CHAUMONT When a new restaurant opens or a restaurant changes hands, word spreads like wildfire.
Such is the case with the Crescent in Chaumont, most recently Spencers. Before that it was the Duck Inn. Way before that it was the Mariner.
Despite a problem with their phone system (wed been calling on and off for over a week with no answer), limited information on a Facebook page and no website, we pulled up to the restaurant on a recent Wednesday and were lucky to find a space in the parking lot.
While their phone might be off, the neon beer signs in the windows were on, telling us that the Crescent was open for business.
The restaurant was bustling with activity inside. Several families were already there and more followed. The long bar that you have to walk past to get to the dining area was doing a good after work business. Several older couples wandered in and seated themselves at the attractive booths lining the walls and windows.
Unbeknownst to us, it was wing night at the Crescent. That would explain the number of generally unruly kids running around the place. And also the faint aroma of Franks Red Hot Sauce hanging in the air.
We, too, settled into a booth. Looking around, it seemed the restaurant was recently remodeled. Attractive stained wainscoting was complemented with peach-colored painted walls above. Several framed photographs of Chaumont lakeside scenes from years ago were a nice touch.
Two huge pots full of extra long pussy willow branches were in the corner of the room near a gas-fired fireplace. Each table was decorated with a small vase of cut flowers.
The menu is small and manageable. I like that. There are a dozen or so each of starters, sandwiches and burgers and entrées (they added the apostrophenot me!).
And a trendy statement at the top: Our food is made with the freshest ingredients we can find locally Chaumont Bay perch; meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from local farms. These are the flavors of the place!
From what we could tell, none of the starters utilized anything local except one, their perch bites. Calamari and shrimp come frozen from an ocean far away. And we all know where onion rings, mozzarella sticks and fried mushrooms come from the SYSCO truck!
So we got the perch bites ($7.95), steamers ($9.95) and bruschetta ($7.95).
The perch bites were tasty little morsels, sweet and moist, lightly battered and quickly deep-fried, enjoyable even without the accompanying commercial tartar sauce.
The steamers, a bakers dozen, were good as well, very small littleneck clams perfectly steamed till they just opened. We spooned the delicious lemon butter in the bottom of the serving dish onto the clams yummy.
Bruschetta consisted of four thick wedges of toasted bread covered with an ample amount of chopped fresh tomatoes and basil, garlic and olive oil, finished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Another tasty starter and, like the others, nicely presented.
We had put our entrée order in and realized a salad was never offered. In fact, its an add-on. For $1.95 you get a side salad and dinner rolls (their apostrophe, not mine).
We took the salad option and were glad we did. The house salad consisted of fresh greens, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded carrots and purple cabbage with a wonderful house balsamic vinaigrette.
I upgraded to a Caesar salad ($4.95) that was excellent crisp and fresh bite-sized pieces of cut romaine, a lovely Caesar dressing (you could actually taste the anchovies in it), crunchy croutons and just the right amount of grated Parm.
Entrees, for some reason, did not measure up to the starters and salads. And it didnt have anything to do with the dirty martini one of my reviewmates was drinking, either (more on that later).
Chicken piccata ($12.95) was probably the best of the lot. It consisted of a chicken breast lightly sautéed in lemon and wine reduction, finished with capers. The chicken was a juicy, generous portion served on a bed of rice pilaf. Seasonal asparagus completed the plate (as well as the other entrée plates), perfectly cooked and mighty tasty.
Blackened salmon ($13.95) was nicely crusted with a bit of a peppery snap. The edges of the salmon were slightly dry, but the center was still acceptable. It wasnt a terribly big piece of fish, making it a little difficult to blacken properly.
The menu said the salmon would be served with a homemade dill sauce, but the dab on the fish appeared to be more buttery than dilly. Real mashed potatoes with visible bits of skin were OK. We doctored them up with some butter and they were better. They could have been served warmer.
Haddock ($11.95) is available broiled or fried to a golden crescendo. We went with fried. Not sure what a golden crescendo is, but it was nicely fried, same batter as the appetizer perch bites. A pinch of salt was needed to help bring out the flavor of the fish.
The portion consisted of two good-sized pieces of haddock accompanied by the great asparagus and the tepid mashed taters.
Boos shrimp pasta ($12.95) had great potential: Jumbo shrimp, artichokes, Kalamata olives and capers over angel hair pasta in a white wine garlic sauce. (The dish is named after one of the restaurants owners, Boo Harris).
First problem the shrimp were far from jumbo. They were about the size of your pinky. The tails were still on them, making for an inconvenient maneuver with knife and fork.
Next quite a bit of the pasta was clumped together. Either it hadnt been rinsed properly or hadnt been put in the sauce soon enough. It was a huge distraction to a dish that had so much promise.
And there wasnt enough wine sauce, so the dish ended up being stuff with clumpy pasta.
Cold, clumpy pasta, I might add. All of the entrees were far from proper serving temperature. Get someheat lamps or get those dishes out to the tables quicker, folks.
Desserts ($4.95 each) were good-sized portions, all made in-house.
Pineapple upside-down cake appeared to be more of a layer cake with dollops of whipped topping. The cake was a bit on the dry side.
Carrot cake was quite good, made traditionally with raisins and walnuts and a nice cream cheese topping.
Chocolate mousse pie was not light and airy like mousse should be, more like chocolate pudding in a pie shell.
Our favorite was the peanut butter pie, a creamy peanutty filling atop a cookie crumb base, decorated with crumbled Oreos.
Dinner for four came to $127.49 before tip.
Our waitress was cheerful and friendly and made every effort to make our visit a pleasant one. A hostess/dining room manager (one of the owners, we learned) was super attentive. She swiftly appeared with a martini glass to rescue a drink that was incorrectly served in a rocks glass. She offered us coffee when our waitress neglected to do so.
With young kids running all over the place, the Crescent felt more like a Chuck E. Cheese than a respectable restaurant. People at one of the family tables were playing some kind of game that involved rolling dice. Maybe we stopped by on the wrong night, but we didnt feel like we wanted to rush back very soon.
The food is generally good and a good value price-wise, but needs a little refining especially the entrees if the Crescent wants a reputation for serving more than just casual bar food that you can get anywhere.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: email@example.com.
12260 Route 12E
Formerly Spencers, the Crescent is now open on the main drag in Chaumont.
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Noon to 10 p.m. Sunday
APPETIZER PICK: Perch bites
ENTRÉE PICK: Chicken piccata
DESSERT PICK: Peanut butter pie