The Market Restaurant in Annisquam is a Cape Ann can’t-miss. By, Anna and David Kasabian
Annisquam village is a tiny oasis of antique homes, a main street that takes you back in time, and a waterfront that is the stuff of postcards. On River Road, on an inconspicuous turn-off with a faded black sign recalling when this was a market, is The Market Restaurant. Owners and chefs Amelia O’Reilly (a Gloucester native) and Nico Monday have come here from California bearing gifts of remarkable food and respect for whatever they put on your plate.
O’Reilly and Monday choose the freshest, highest-quality food they can find (local when possible, and always from New England; a blackboard behind the bar names all the New England farms that their food comes in from), creating dishes that let the food shine through in imaginative and thoughtful combinations. What you dine on here is all about flavors being pure and unencumbered rather than rich sauces and embellishments.
The chefs met while cooking at the celebrated Chez Pannisse in Berkeley, California. Both realized early on that food was their first love and pursued paths toward their passion. Amelia went to cooking school, and Nico, the godchild of Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters, cooked his way through Europe before coming back to cook at the restaurant he knew so well. Perhaps the most important lesson they’ve learned in the kitchen is how to bring locally grown, fresh, and flavorful ingredients together in a way that will totally intoxicate your palate.
We started with the asparagus salad with faro piccolo, black olives, and local feta cheese. The greens were tender, flavorful, and perfectly dressed. The olives were rich in flavor and the cheese was creamy, with subtle high notes of sweetness and tang. Next came the smoked haddock with shaved fennel, radishes, and herbed mayonnaise. Smoked by Nico in-house, this delicate salad was a great marriage of flavors and textures. The lightly smoked fish in combination with the fresh vegetables from The Plow and Stars Farm in Ipswich made it all happen.
For entrees, we chose Bollito Misto, a braised brisket and pork shoulder with beets, potatoes, and horseradish salsa verde. The key to deliciousness here was the intensely flavorful stock. The second entree was house-made shellfish ravioli with lobster butter. The ravioli pasta was made with fresh milled flour, yielding silky, perfect little pockets generously filled with lobster and scallops and covered by a butter sauce made with chives, lemon zest, orange, parsley, and black pepper.
For dessert, we could not bear the thought of leaving without trying both the rhubarb tart and the Valley View cheeses. The tart crust was the perfect flaky wrap for fresh, slightly sweetened rhubarb and a dollop of whipped cream. The cheeses were an oh-so-perfect grouping of mild to not-so-mild selections for a pleasurable little tasting.
Don’t miss this special dining experience. The Market has raised the bar for excellent dining in Cape Ann and the region.
THE MENUChefs: Amelia O’Reilly, Nico Monday. Appetizers: Asparagus Salad ($13), Smoked Haddock ($9). Entrees: Bollito Misto ($26), Shellfish Ravioli ($27). Desserts: Rhubarb Tart ($7), Valley View Cheeses ($9). Location: 33 River Road, Lobster Cove, Gloucester, 978-282-0700, themarketrestaurant.com.