The ever-modest 9 Elm American Bistro is quietly tucked between a salon and a shoe repair shop in downtown Danvers, where it could be easily missed. But take note: It is more than worth the trip to this otherwise rather sleepy locale.
Both warm and familiar, 9 Elm houses just 11 tables, so if you can jockey a spot at the bar— the place is buzzing on weekend nights—do so. Its charm is enhanced by the glow from white tea lights, and a prominently displayed chalkboard highlights the chef-inspired specials of the day. Regulars at this exceptionally small and wonderfully intimate bistro are greeted at the door like old friends. Chef Matt Sanidas and his wife, Jean, have owned the place for over six years, and thankfully, they are not going anywhere anytime soon.
The menu is surprisingly diverse for such a little hideaway, and includes a swordfish entre?e with truffle risotto and Parmesan in a lemon dijon beurre blanc, as well as a maple-cured pork belly appetizer in a pork demi glaze accented with carrots done five ways—all of which tantalizes the palate and satisfies the foodie.
A seasoned staff demonstrates expertise when it comes to both service and fine foods. Starter drinks arrive with warm bread and aromatic roasted garlic and oil. Of special note is the Smoked Maple Manhattan—slightly sweet with a trace of freshly tapped sap.
Also not to be missed are the Medjool dates wrapped in bacon with a balsamic reduction and stuffed with Great Hill blue cheese. In a dish that can be overwhelmed by the cheese’s pungency, chef Sanidas masters the delicate balance between sweet and savory.
Sanidas’s pan-seared scallops are brown crusted and plated to encircle a fresh selection of asparagus and carrots atop white truffle whipped potatoes. A sweet corn butter sauce crowns this creamy medley.
The succulent duck breast is yet another testament to the chef’s skill. Pan roasted to medium-rare perfection, it is served atop a rich risotto with bacon and butternut squash, adding a hint of smoke to the sweetness. The orange-soy reduction sauce complements both the duck and the risotto, making this perhaps, one of the best duck dishes on the North Shore.
Chef Sanidas sources local ingredients when possible. Fresh fish comes from Halibut Jack’s in Gloucester, and the craft drink menu includes Ipswich’s Privateer Rum and Somerville’s Bantam Cider.
Nothing tops a fine meal quite like warm chocolate cake served with sea salt caramel and vanilla ice cream.
Reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting, Danvers hangs onto its small-town charm, and little 9 Elm exemplifies its appeal. 9elm.com