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DINING OUT

Tasty treats, succulent meats

Michael Palmer of Lynnfield said he has received a great deal of positive feedback since opening the Tanner Tavern restaurant two days before Thanksgiving. He hopes those feelings are now shared by a group in town that once opposed the restaurant: the longtime customers of the displaced Robert Newton Coiffures.

''During construction, I had all these ladies coming in yelling, 'You got rid of my favorite hair salon!' " said Palmer, a former Winchester resident who also owns Stearns & Hill's Bistro in Melrose, and the Swanton Street Diner and the Pastazza restaurant in Winchester.

Palmer appears to be on the way toward being forgiven, judging by the fact that Tanner Tavern was about three-quarters full on the weekday evening of our visit between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Our party of four was greeted warmly by the host and led through the spacious lounge dotted with plasma televisions into the dark wood-trimmed dining room with one wall of exposed brick and another lined with oversized windows overlooking Main Street.

Although overwhelmed at first with the variety on the menu, we focused long enough to select one appetizer each. The fresh half dozen Prince Edward Island oysters ($9.99) were presented on crushed ice on an enormous platter with lemon wedges and cocktail and horseradish sauces. The grilled shrimp ($7.99) was a smaller, but no less delicious, dish, with five medium-size shrimp served in a garlic wine sauce with just the right amount of spinach and diced tomatoes, plus crusty, grilled garlic bread on the side.

The bowl of New England clam chowder ($3.99) had a medium-thick consistency and a pleasing buttery flavor. Although tasty, the cup of lobster bisque ($3.99) was watery and loaded with celery and onion, without a single piece of lobster to be found.

The size and quality of the entrees quickly dispelled our skepticism about the higher-priced selections. The filet and lobster ($28.99) was a generous portion of melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon garnished with mesclun greens and hollandaise sauce, sitting atop a mound of seasoned mashed potatoes whipped to perfection and accompanied by half a lobster tail.

The beef Wellington ($23.99) won our vote for best presentation, with two substantial cuts of tenderloin served over the same creamy mashed potatoes and topped with a medley of onion, spinach, and mushrooms finished with a blue cheese sauce. Two pieces of grilled garlic bread lay on top, pointing inward from opposite sides of the plate.

The chicken piccata with wild mushroom ravioli ($16.99) also arrived on a large platter, with chicken medallions tender enough to cut with a fork, small but flavorful gourmet ravioli, and a savory blend of capers, mushrooms, lemon, and garlic in a white wine butter sauce. Served in a casserole dish, the Nantucket pie ($20.99) was a moderately sized entree, with steaming broiled lobster, shrimp, scallops, and scrod topped with a light coating of cracker crumbs. The dish was served with buttery rice pilaf and surprisingly seasoned asparagus, which still bore marks from the grill.

For dessert, we split the creme brulee and brownie parfait with chocolate and vanilla mousse ($6 each). Both were good, but we were too full to truly appreciate them.

Although the same menu will continue to be available in both the lounge and dining room, Palmer said a separate pub menu may be introduced for the lounge area. He said he plans to add a Sunday brunch as well as nightly entertainment beginning Feb. 1.

Tanner Tavern

474-482 Main St., Woburn

Telephone: 781-935-0777

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Accessible to the handicapped

Reservations accepted

Major credit cards accepted

Take-out available

CYNTHIA CANTRELL

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