MT’s Local Kitchen is a reinvention of Michael Timothy’s Restaurant, the flagship of chef Michael Buckley’s culinary mini-empire that also includes Surf in Nashua, Buckley’s Great Steaks in Merrimack, and a new seafood restaurant soon to open in Portsmouth.
Michael Timothy’s, affectionately known as Mike Tim’s to some of the locals, has been a landmark for Nashua-area foodies for more than 15 years. The food is always great, though some have found the restaurant to be a little too high-end in these tough economic times. So like the successful restaurateur he is, Buckley has adjusted.
In renovating the restaurant, Buckley has broken through the brick wall that once separated the wine bar from the bistro and has widened the windows that look out on Main Street. The ambience is much more airy and welcoming than the somewhat dark former grotto.
The restaurant is now open seven days a week for dinner and three for lunch. It used to offer different menus in the bistro and the bar, but there is now one menu for both.
The menu now includes comfort dishes such as vegetarian meatballs and a pig pile, un-pulled pork sandwich, and other less expensive dishes, as well as longtime favorites such as wood-grilled filet mignon, beef tournedos, and seared duck breast. A blackboard lists daily specials that take advantage of local meat and produce.
There is an increased emphasis on foods from local farms, including produce from Lull Farm in Hollis, poultry from Misty Knoll Farm in New Haven, Vt., and meats from the North Country Smokehouse in Claremont, N.H.
MT’s, like its former incarnation, still has an excellent wine list — with many available by glass or bottle — and “tasting flights’’ available daily.
The menu still features the fantastic wood-grilled pizza. The four-cheese ($14) made with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil is our favorite, though there are those who prefer the spinach and mushroom ($17) drizzled with truffle oil.
The bread basket that welcomed us at the table was filled with warm ciabatta and raisin bread, which was practically worth a trip in itself.
There are more than a dozen items on the appetizer and small-plate menu, including smoked salmon from Ducktrap River Farm in Belfast, Maine, ($10) and macaroni and cheese ($9) made with cheese from Boggy Meadow Farm in Walpole, N.H.
We sampled the lobster spaghetti ($17). Our server described the dish as a small “tapas-style’’ serving, but it was so much more, a steaming plate of fresh pasta in a white wine-garlic sauce tossed with sweet chunks of fresh Maine lobster. It was a generous portion that was a meal in itself.
We also tried the three-mushroom and fresh thyme strudel ($8) appetizer, a yummy package of minced mushrooms braised in Madeira wine and baked in a fillo pastry. The three fluffy wedges were magnificent — every bite nutty and earthy.
Our server recommended the slow-cooked pot roast ( $17) as an entrée choice and, boy, was she right. A knife never had to touch this tender beef, bathed in a Madeira wine sauce and accompanied by — wait for it — house-made tater tots. Oh, yes. They taste as good as they sound.
The meatloaf sandwich ($10) was a revelation, a rethinking of the diner staple, stuffed with spinach and mozzarella, then topped with a red onion and mayo served on a grilled bun.
For dessert, our party shared a coconut sundae ($8), a healthy scoop of coconut ice cream served with toasted angel food biscotti bathed in a warm chocolate sauce.
We left the restaurant with a little more change rattling around in our pockets than we might have expected, and a resolution that we will no longer restrict visits to the restaurant to special occasions.