Good Eats – Smythe & Dove
It happens all too often, especially in the food industry. Something that looks good on paper is often quite less in real life.
For example, a steakhouse with a casually upscale bar/lounge in the heart of downtown Andover? What could possibly go wrong?
Well … plenty, actually. But in the case of Smythe & Dove, which opened in September, thankfully not much at all.
Considering they’re at a point where many restaurants would still be getting the kinks out, we had a very satisfying meal from start to finish. My only major complaint is a tribute to S&D’s overall operation. We never felt rushed, but our various dishes came out of the kitchen a tad too fast, nearly on top of each other in one case. Better that, however, than waiting a dog’s year for, oh, my soup, which has happened far too often elsewhere.
Smythe & Dove occupies a striking multilevel barn, accented with big two-story rolling barn doors. But this is Andover, after all, so the interior has a gentleman farmer ambiance, with soft dark colors, leathery-looking seating, and bookshelves.
The main entrance leads you into a comfortable bar and lounge area with a banquette and high bar chairs. The ground-floor dining room is tucked in a corner, and an impressive dining space occupies the second-floor loft.
The dinner menu is varied and even playful. House-made warm pretzel bread ($6) featured about two dozen little pretzel bread bombs, each about the size of a giant gumball. They were fresh, agreeably salted and served with whole grain mustard.
Could I imagine myself plopped at the bar and popping these little beauties while sipping the Partridge Hill Road house cocktail ($13), a heady mix of vodka, local raspberries, Earl Grey tea reduction and lime juice? In a New York minute.
The chopped wedge salad ($12) with Danish blue cheese and lardons, and the duck confit spring rolls ($13) were both smart openers.
But the hit … and surprise … of the night was a different sort of dish dish. The family-style mashed potato/sour cream/apple sauce bowl ($9) was velvety smooth and wonderfully flavored, with just a hint of a peppery aftertaste. It reads like a culinary car crash, but was delightful.
The 16-ounce rib-eye steak ($39) was a terrific piece of beef. It looked like a rib-eye. It tasted like a rib-eye. It had just enough fat for flavor and texture, and it was prepared exactly as requested.
Did it need seasoning? Yup, and I would rather salt and pepper to my preferences. However, like many eateries these days, Smythe & Dove doesn’t keep salt or pepper on its tables. When I asked for them, a pepper mill and a salt cellar filled with big, burly sea salt crystals quickly arrived and stayed. I was happy to avoid that scene where the server grinds the pepper (while I feel like an orphan in a Dickens novel asking for more gruel) and then leaves with the mill. Those sturdy sea salt crystals, by the way, made the steak explode with flavor.
Not a steak person? The roasted Faroe Island salmon ($28) also hit all the right taste buds and was accompanied by an appealing lemon tomato corn risotto.
The restaurant seems comfortable with a variety of monikers: Smythe & Dove, Smythe & Dove Steak, Smythe & Dove Steak and Dakota Bar. Don’t worry about the name. Just worry about getting there soon.
Smythe & Dove
Lunch: Tuesday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m.; Monday-Wednesday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.
Sunday brunch: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.