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June 25, 2006

May Street Market

Dominic Armato
UPDATE : May Street Market has closed

Well, it's been a good week for new restaurants. Today, we popped into another spot that's been on my list for a while, and while I'm not Spacca Napoli head-over-heels in love with the place, our lunch at May Street Market was extremely nice.

May Street Market is run by Alexander Cheswick, whose pedigree includes Tru and Le Francais, among others. Though I try not to read too much into lunch at a restaurant where lunch isn't the focus, "casual fine dining" would seem to be the term that applies. The space is modern, clean and crisp, but with a number of warm touches that keep it from crossing the line into stuffy. Service is similar, in that it's formal but not overly so.

Dominic Armato
The menu continues this trend, full of the kind of upscale comfort dishes that are (rightfully) popular these days. There are some good-looking soups, light salads, and a crabcake appetizer that seems to be something of an accidental signature dish. As our server told us, "We're a restaurant that focuses on seasonal produce and we change the menu regularly, but people love the crabcakes. They won't let us take them off the menu." There are also some (relatively) more traditional entrees, but the lunch menu is dominated by a sandwiches section that is fun but still accessible. Anytime you give me a duck burger, an asian pork burger and an oxtail po' boy as options, it's going to be a torturous decision.

Dominic Armato
For an appetizer, I figured I'd better try the crabcakes. They were beautifully plated, with fresh peas and mango, a tartare-ish sauce and balsamic reduction, light salad and a mango sorbet... all elements that we've seen together before, but skillfully balanced and playfully arranged. The crabcakes themselves were a touch on the mushy side (something I probably wouldn't have minded before this January's Baltimore trip), but that's being picky, the flavor was very nice, and along with the other elements I thought they made for a really nice dish. My ladylove had a mesculin salad with Maytag bleu and roasted beets, which was very tasty. The salad itself, while nice, was definitely playing a supporting role. The cheese was the star, wrapped with prosciutto and broiled (I believe). Again, it's a classic combination, but it was done exceptionally well, and anytime beets can be worked in is okay by me.

Dominic Armato
Anticipating my move to the duck burger, or perhaps recalling previous positive oxtail experiences, my companion opted for the BBQ oxtail po' boy. Calling it a po' boy struck me as a significant reach (I've never seen a po' boy served on a soft egg bread), but my taste was enjoyable, nonetheless. It won't be replacing traditional BBQ as a favorite, but the oxtail was a nice spin, making for a nice mushy, fatty rich sandwich. The duck burger pushed a healthy collection of my buttons, adorned as it was with figs, bleu cheese and a port reduction. It was a delicious combination of bold flavors that were perhaps a touch heavy for the duck patty, but I was finding it difficult to complain. The burger was also accompanied by a nice pot of herbed frites with an aioli dip. The dish was clearly upscale, but it still stayed true to its fingerfood roots, a little messy and completely satisfying.

Dominic Armato
Though dinner is obviously the restaurant's focus, and I'm quite anxious to give them a try in the later hours, what struck me was what a gem May Street Market is as a lunch spot. It almost feels as though you're getting away with something, sneaking in and sampling upscale bites in an upscale setting for rather moderate prices. I thought price performance, given the quality of the dishes, was quite good. The sandwiches ranged from $7-$11. Even with appetizers and drinks, our lunch for three came in at $65. Interestingly, on the way out, I was stopped by a woman who I'm fairly certain was Chantal Randolph, the Service Manager. Very friendly and inquisitive, she offered some parting cookies in a cello bag, and asked about the photos I was taking. When I replied that it was for online posting, she asked if I was a member of LTH Forum, and I told her that I was. It would seem that some restaurateurs are starting to catch on to the fact that food blogs and bulletin boards influence diners as much as if not more than the traditional restaurant press these days. I was a little embarrassed to have been outed, but she seemed quite sincere and was very friendly. Given some of the negative responses I've heard other bloggers have gotten at other restaurants, it was very nice to be regarded with interest rather than suspicion. Icing on the cake.

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