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Follow-up, Franklin, MA recommendations - INCONTRO REST review (long)

m
melissa Mar 27, 2006 07:47 PM

I posted last week asking for suggestions near Franklin, MA and was asked to write back.

We tried INCONTRO in Franklin which several people said they'd been meaning to try.

BRIEF SUMMARY: It's a renovated mill and Bill Bradley is executive chef. IMHO, it was a very cool space with perfectly prepared (though somewhat bland) food, average entree price $25. Because I was out there anyway, I'm glad I tried it, but as someone living in Boston, it's not a destination restaurant. Also you should know they don't take reservations so expect to WAIT!!!

ABOUT THE PLACE: The concept includes a dining room downstairs with a brick oven and a fancy cocktail lounge upstairs. Upstairs, a big bar is the central focus of the space. This side, the "metropolitan lounge" is filled with comfy banquettes and chairs/cocktail tables. The other side contains a "refined" billiard hall... eight tables, maybe more (quotations are from their web site). Part of the billiard side was hosting a private party. They definitely serve appetizers up here, not sure if you can get the full menu. It'd be a great space for a function/party.

The dining room downstairs seats about ~100 people and offers a mix of large, leather-clad booths (seating six or more) at the edge of the room and 2- and four-person tables filling the interior space. The decor is dark wood, stone walls and nice alabaster-like light fixtures. In both spaces the ceilings are high, but the sound level isn't bad. The brick oven is behind the small bar which has ten seats and a view of the goings on at the brick oven, and into the kitchen in some spots.

-------------------
OUR EXPERIENCE (SATURDAY):
First, they don't take reservations.
We came at 5:30 to beat the rush (which I'd been told when I called ahead, starts at 6) and to make our 8 PM engagement. We were told the wait would be AN HOUR AND A HALF!! We were lucky to get the last two places at the bar (which has ~10 seats).
I enjoyed watching the pizzas being made and skillfully cooked in the oven. From our seats we had a direct view into the kitchen and the dynamics there -the chef calling for the orders, garnishing and checking them before he set them out.

THE MENU is Italianesque... with an average entree price of about $25. For two people, one glass of wine each, our pre-tip total was under $80.

They start with a basket of good, dense, but room temperature bread. It is served with a small bowl of a white-bean puree covered in olive oil. It was fine, but bland and with that brick oven I was expecting hot bread. I probably would have liked the bean concoction more if it had a hint of garlic or sage or something.

APPETIZERS: We shared a carpaccio-type appetizer ($12 or 14) - spice-cured beef tenderloin with arugula, pear, balsamic dressing and a mild roquefort(? i think) gelato. This was my favorite dish and I would have liked to have a crock full of the cheese "gelato". I wasn't sure why it was called gelato though - it was a room-temp cheese spread. But it all went together nicely.

I noticed many people were ordering the fresh mozzarella bruschetta and the fried calamari with lemon aioli. The former didn't look too impressive (three pieces with one little cherry tomato on each)... but the squid looked nice (these were maybe ~$8 - 10).

THE MENU also had salads, brick-oven pizzas (these looked very good, especially the ones loaded with caramelized onions), pastas, main plates (i forget the name in Italian), side vegetables and then the final page allowed you to choose your main (lots of beef, some lamb), a sauce and two sides (like roasted asparagus, spinach with raisins and pine nuts, mashed potatoes) for ~$25 - 45.

WE ORDERED two of the "plates".

1) Mine was a wild sea bass with parsnip puree, wild mushrooms (wood ear) and spring radishes garnished with pea shoots (I think). It was served in a small tagine and was very brothy. The fish was excellent... but I wasn't expecting everything to be swimming around in a broth. With the puree at the bottom of the bowl it ended up being almost a soup with a partially submerged piece of fish. The flavors were good and very "spring"... but it was all kind of sweet... so it didn't really knock me out.

2) The other plate included seared scallops, a risotto (with peas and onion) with a dollop of a citrus salsa in the center of the risotto. The presentation was nice, garnished again with pea shoots with an overall spring-green look. My companion really enjoyed this dish... the scallops were perfectly cooked. But for my taste it was again too much sweet and no savory counterpoint -- sweet scallops, sweet peas and onions... and the citrus stuff didn't have much gravitas. He also ordered a side of roasted asparagus which was cooked perfectly.

