The Galley -- Dishin' It Out
The Galley, heavens where do I start? I had a conversation recently with one of the concierges at a hotel and they told me that the Galley is one of the top three restaurants requested by island visitors, along with Cru and Pearl. I’ll have to put those on my list to indulge in. However, in my opinion, the Galley is on its own level when it comes to the ultimate dining experience. Sitting quietly at the end of Jefferson Avenue, this restaurant is a food lover’s dream. It has it all, the view, the décor, the food, the vibe, the staff.
For any of you that have been to the Galley, you know it’s the top of the line, the crème de la crème, the best of the best and it never lets you down. The view, the atmosphere, the food, wow, just wow!
I make it a point to get down to The Galley several times a year. Once at the beginning, a few times during the peak season and then for closing day. Normally the bright red geraniums which fill the blue dory sitting outside the restaurant are in full bloom and add a burst of color to the backdrop of the grey shingled building, but tonight, late in May, they have not yet been planted. However, even given the lack of the flowers, the Galley is a shining example of first class all the way.
My dining companion and I were greeted by Terry, who has been there for years. There’s something to be said about seeing a familiar face when one walks into a place like this. Having loyal staff is a good sign that management must be doing something right, always good to see Terry. We slither quietly behind him as he makes his way past the bar giving us a glimpse of the beige outdoor furniture already sprawling over the beach, fire pits ablaze and the vision of future customers who will soon be sipping summer cocktails. Nowhere else on Nantucket can one have this type of experience. The Galley has captured this completely and solely. Too bad they can’t bottle it up and sell it!
The Galley is like Nikki Beach in St. Bart’s. A place to go to relax, to eat and drink well, to completely take in everything around you simultaneously and of course to be seen on the scene. Tonight however, I am invisible, blending into the customers beside me and the loud and laughing crowd at the large table in the corner. I review the menu over and over and take longer than normal to order. It all looks so good, but I settle on the Jumbo Crab Cake, cucumber, tomato and mint salad with champagne beurre blanc and as my entrée the Jumbo Shrimp, fennel, cannellini beans, pomegranate, tahini, herbs. My mouth waters as my choices fall off my tongue to the waiter.
My friend, who is always thrilled to be invited along for these excursions, orders the Brussel sprouts, twice-smoked bacon, pickled egg, shallots, puffed wild rice and cabernet vinegar along with the halibut, saffron potatoes, broccolini, ras al hanout, lemon chili nage.
Now that I write this I realize that did not completely understand what I was ordering. However I choose now to reach for my faithful food dictionary to look up and learn what some of these terms are for future use…. Ok, so we have a nage, couldn’t find this one anywhere, not even on Google. Will pursue this soon. Ras al hanout: an exotic and complex Moroccan spice blend. I was happily surprised that I understood all the other terminology.
As I sipped on my cocktail I took in the view. It’s breathtaking, truly breathtaking. The sun just setting and a pale pink stream of clouds hovering above the horizon were a sign of a perfect summer to come, or at least I want to believe this. There were no boats in the water yet, a light sea breeze still came off the water and a few people already walking the beach, I assume tourists looking for shells. The bar was packed with eager customers and as the day became night, the candlelight on the tables set the room into a beautiful glow among its hungry people around me also enjoying this absolutely beautiful setting for a restaurant in what we call paradise.
Our waiter appeared with our appetizers. The presentations of plate after plate were artwork in themselves. I am huge believer in presentation as it is 90% of how the food will taste. Although I know this isn’t true, I still think it’s extremely important to create an appealing dish to enhance the flavors to come forth. Chef Osif does not disappoint you here. It never seizes to amaze me the quality of food presentation and flavors that come out of his kitchen and unbeknownst to me this was to become one of my greatest meals ever. Keep in mind, it’s the beginning of the summer season of fresh food on the eastern seaboard and I haven’t even begun to dip into the waters of all the places I intend to visit and here I was starting with what I believe to be the best restaurant on the island.
