boasted a crowd. Couples and groups,
young and otherwise, all seemed at home.
If any dish connotes home, it’s roast
chicken. Here, it is among the finest
of the unpretentious yet beautifully
prepared American dishes on the menu.
These range from the Southern (terrific
corn fritters in a spicy pimento cheese)
to anything goes (like falafel bites; or
Executive chef Jonathan Mecca, 31,
a CIA grad and former sous chef of One
if By Land, Two if by Sea in Manhattan,
adorns this beautifully bronzed bird from
Bell & Evans with whole baby carrots and
meaty, still-emerald peas, all set upon a
cloud of garlicky whipped potatoes and
gratifying pan gravy. Each aspect of this
dish is as it should be: the potatoes rich
without being heavy; the vegetables firm
but tender; and the bird, under its delicately crisp crust, oozing delicious juice.
Roast chicken may sound ordinary, but
this one would be a shame to pass up.
Deviled eggs, too, exceed expectations.
That’s not easy, given how ubiquitous
they’ve become. Here, the yolk mixture—
subtly piquant with aioli and a dash of
pickling liquid—is spun through one of
those $4,000 Pacojet machines usually
used to create celestially creamy ice
creams and mousses. The result is a filling
so light, it practically floats. No wonder, as
Mecca says, “these fly out the door.”
Appetizers are almost universally
strong. A coconut-sweet potato soup, a
special, was a joy, variegated in texture
(crunchy apples and pecans in rich,
velvety soup) and flavor (a touch of maple
syrup in the savory mirepoix in the base).
Another star is littleneck clams sautéed
with Mexican chorizo, served in a bisque
enriched with coconut milk and lobster
stock. The chorizo, made with bits of
jalapeño, bleeds a smoky-fiery essence
into the bisque, which I sopped up with
sourdough toast. Sometimes I enjoy a
dish so much, I stop taking notes. On this
one, “Amazing” is all I wrote.
A chopped salad, while generous
with blue cheese and hard-boiled egg,
was watery; perhaps the gem lettuces
weren’t completely patted dry. Last
spring, a panzanella salad was served
with out-of-season tomatoes that did not
merit star billing, wasting the lovely basil
vinaigrette. Far better was a Mediter-
ranean salad with a sublime honey-lime
vinaigrette and grilled paneer cheese.
Among entrées, hits significantly
outnumbered misses. Most surprisingly
successful was coconut Carolina rice,
denoted as vegan. Even my determinedly
non-vegan guests judged it first-rate.
Why? Several reasons, among them the
chef’s use of freshly harvested Carolina
Gold rice from esteemed Anson Mills
in Columbia, South Carolina; the crispy
edges of the seared maitake mushrooms,
a species hardy enough to take the heat
needed to produce that crunch; the hint
of smoke in bok choy gently charred on
a plancha; and, perhaps most important,
the addition of (again) coconut milk to
the vegetable stock used to cook the rice.
Two specials—mushroom agnolotti
draped in a sage-flecked stew of beech-
wood mushrooms and English peas, and
squid-ink pasta with bay scallops, rock
shrimp and just the right hit of Aleppo
pepper—showed the kitchen’s pasta
know-how. “I grew up kneading dough
and making ravioli,” Mecca, a Sussex
County native, says. But he credits his
chef de cuisine, Michael Kedala, with the
agnolotti, as well as other dishes.
Among the few misfires was an
undistinguished fisherman’s stew, its
promising mix of mussels, clams, shrimp,
crabmeat, bay scallops and chunks of cod
lifeless in a dull broth. A recent agnolotti
experiment, with a pesto made from turnip greens, was entirely too sour to finish.
Still, Mathews rarely comes up short,
not even in its name. (Rather than miss-
ing a T, it’s a riff on Kopec’s first name.)
One dish that confirmed the energy and
spirit of his talented crew was a pork ten-
derloin that avoided this cut’s usual sins.
Moist and flavorful, it paired perfectly
with garlicky mashed potatoes (green
with chopped scallions and chives), glis-
Opposite page: pork
tenderloin with fennel-corn kimchi, blistered
shishito peppers and
purée. This page, left:
roast chicken with peas
and carrots, roasted-garlic whipped potatoes
and pan gravy.
Above: the hugely popular deviled eggs, with their
whirly peaks whipped up in a Pacojet machine. Left:
pouring a Johnny Apple Cedar cocktail.