Ariana's Opens at The Lyme Inn
Last night, I was invited to dine at Ariana's Restaurant at The Lyme Inn in Lyme, NH. It was the "soft-opening night" for Ariana's and Chef Martin who has become known these past several years for sophisticated fare served in a casual atmosphere at the Bunten Farmhouse in Orford, NH. Soft opening though it was, there was nothing soft or dull about the fare Chef Martin served to his invited guests. His food was vibrant and alive with color and palette-pleasing, savory complexities and nuanced tastes.
January 18, 2018 was the opening night for Ariana's at The Lyme Inn. A new and fine restaurant has opened its doors in the Upper Valley region. Let's celebrate!
Ariana's Restaurant, now serving fine fare at The Lyme Inn in Lyme, NH.
My appetizer of Thai Style Scallops, served in a light wine, orange chili sauce of finely sliced carrots, ginger, shallots, garlic, chilis, and scallions awakened me to memories of places I'd dined around the world. This was no ordinary appetizer, certainly not when it invoked tastes I'd savored in France, Maine, San Francisco, London, and even Italy. Sweet and spicy, perfectly cooked scallops, moist and delectable. After the scallops were gone, I couldn't leave the sauce behind, so I broke open a freshly-baked finger roll and dipped. It was memorable and outstanding, truly.
Thai Style Scallops.
Other appetizers around the table included Chef Martin's highly celebrated steamed pork dumplings served over house-made kimchee with a lime-chili dipping sauce. Nothing too hot, but the lime-chili sauce awakens your mouth to new and exciting taste sensations. This appetizer is not to be missed. Another appetizer was the warm spinach salad which included candied pecans, dried cranberries, VT goat and feta cheeses, and a warm apple cider, shallot vinaigrette as dressing. I'll have to go back to taste this salad, which looked delightful.
Steamed Pork Dumplings
The menu is divided up into Small Plates and Large Plates. So each diner can mix and match easily depending upon his or her level of hunger, or desire to taste multiple dishes. I recommend the latter approach to start, just so you can sample two or three small plates, then head back for another evening of gustatory pleasure with a large plate, and perhaps a small plate to keep your gastronomic curiosity sated.
My Large Plate was Curried Shrimp, which were wild Gulf white shrimp sautéed in garlic and sherry. They were served in a creamy curry sauce of peppers, onions, mushrooms, coconut milk, and red curry paste, then topped with scallions and tomatoes, all over wonderfully moist ginger basmati rice. Okay, now this was a show stopper for me. It brought me back to a little restaurant I once ate at on a small island in the Caribbean coupled with a French restaurant I happened to enjoy on the Island of Guernsey in the English Channel. The mixture of coconut milk and a spice mixture I couldn't quite identify—maybe a North African birbere coupled with a French mignonette—presented its magic to me. It brought back memories from decades back. Memories of enjoyable meals and venues where I'd found myself eating some wonderful fare out of pure luck. Even the chianti I sampled seemed to come from an Italian seacoast town along the northern Mediterranean I'd once visited. (By the way, the wine list is worth the visit, too.).
Others around the table enjoyed Chef Martin's Penne Bolognese, his Shrimp Scampi, and his Pan-Roasted Pair of Petite Filet Mignon. All were quite satisfied with everything from new and delightful taste sensations, to portion sizes, to the esthetic of each plate as it was presented. I've had this Chef's bolognese sauce, and it drove me to make a special trip to seek him out a few years back to ask him his secret. I don't think he revealed all of it, but I did learn that finely grated carrots are one ingredient that add a special flavor to the local farm-raised meats he uses in his bolognese sauce.
Apple/Pear Crisp w/Vanilla Gelato
Dessert was a warm apple/pear crisp with vanilla gelato. Need I say more? Delicious and delicate at the same time. It's fragrance was subtle, and it's taste was perfectly sweet/tart and settling.
Until last night, I never knew food could have the kind of magical, reminiscent effect I experienced. I suppose that's one thing true star chef's are able to do. I've no doubt but that very few can pull it off as well as Chef Martin did for me and my palette. After all, it's never happened to me as powerfully as this before, so I'll head back to Ariana's Restaurant at The Lyme Inn to be sure it happens again.
Chef Martin (right) speaks with a satisfied diner at the end of the evening.
Now, lest I give short shrift to our surroundings, they could not have been more pleasant on a cold January evening. We were seated in The Lyme Inn's front dining room next to a warming fireplace, looking out over the Lyme Town Common and it's nearby church whose bell tolled the hours as we dined and enjoyed the food and the fine company of friends.
Ariana's now occupies the space that was previously The Lyme Inn Tavern as well as the dining room at the front of the Inn, and one other room, a Tasting Room, that can serve private parties of up to thirty people. For regular dinners, however, I learned Ariana's will not cater to large parties. Chef Martin wants to keep things on a small scale to prepare the best meals possible. Therefore, his largest table dictates the maximum size for a group, which looked like eight chairs to me. Overall, this new space for Ariana's roughly doubles the number of tables its former location offered, and it also offers dinner service at its bar area in the bar room dining space for walk-ins.
The ambiance of the Inn, with it's overstuffed chairs and welcoming desk staff, and the table service by Ariana's waitstaff was as close to impeccable as I could imagine on an opening night for any restaurant.
We overheard that reservations for dinner and a night of lodging at the Inn had started to come in from people down in Massachusetts and New York, as well as more locally. It's a delightful place, this little Lyme Inn with its thirteen or so guest rooms. I've seen several of them and can tell you they are as welcoming a sight to any traveler, from near or far, as accommodations away from home can be. While The Lyme Inn's new moniker is "Meet, Taste, Sleep," I'd take it a step further now that Ariana's and Chef Martin have made their entrance. Let's go for "Meet, Dine with Delight, Enjoy & Remember Fine Times, then Sleep."
All lights shine on Ariana's at the Lyme Inn.
Brava and bravo to you Chef Martin and to The Lyme Inn. Your latest pairing together is satisfying and thrilling. I'm sure you're in for a very good run.
For more information on Ariana's menu selections and open hours, please see its website by clicking here.
For information about The Lyme Inn and it's stunningly comfortable accommodations and meeting spaces see its website by clicking here.
Poetic Licence is written by Dave Celone of Lyme, NH and Post Mills, VT. Dave oversees the Long River Gallery & Gifts artist collective in downtown White River Junction, VT. To follow Poetic Licence posts, please Click Here to sign up to receive an email each time Dave publishes a new piece.