Editor's Note: Talise closed for the season in October, and plans to reopen in the spring. Visit their website for more information.
Few places are more desirable than the North Shore in autumn. Golden sunlight and a cornucopia of fresh produce, fish, and meat—who could ask for anything more?
Talise restaurant, a new spot in Gloucester named for the Native American word meaning “beautiful waters,” brings all that bounty together in a single delightful package. Chef Joshua Smith keeps the focus firmly on celebrating the best regional food, connecting with local fishmongers and farms before crafting his daily menu.
Smith owns the peaceful waterfront spot clinging to the bank of the Annisquam River with his wife, Ariel. Not surprisingly, the restaurant draws much inspiration from the sea. About three-quarters of the menu at any given time is likely to feature fish—perhaps a tartare of locally caught tuna hauled in from the F/V Lilly from right in Gloucester, Swayze Select oysters from Wellfleet on the half-shell, or hand-shucked local lobster, among many other possibilities.
Smith has a long history with small growers—his grandparents and great-grandparents were all farmers, and he spent five years as chef at Short & Main in Gloucester, where local food is prized, before opening his own spot.
While the daily menu is based on what is available, you’ll find some common themes. In addition to plentiful seafood, look for cured meats and creative vegetable dishes.
Starters on any given night might include oysters served with house-made cocktail sauce and mignonette, or a creative charcuterie plate served with naturally leavened sourdough bread. A recent appetizer of local blue fin tuna came lightly dressed in a citrusy vinaigrette, topped with a generous portion of cucumber, torn herbs, and a roasted shishito pepper. It was bright and balanced—perfect with a sparkling rosé.
Entrees are equally thoughtful—on a recent evening, a slab of roasted halibut sat atop a luscious chowder studded with bacon, Cedar Rock Farms’ fingerling potatoes and clams from Old Wharf Oyster Farm in Wellfleet. While the overall dish was lovely, those clams took center stage. Tender and sweet, they came directly from the flats—no stopover in a cooler or tank on the way up from the Cape—with a balanced brightness from cooking in Domaine de la Pepiére Muscadet.
Not surprisingly, lobster often makes an appearance—a recent dish showcased a half-pound of fresh-shucked meat tossed with local cherry tomatoes, jalapeños, and bucatini pasta, topped with Grana Padano cheese. Guests are also likely to find a lobster roll, prepared either cold or warm with butter.
Another staple of the menu is the Talise burger—dry-aged rib eye beef topped with cheddar cheese and Russian dressing. Diners will also generally find a chicken dish as well—perhaps fried with a side of ratatouille or pressed under a brick.
Desserts are made in-house nightly, and of course take advantage of bountiful New England fruit. A rustic upside-down cake might feature peaches two ways, as it did on a late August night—roasted into the cornbread cake and also diced raw and tossed with sweet cream.
Much thought has gone into the beer menu, drawn pretty much entirely from craft producers in New England, including a Belgian Style White Ale from Idle Hands Craft Ales in Malden and selections from Hermit Thrush Brewing in Brattleboro, Vermont.
As goes harvest season in New England, so goes Talise. The restaurant closed for the winter after Columbus Day weekend, with an eye on reopening with the first spring greens in early May. So in the spring, treat yourself to a drive down a winding lane to this waterside retreat—but make reservations. The space—formerly The Market Restaurant—is intimate, and with social distancing guidelines, tables are quite literally few and far between.
33 River Road, Annisquam, 978-515-7814, taliserestaurant.com