The wedding is over, the guests have all left the island. Angela and I remain, enjoying the warm breezes blowing on Nantucket from the Atlantic (the temperature reached 69 Fahrenheit yesterday). Abundant sun, cool evenings, walks on cobblestone streets. The season is over, many shops are in the process of closing, and quiet calmness is everywhere.
We have devoted a portion of our evenings to restaurants, with mixed results. Several nights ago we went to Oran Mor Bistro & Bar, a small place on the second floor of a building a short walk from the house in which we are staying. I’d read a review of Oran Mar in The New York Times, and a few people who had dined there told me they had enjoyed the food. (I phoned the restaurant during the day to ask about its corkage policy. A woman’s voice on the other end of the line replied: “We do not have a corkage fee because we have a wine list. I hope you will be able to find something you like on our extensive list.”)
We did find something on the list, a 2012 Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir, which we ordered after being led past a small bar to our table in the corner of restaurant’s front dining room. The interior space is warm, earth tones on the wall, low ceiling. (I could imagine Thomas Jefferson sitting at the table next to us, wine glass at the ready.)
Our waitress, whose voice I recognized as belonging to the woman who informed me of Oran Mor’s (non)-corkage policy on the phone earlier that day, displayed a perfunctory manner throughout the evening, smiling in what seemed a forced manner whenever she approached our table and declining to reply “You are welcome” when I thanked her for pouring the wine. All of which would have been fine if we had ended the meal after our very good first courses.
The smoked pork belly was some of the best I have had, at least since moving to Houston in 2013. The meat was cooked well, and retained a moistness that is often lacking in pork belly. The fatty parts were excellent, as well: they melted in my mouth with a pleasing flavor. The broth was a touch too sweet for me, but the radishes were crisp and a welcome addition to the plate. The ravioli was easily the best thing of the evening. Fresh, strong-tasting mushrooms, rich parmesan broth, and delicate fennel. The pasta was thin yet firm, and each flavor component of the dish melded agreeably.
We were in no hurry on that evening – unless it is absolutely necessary I firmly believe that one should never rush while dining – and several times had to tell a server that, no, we were not finished “working on” our plates. Oran Mor is not an inexpensive place – our bill before tip was $182 – and the service should better represent the niche the restaurant occupies.
While we waited for our main courses we talked about the wedding and the weather on Nantucket and the utilitarian beauty of the Cape Cod architectural style. Our experience at Oran Mor soon took an unfortunate turn.
I ordered the Pekin duck – breast and confit, sweet potato purée, Brussels sprouts, huckleberry compote – and Angela decided on the lamb. (She was attracted to the Kalamata olives and tomatoes, but, we later discovered, there was perhaps all of one olive in the dish, minced.) Again, if our meal had ended after the first course we would have been incredibly happy. Instead, I was served hard potatoes, bland Brussels sprouts, and dry confit. Yes, dry confit. Angela’s lamb was satisfactory, medium-rare, lacking salt. And those olives were nowhere to be found. I must state that my duck breast was good, but it was not enough to salvage the overall lack of attention to technique and flavor.
Dessert was Elvis’ Doughnuts, and if they had all been at least warm, we would have loved them. Banana cream, chocolate, and fried dough, but two of the doughnuts were warm.
Oran Mor is attractive, and, judging by our ravioli and pork belly, can put out good food. I will reserve a final verdict until after my next visit.