Food with a side of music at this South Glastonbury restaurant

Lisa and I dined recently at Main and Hopewell in South Glastonbury. It was one of those nights we’ve been having a lot of lately; the TV weathermen had gotten all apoplectic about an allegedly massive storm that would soon be smothering us in the snow. As a result, the restaurants palm springs was almost empty. Our waitress was doubling as hostess (or was it the hostess doubling as a waitress? We couldn’t tell), and we thought we saw the chef delivering plates of food from the kitchen. Talk about multi-tasking.
The upstairs dining room at Main and Hopewell is cozy, with a few exposed rough-hewn beams, some Impressionist landscapes on the wall, and a nook with dried flowers, and, curiously, an old manual typewriter, by the windows. There was also one of those enormous bottles of wine, not a magnum but even bigger (I think they’re called Methuselahs if you can believe that). Downstairs — which also has a respectable calendar of live jazz — is a little more casual. Lee Morgan’s snappy “Sidewinder” played on the stereo.

The first page of the menu at Main and Hopewell offers some routine bar fare and comfort food. There’s an Angus burger, chicken pot pie, nachos, and quesadillas. But the restaurant has a much more serious and ambitious side, as one realizes upon flipping through the menu. The entrĂ©e selection is heavily weighted in the seafood department. A Chilean sea bass served with vegetable risotto carries a red pepper coulis sauce. A lobster strudel sounds interesting if a bit busy, with Maine lobster, mascarpone, tarragon and black truffle pate in a phyllo pastry. Another thing about the menu — it’s pricey.

We had met up with Lisa’s father, and we were talking about how often the movie Sideways had come up in conversation with people at dinner. A recent article in the food section of the New York Times quoted a waiter who was experiencing something of Sideways backlash — he was sick and tired of diners pooh-poohing the featured merlots on the wine list. Sipping our glasses of pinot and cabernet, we were talking about the house bread, and how it sort of reminded us of a fluffy focaccia, minus all the rosemary and olive oil. At this Lisa and I started blabbering about how focaccia is over-rated anyway, to which her father said, “Focaccia is the new merlot.” We all agreed that butter makes most things good, though.

To start, we ordered the “martini” shrimp cocktail, which earns its name by being served in a martini glass. A half-dozen or so jumbo shrimp with a side of admittedly tasty and refreshing wasabi cocktail sauce doesn’t warrant a $12 price tag. We also tried the buttery and peppery lobster cakes ($13), the effect of which was somewhat muddled by a baby green salad.

Sometimes dinner with Lisa and me is like a low-rent version of Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell on American Idol. One of us is sort of a push-over, offering softball, sugar-coated excuses for shortcomings and the other is dismissive, hypercritical and harsh, but typically onto something. We puzzled over some of our dinners. I tried the chicken penne, which had a bunch of good stuff in it — artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and baby spinach — but somehow didn’t come together as a whole. Lisa had the surf-and-turf special, a filet mignon served with garlic shrimp. The filet was a touch overcooked and could have been more tender. One wouldn’t go hungry though; a huge heap of roughly-mashed potatoes and a tangle of julienned zucchini and yellow squash anchored the special plate. More successful was the seafood risotto, a mix of lobster, scallops, shrimp and mussels in stewed Arborio rice and bits of crisp vegetables. Pepper and vinegar gave the risotto an initial bright flash.

We sampled some desserts and coffee, which was a mistake. The apple pie was mushy, possibly microwaved, and the coffee was weak and flavored with cinnamon. Not a strong finish. Reade more

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