A Saturday Night Dinner Experience You Won’t Soon Forget| 01.13.23
Why You Should Go: Inspired Culinary Pairings, Layered Flavors, Fine Dining, Wonderful Atmosphere,
Things You Should Know: Dinner service is just resuming with a small staff-service can be slow but the wait is worth it; Not Really a Kid Friendly Menu
Central Café is reviving its dinner service, starting with Saturday night seatings. We had to check them out as we’ve only had good dining experiences in the past, and we were not disappointed. If you’re looking for a delicious meal, more refined dining, and decent prices, than be sure to make a Saturday night reservation at this restaurant in St. Johnsbury.
As I mentioned, we’ve eaten at Central Café in the past. For more on the dining room and atmosphere, read our previous review.
The Café menu typically has been a revolving menu, changing weekly or monthly based on the season. The new menu however will be more stable – with the expectation it will remain virtually the same for the rest of the winter season.
There was plenty to choose from. And we started out meal with a clam chowder, the beef tartar appetizer, and the salmon crudo.
The chowder arrived as an appetizer portion, enough for the two of us to enjoy without being too filling to follow it with a meal. It consisted of a well seasoned broth that was light and sweet, a little on the thin side for chowder, but filled with fresh clams, bacon, and potato. I enjoyed that all of the ingredients were left chunky instead of chopped up small, including the clams, this allowed for the flavors to really shine through. It was delicious.
Next we tried with beef tartar. The name of the game is layered flavors, and this dish nailed it.
The minced raw beef was molded with plenty of diced radish and cornichons (a pickle) and capers throughout. The dish was topped with a lightly poached egg yolk and a crispy parmesan chip.
The capers added the salt needed to bring the beef to the next level. The capers, along with the radish and cornichons, gave the dish texture and a bit of a crunch. Breaking the yolk and letting it seep into the rest of the ingredients brought a creamy quality to the dish. Finally, using a small piece of the parmesan chip to scoop up all the other ingredients made for a perfect bite. Salt, crunch, and a savory finish – what’s not to love?
Our final appetizer was the salmon crudo. This dish contains raw salmon, fresh kiwi sliced thin with the juice allowed to run on the plate, thin sliced refrigerator pickles with a bit of brine on the plate, and all topped with lemon juice.
This dish played with a balance of sweet and acidic, really highlighting how acid can change the flavor profile of a dish. The fresh salmon sitting in the broth created from the lemon, kiwi, and pickle juice tasted fresh and bright – it really brought out the natural flavors in the salmon without overpowering the fish.
Adding in a bite of the kiwi brought more to the dish, starting with the salmon flavor but finishing with a burst of sweetness from the kiwi. I did try adding a piece of the pickle, but found that was a little overpowering for my tastes, the juice on the plate was enough.
This dish had a summer feel that was a pleasant surprise amid winter flavors.
For the moment, Central Café restaurant in St. Johnsbury is offering beer and wine. But, their menu shows a list of wonderful sounding wine cocktails that will soon be available, as well as mocktails available for those not imbibing.
As we were winding down our appetizers, our server checked in on us and let us know that the kitchen was firing our entrees.
I ordered the scallops, which came with a blueberry rosemary sauce and pureed potatoes. These were incredible. The dish again used a balance of sweet and acidic to intensify the flavors on the plate. Perfectly seared scallops had a creamy texture inside. The natural sweetness of the seafood was offset by the blueberry sauce, which had a hint of vinegar that followed the initial blueberry taste. The sauce finished with rosemary giving the scallops a fantastic play of flavors. And, to top it all off, braised cabbage decorated the plate, adding another layer of texture, acid, and a different flavor profile to the scallops.
Garlic filled, buttery potatoes pureed to almost a thick sauce finished the dish. I could have done with more potatoes.
My husband ordered the braised short ribs. These were cooked wonderfully – rubbed with a spice mix and a little bbq sauce, they were slow cooked until they fell apart when you went to cut them. Not sauced after being cooked, the flavors of the rub and the meat were the stars of this dish. Wonderfully moist, the ribs were paired with pickled peppers – again adding acid to the dish, as well as a crunchy texture that paired will with the soft meat. These were not spicy. The ribs also came with the pureed potatoes.
We finished up with fresh brewed coffees and a delicious crème brûlée.
Dining at Central Café, especially for their dinner service is a food experience that is affordable and yet is out of the ordinary for the Northeast Kingdom. For foodies it is a destination, highlighting wonderful flavor profiles, playing with flavors and ingredients, and offering unique takes on classic items.
For those that are less adventurous with food, or are not big fans of fine dining or like a simpler menu, there are still great options to choose from, such as the ribs, the burger, shrimp cocktail, their salads, the chowder, and French onion soup.
The Central Café restaurant in St. Johnsbury, VT is a dinner destination we heartily recommend. And with price points for entrees between $16 and $32, they are priced well for the region while offering a superior product.