Didn't look at the DESSERT menu or WINE LIST carefully but they have creme brulee and tiramisu and there were about ten of each white and red wines by the glass (avg price $8).

IN CONCLUSION, the place has good ambiance, the food was really high quality, perfectly prepared... it just didn't grab me. Maybe I would have been happier with a meat dish - or the homemade gnocchi with squash that sounded good - or even a pizza. I'd never drive an hour from Boston just to eat there, but if I was in the neighborhood I might give it another try. But if I had to wait an hour and a half for a table I'd just as soon drive to Boston and eat somewhere that takes reservations!

Link: http://www.incontrorestaurant.com/

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  1. g
    GaryLovesFood RE: melissa Mar 28, 2006 06:52 AM

    Great review, Melissa!!

    1. j
      j RE: melissa Mar 28, 2006 08:14 AM

      Melissa,
      Thank you for the review. We live about 10 minutes away from Incontro and have been waiting for them to 'iron out their kinks' before trying them. We will try it for lunch within the next couple of weeks. Normally we dine in either Boston or Providence, however it would be nice to have a decent restaurant close to home for those time where you just don't feel like driving.
      Thanks again.

      2 Replies
      1. re: j
        l
        lisa5106 RE: j Mar 28, 2006 03:14 PM

        Great review. Thanks for the information. I've been wondering about this place.

        J, I also live about 10 minutes away from Incontro and like you usually go to Providence or Boston for a nice dinner. There is a new place opening in Woonsocket. I believe the opening is scheduled for next week. I did a drive by last week. The building renovation is complete and looks great. I could see tables and chairs inside. I'm hoping that it is a decent place for dinner and a glass of wine when I don't want to drive to Providence or Boston.

        Link: http://www.vintageri.com/

        1. re: lisa5106
          j
          j RE: lisa5106 Mar 29, 2006 06:47 AM

          Lisa,
          Thank you for the link. We had heard there was a new restaurant opening but did not know the name or when it was scheduled to open. We took a look at the dinner menu and that is quite the menu for Woonsocket. Here's
          hoping that it is a great spot.
          BTW...Have you stopped by the Beef Barn (same area) for a sandwich??

      2. b
        bhenneski RE: melissa Sep 8, 2006 08:28 PM

        I was at Incontro last night with my wife for our anniversary and had to share my experience.

        1st: No wonder there is always a wait, the hostesses think its brain surgery to sit someone. There was plenty of open tables but it still took over 10 minutes for them to sit us and the couple waiting before us.

        Do you like ceaser salad? You better like anchovies then if you get it at Incontro, it was by far the fishiest ceaser I've ever had, so bad that my wife and I couldn't eat it and sent it back. And we eat ceasers everyhwhere, this one was FISHY! This is where it gets interesting: they offer to bring another type of salad so we said fine. We see the server talk to the chef for a minute, then comes back with another salad. As she puts it on the table she says "sorry there was nothing I could do about that". Initially I thought she meant she couldn't get another ceaser because the dressing is already made with the anchovies in it. But that wasn't what she meant. We realized we're getting CHARGED for the ceaser even though it was awful and we sent it back with only a bite or two missing. The chef definitely looked like he took it personally that we didn't like it so he decided it was our problem and told the server to charge us.

        Can anyone say AWFUL customer service?!?! I'm not picky are rarely send food back but when I do its for a good reason and I've never been charged for it. This was definitely a first. Someplaces may even bring a cake or buy you a drink as the server knew it was our anniversary. Nothing except getting charged for 2 salads instead of 1.

        Overall the atmosphere is nice, they did a great job with the renovation but the food is definitely lacking flavor (except the ceaser which just had really bad flavor) and is overpriced in my opinion.

        With the awful customer service experience I highly recommend not going. If you're in the area and want good Italian food go to Luciano's. Just smelling the food there when you walk in makes you hungry. And the owner tries to visit every table to make sure everything was perfect. Incontro could take a few lessons from Lucianos.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bhenneski
          j
          JaneRI RE: bhenneski Sep 9, 2006 03:26 PM

          Please tell me that whether or not they took it off the bill, you refused to pay for it? I would deduct it myself, then hand the waitress her cash tip directly to make sure the restaurant didn't get it that way.

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