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Manchester, NH Dining Scene...what are your thoughts?

I have just moved back to Manchester after being away for several years. I am very impressed by the multitude of new restaurants downtown. Thank god the days of the Renaissnace and the Chateau are gone. Was sorry to see that Baldwin's had closed, but glad to see Cotton and Richard's still going strong. I would like to know what you guys think of the new players in downtown.

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  1. I'm hearing great things about Z but havent' been yet myself and still want to get to Commercial Steet Fishery too. Have you done Premeir Pallet on elm for excellent bbq and southern soul food, not upscale just excellent. Excellent Mexican at La Carrata's (always packed but well worth the wait), not sure how long you've been gone - they are technically in hooksett maybe, up past Puritan Back Room next to Tinkers Seafood. I miss Baldwin's too.

    1. We're big fans of Premier Palatte. The fried chicken is worth the wait and probably some of the best we've ever had. Sides are nice too. BBQ sauce is particularly good both on the beef ribs (no pork) and drizzled onto the dirty coleslaw. Tried Z a few weeks ago and wasn't overly impressed. The asian nachos (based on wonton skins) were lacking in compelling flavor. We were hoping for the peanut sauce to be more of a Malaysian style satay instead of a Thai style. Arancini were prepared well but not overly flavorful. For entrees, the duck breast was perfectly prepared, just at the edge of showing it's fat which gave it nice richness without being greasy. Accompanying spring roll with duck confit was tasty, but didn't really seem to go with the rest of the dish. The herbs, while flavorful, completely overwhelmed the duck confit to the point that the meat was irrelevant. Best plate of the night was the pork tenderloin, nicely crusted and perfectly prepared - moist and tender. Service was adequate if a little uneven. Water glasses disappeared for quite a while and we needed to remind server that we wanted water. Interesting wine list - server was able to answer our questions about the Sauvignon Blanc. Overall, glad to have tried it, but others are more compelling to visit again. Usually find something interesting at Taste of Europe across the street -- menu is a little uneven and not quite tapas as anticipated, but good nevertheless. Recent favorite, though, is Hanover Street Chophouse.

      1. I recently tried Piccola Italia on Elm for the first time (though I've been meaning to go for ages), and was completely thrilled. Our tomato/fresh mozz appetizer was everything you could ask for in that dish- flvorful olive oil, smooth cheese, fresh cracked pepper, and gorgeous ripe tomatoes, and entrees (for only $13!) were every bit as good. If you haven't been yet, you should definitely try it. Great service, too.

        1. Have been to Commercial St Fishery. Love what they did with the space. I left the area soon after Starfish Grill had opened. I thought Starfish Grill was too sterile and uncomfortable, much prefer what Jeff Paige did at Cotton. Not sure what the fuss is Piccola other than filling the void left by Cafe Pavone. Had coktails and apps at The Upstairs Lounge, wayt to much garlic everywhere. Z looks good, it seems to be well recieved on past threads. Saw the menu online. Looks like a like something up my alley. Is the Chop House worth the money? Or would I do just as well going over to CR Sparks? I'll have toi give Premier a try since my favorite BBQ place closed (Down n Dirty). Thanks for your help so far.

          3 Replies
          1. re: viva manchvegas

            I found Chophouse worthy neither the hype nor the prices! My favorites for downtown dining are hands down Richards Bistro for just about anything (The breads alone are with the trip!) and for casual lunch believe it or not I like Thousand Crane (Sushi only!!)
            On the flipside....
            I absolutely loathed Gauchos. The service stinks, they shove very low quality meat at you 10x before you see one cut of decent meat, add to that the salad bar is an absolute joke. I would not send my worst enemy there.

            1. re: gryphonskeeper

              my feelings exactly! (on all your comments)

            2. re: viva manchvegas

              I agree about Piccola too, I ran to it and liked it my first time but been dissappointed since - much better Italian at other places in other areas. Have you tried Gaucho's Brazillian - I really like this place but some say it's declined some since it moved to Lowell St. La La's Hungarian isn't new but new to me - Love it - on Elm St.

            3. I'm definitely still a Cotton fan. Last two meals I've had there were spot-on.

              Anyone know Premier Palette's hours? I'm usually in Manchester either late morning or later in the evening, which makes it difficult to go a lot of places.

              2 Replies
              1. re: kaszeta

                She's open Tues-Thurs noon to 8pm, Fri-Sat noon to 9pm, Sun 2pm to 7pm. Closed Monday.

