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Consider carefully the components on any restaurant dish, and you might notice far more than initially meets the eye—in terms of technique, plating, and care. Certainly, that is the case with the Coffee & Cacao-Crusted Venison Loin at Brown Square Bistro in Ipswich. The farm-raised venison is tender and flavorful, standing on the plate in thick slices, held in place with a wood-fire-roasted chestnut purée.

But, honestly, that is just the beginning of this earthy dish. For between the slices of venison stands a rectangle of sweet potato pavé.

Look closely: Each piece is composed of impossibly thin slices pressed together. To create this side requires a lot of patience. The sweet potato is sliced and layered into a baking pan, each tier brushed with brown butter, then the whole thing is baked at low heat for two hours before being weighted and chilled overnight, then sliced and browned prior to plating. 

In addition to the slices of pavé, the plate also holds a crépinette, a small sausage made from the venison trim, as well as charred baby carrots, persimmon chutney, and pickled cranberries, all lightly dressed with a venison jus. Each component adds to the overall experience of the dish, and as a whole, it represents the work of hours and hours in the kitchen as well as the bounty of the region—carrots, sweet potato, and cranberries are all stars of local farms during New England winters.

As with every dish on Brown Square Bistro’s menu, the plate represents the collaboration between chefs Liam Gove and Joseph Garrity. Johnson & Wales graduate Gove got his formative experience in a storied two-Michelin-star French restaurant in England, while Garrity, who attended New England Culinary Institute, spent six years focused on farming and provides some of the restaurant’s produce from his Living Soil Gardens organic farm.

The pair met while working in the kitchen at Deuxave in Boston more than a decade ago, and the menu displays both chefs’ expertise. Everything is made in house, starting with the complimentary focaccia served with smoked butter. Order a cocktail while looking over the menu. The Beachfire, a balanced combination of smoky mezcal, amaro, and lime juice topped with pink grapefruit soda, is a bit like a wintry spritzer.

Small plates are indulgent and surprising. The Fall Salad with Squash Custard featured kale and radicchio greens scattered over orange half-moons of a firm, rich purée of winter squash, yielding a balance of textures and a unique spin on a classic combination. 

Similarly, the Squid Ink Gnocchi with Grilled Spanish Octopus was a riot of flavors and textures. The tender black gnocchi was made in house, tossed with smoked butter and the chunks of octopus, served atop a layer of purple sweet potato, and topped with pickled onions, husk cherries, crispy pork belly, and house-made black ink tuille crackers. Crunchy, creamy, savory, and sweet all came together with a comforting wintry balance.

Even the steak tartare surprises, arriving at the table in a beautiful crock, with a seal of duck foie gras hiding the decadent chopped beef tossed with a sunchoke aioli underneath.

In addition to the venison, current entrées include a prosciutto-wrapped monkfish— medallions of moist monkfish stand on a plate adorned with grilled maitake mushrooms and hand-made mushroom ravioli, sprinkled with bright-green romanesco, a hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower. It was as lovely to look at as it was satisfying to eat.

Because of the local and seasonal influence, the menu changes frequently, but the chefs anticipate working winter citrus into the menu to welcome the new year, in dishes like scallop crudo with bitter winter greens and coveted white Alba truffle. Berkshire pork with chayote, crispy salsify, and sauce Robert is also coming this winter. 

The comfortable space—formerly Ithaki Mediterranean Restaurant—is done in muted blues and grays, with stylish lighting and a number of seating options, from cozy corners to high-tops in the bar. Owner Tom DiSilva intentionally eschewed white tablecloths, crafting an environment that welcomes casual diners and special occasions alike. Servers are knowledgeable about the wine list, and nearly every selection is also available by the glass, so you can try a taste before committing to a bottle. 

Servers will also share the details of the compact dessert list, which changes frequently. A recent offering of Sweet Potato and Apple Bread Pudding amply displayed the hallmarks of the entire menu: The pretty round of bread pudding was served with apple spaghetti and house-made maple walnut ice cream, topped with a sprinkle of granola. Creamy, crunchy, local, balanced, and beautiful.