Local flavors make Hamilton’s 15 Walnut a must-dine. By Anna and David Kasabian. Photographs by Anthony Tieuli.
15 walnut is a welcome addition to Hamilton’s community shopping center. Headed by executive chef Sam Hunt, who held the same post at Indigo (the most recent restaurant within these walls), the mantra at 15 Walnut is local, fresh, and made from scratch.
This kitchen makes its own breads, bacon, sausages, vinegars, and ice cream, as well as pulls its own mozzarella. Meanwhile, the wood-fired oven is stoked and ready for everything from appetizers to entrees. Appleton Farms in Ipswich and Canon Farm in Wenham supply local produce and fruits, and Valley View Farm in Topsfield is the source of the bistro’s goat cheese.
Step inside and you’re instantly transported into a cozy, casual dining room that’s thoughtfully designed and furnished. You can dine at the bar, in a comfy booth, at a hightop, or at any of the handmade, farm-style wood tables with high-backed, hand-hewn chairs, creations of Walker Creek in Essex.
There is an interesting starters menu with familiar choices, from seared scallops to buffalo wings, yet each dish is created with a twist. One appetizer to consider is the Crab Arancini, a nifty variation on the conventional risotto ball, thanks to the inclusion of crab, cheese, and two sauces-a pesto and a red sauce. The crispy outside and smooth and round flavors inside, plus nice zings of fresh crab taste and punches of flavor from the sauces, all make for a great beginning. The Crispy Fried Select Oysters, served with chervil aioli, fried capers, and jicama slaw, are also an imaginative combination of textures and flavors. However, we would have preferred that ours were fried a little more until golden and crisp.
For entrees, consider the broiled Gloucester Haddock, which was extremely fresh, flaked off the fork (as it should when cooked to perfection), and was topped with breadcrumbs made from the house-baked bread, as well as butter and a well-balanced mixture of herbs. The dish is served with skillfully prepared whipped potatoes with just enough butter and a side of tender and smooth-as-silk lemon-glazed green beans.
However, we don’t recommend the salmon. While it was prepared to our specification of well done, ours still tasted a little fishy. Could it be due to extra cooking, or the fact that the salmon is farmed-raised and not caught in the wild? Yes, wild-caught is more expensive, but we feel there’s no comparison.
For the ultimate in comfort food, the Gloucester-landed Lobster Mac and Cheese with bacon and roasted mushrooms is exquisite. Each ingredient stands out as fresh and of the highest quality. For accompaniment, consider the Italian Ca Montini Pinot Grigio, which was soft with hints of pineapple and peach, and a Monterey-vinted Irony Pinot Noir, with aromas of cherry and raspberry and a pleasing medium body.
For dessert, our Apple Crisp should be called Apples in Heaven. The genius of this dish is that the apples are shredded and not cut into the more common slices or chunks, and as a result, there is a more intense apple flavor. Baked with a topping of oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, and, of course, butter, it is served piping hot with homemade brown-butter ice cream.
If you live nearby, you should be eating here regularly. But even if you don’t, 15 Walnut is well worth the drive.
Chef: Sam Hunt. Starters: Crab Arancini ($10), Crispy Fried Select Oysters ($12). Entrees: Gloucester Haddock ($19), “Bay of Fundy” Grilled Salmon ($20), Lobster Mac & Cheese ($18).
Dessert: Apple Crisp ($8). Location: 15 Walnut Rd., Hamilton, 978-468-2434, 15walnut.com.