complex entre?es. Start with the dip of the day, which could vary from classic onion dip to a sophisticated roasted red pepper and cashew concoction, served with house-made potato chips. Feeling more highbrow? Try the perfectly tender, lightly charred grilled octopus, served with duck fat confit fingerling potatoes, chimichurri, and a complex sauce of ahi panca seco, a mildly spicy, smoky Peruvian dry pepper that gives the dish a gentle heat. Hungry diners can opt to share the cured meat board—a daily selection of five cured meats, served with a generous side of spicy house-pickled vegetables.
Owners Rich Gehrlein and Sasha Nisenbaum
Guests seeking more than light bites won’t be disappointed. Chef Jackson, who cooked at notable Boston and Cambridge area restaurants like Dante, Tico, and Catalyst, displays a deft hand with pan-roasted cod, accompanied by a changing sauce that could be a springy pea pure?e or a summery zucchini and lemongrass. Another entre?e, the intensely flavored truffle chicken, has become a menu staple for good reason— gently poached breast meat is wrapped around a forcemeat (lean ground meat emulsified with fat) permeated with truffles and black trumpet mushrooms. The chicken is roasted to order, crisping up the skin and giving each bite a tantalizing mix of crisp, tender, and truffled. The dish is served with kale, chanterelle mushrooms, and a chicken demi sauce. For heartier fare, the gnocchi “chowda” is a fun take on the New England standby—fluffy potato dumplings are tossed with a creamy sauce reminiscent of classic clam chowder, then topped with chunky celery, mussels, clams, and crispy pancetta.
The highly seasonal craft cocktail list is overseen by general manager Erica Petersiel, who honed her skills at the now-defunct Red Rock Bistro in Swampscott. Drinks run the gamut from Shoot the Tall Boy—Bulleit bourbon, pickle juice, and a Pabst Blue Ribbon chaser—to the light and fresh 1862, a delightful mix of gin, mint, absinthe and lime, or the aforementioned No. 8 Gin and Tonic, which might feature anything from a lavender infusionto peach pure?e, depending on the season. The bar also offers a large array of craft beers and one of the few fine-wine-on-tap programs on the North Shore.
House-made desserts are sophisticated yet approachable. At one visit, a sliver of intense chocolate cake seemed more like a brownie on its way to becoming fudge. The richness was complimented by salted caramel ice cream. Another offering, the exotic crumbly pistachio cake, topped with elderflower buttercream, evoked the Middle East.
The restaurant’s cosmopolitan design is a nod to the mill building’s industrial past—soaring ceilings, exposed brick and metal factory chairs simultaneously reflect the space’s original life while lending an urban vibe. All these free-form influences combine to bring new spice to the Amesbury dining scene.
Appetizer: Today’s House Made Dip ($6), Grilled Octopus ($14), Cured Meat Board ($25)
Entre?es: Truffled Chicken ($21), Gnocchi “Chowda” ($18), Pan-roasted Cod ($24)
Dessert: Chocolate Cake ($8), Pistachio Cake ($8)
Location: 37 Main St., Amesbury, 978-792- 5476, no8kitchen.com