The crab cake display was so beautiful, I didn’t want to destroy it, but I was hungry. A perfectly round simply seared thick crab cake sat in the middle of this beautiful golden beurre blanc sauce topped high with spaghetti-like strings of cucumber, mint and tomatoes. After snapping a quick picture, I lifted my fork right down the edge through the crab cake, collecting a bit off the good stuff on top. The perfect bite awaited me. Smeared with a touch of the beurre blanc sauce, I let it melt in my mouth slowly taking in every bit of flavor. It was absolutely delicious.
My friend’s appetizer was just as beautiful. Brightly adorned with a fuchsia pickled egg sliced among wonderfully roasted Brussel sprouts and bacon among other flavors. It was a fusion of flavors! (We have made a deal that she can come with me, but I get to taste everything she orders. It seems to work out for both of us).
I must add a little aside here. It is important to consider all the factors that come into play when dining out, especially at a fine dining restaurant. The location, the staff, the food, the presentation, lighting, music and of course the timing. The timing was perfect at the Galley. Nothing was ever rushed or pushed by the waiter. I watched them as they watched us and they allowed us to completely enjoy our meal without removing plates too quickly. The Galley staff has obviously been trained well. Not long after the appetizer plates were removed we struck up a conversation with the couple next to us who were visiting Nantucket for the first time and had heard many great things about the Galley. Their concierge said it was a must on their long list of dining suggestion from friends and they seemed very happy with the referral.
Our entrees appeared and again the presentation, well, wow, just wow! Again, a masterpiece! My three jumbo shrimp were larger than I had expected and sat on a smear of tahini, a thick Middle Eastern paste made of ground sesame seed, the cannellini beans, a steamed piece of possibly cabbage with wilted leaves of fresh parsley sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. This plate was bursting with color, I mean just look at the picture, it was perfect. The other entre of the halibut atop two boiled potato slivers were also beautiful. Crisscrossed with broccolini and red chilies gave it a wonderful but unexpected hotness. The fish was perfectly cooked, with a slightly crusted exterior surely sealing in the natural jus, and had a bit of smoky taste. I loved it. My shrimp entree was excellent. I enjoyed each bite as if it were my last meal. Succulent, moist, favorable shrimp, just out of this world.
Although I am very critical of textures with my food, and not a big supporter of mushy things, the beans and tahini were a perfect match for one another and filled me up more than I expected. I really loved this dish and would order it again, and again, and even again.
Now on to the desserts. I am a huge, I mean huge dessert lover. Their dessert menu had a wonderful collection of choices: crème brulee, citrus curd, buttermilk crepes, warm chocolate brownie and a pistachio cake. “What shall we order?” I said to my friend. “Are we really going to have dessert, too?” was her reply. You bet we are going to have dessert. I was stuffed, but not going to pass up the opportunity to have dessert. We opted for the citrus curd with honeydew gelee, and poppy seed tuile. And the pistachio cake with lime cream and cherry compote.
Now I understand that menus don’t always tell you exactly what’s in the dish, but when these desserts arrived they were far above my exceptions. The citrus curd sat proudly in a small canning container topped with little balls and cubes of honeydew and what I think was cantaloupe and leaning ever so gently was a sliver of a poppy seed cookie, thus the tuile, French for “tile”, a thin crisp cookie. (See, now we are learning something. Eating and learning, love it, love it, love it). The citrus curd was out of this world with explosions of mouthwatering flavors cleaning my palate after a savory meal.
The small but dense pistachio cake with cherry compote and lime crème had slivers of pistachio nuts scattered atop giving it a bit of a needed crunch was also quite delicious.
So as I rolled myself out of the banquet and walked slowly to the hostess stand to give Terry a hug on the way out, I thought, what a perfect experience in this fine establishment on this beautiful May evening on the beach. David Silva and his team does it one way and that is the right way! The Galley is a shining example of first class all the way. The Galley will see me again sooner than later and you should get your reservation in sooner than later as well. It will truly be the place to be this summer season.
Ratings: Atmosphere - 5 dishes, Service – 5 dishes, Food – 5 dishes!