              2. Based on Chowhound Recommendations - these are also my latest new favorites in Manchester:

                Indian - Gills on Valley St. (very good, and really nice people - I'm new to Indian cuisine, dont' know how to order but loved it)
                Vietnamese - Golden Bowl on Queen City Ave
                Sushi - Yuki (on South Willow)

                2 Replies
                1. re: lexpatti

                  Golden Bowl has been consistently good for me (and it's the nearest real Vietnamese food to my place in Grantham, NH).

                  I did Yuki last week, and it was pleasantly good.

                  I went to Gaucho's several times in the past (when they opened, and when they moved to Lowell) and like it, but my last trip in March showed a precipitous drop in quality. It's obvious that people have noticed, since the place has fewer customers now.

                  1. We went back to Z last night. We were the only people there on a Tuesday night at 8:45. The director of the Currier Museum was walking out as we walked in--so word is out about this place. The food was good. Enjoyed the flatbread and chicken wonton apps, and my pork tenderloin was moist, with a nice crusty finish. It came with sweet potato fries that were addictive. Can't say I loved the service; there's a fine line between casual and sloppy, and the server was a little too in the "dude, how's it hanging?" mode. Also, our guest requested water, and without being asked, was brought an expensive bottle of something from a glacier in Fiji...hate that. Overall though, this is a nice alternative to Cotton or Richard's for an upscale food experience.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: whs

                      Hey, I see you just got back from France and Italy - Nice!!!! And you're still dining strong. Thanks for the review. I'm dissappointed when an upscale food restaurant doesn't match the upscale service - owners should pay close attention to that. You expect that "dude hows it hanging" at a casual place and it's ok, but not a place like this (I'm guessing, since I haven't been and want to).

                      1. re: lexpatti

                        Yeah, the food over there was amazing--the fish shack on the beach serves fried seafood, but you can also get risotto with salmon and gorgonzola--try getting that at Hampton Beach.

                        1. re: whs

                          I recently went to Rome myself and had the most amazing coffee and pasta... Which region did you enjoy on your visit?

                          p.s. the best food/coffee I had over there was 1 mile out of the normal tourist area

                          1. re: gryphonskeeper

                            We were in a little hill town called Apricale near the French/Italian border on the Riviera di Fiori in Liguria, so we had the best of the mountains and the sea--fresh seafood at lunch and wild game dishes for dinner. I'll have to do a comprehensive post on the Italy board at some point.

                      2. re: whs

                        I was there last night too, earlier in the evening. There was about 4 or 5 tables when we were there and the bar was full. I think we had the same server. A nice kid from California. He told us that he is the owner's cousin and came back to help him open the restaurant. Although not so much with us I can definetly see the whole dude thing being an issue

                        My dining partner and I spilt the chopped salad and the lobster risotto. The salad came out in this cool vertical presentation and was fantastic. Very original. The lobster risotto was sublime, rich and creamy and chocked full of lobster. The server told us they use an entire fresh lobster for each dish. We already have the next dishes we want to try on our next visit. Hopefully the service evens out to match the food because this place seems to have it going on. Z will definetly be in our Cotton, Richard's rotation.

                        1. re: viva manchvegas

                          If you don't mind driving a bit, Nashua has some interesting places, and the new restaurant in Concord at the Centennial Inn has been getting some good buzz. Also, check out Eden in Amherst and the French Bistro in Milford.

                      3. Also, if you haven't tried Sausage Heaven - it's fabulous for unbelievable homemade varieties of sausages and an excellent New Orleans Muffelatta (sp?) and many other great stuff like a Cuban Sandwich.

                        Beware, they aren't on Elm Street anymore, they look like they closed(out of business-I almost cried when I saw it empty) but they moved to Canal Street (maybe in a hurry) because their answer machine gives their hours which are limited while they are trying to get set up in their new location.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: lexpatti

                          Thanks for the update... I saw that the Elm Street location was closed the other night and was worried. Glad to hear they just moved and didn't close

                          1. re: kaszeta

                            After reading these posts I emailed Sausage Heaven to see if the new location serves sandwiches. Marc Rousseau replied that they have combined retail and wholesale operations at the Canal St location but are unable to serve sandwiches. They hope to find a new location for serving sandwiches and other cooked food.

                            1. re: dfrostnh

                              No no no no!!! I'll have to make my own Muffelattas???? Wonder what happened on elm street - this is a great business, love what they make/provide.

                        2. Finally made it to Premier Palette last night, and we were happy to find that the quality matches what we've been reading here. I had the ribs and my SO had the shredded beef, and both were quite excellent. The sides were every bit as good as the better places I went when I lived in Tennessee.

                          We'll be going back at some point to try the chicken.

                          1. While it's not fine dining, I ended up in Manchester for the second evening in a row and ended up going to Consuelo's Tacqueria (36 Amherst St), and had some very good Tacos Pastors with some nice freshly-made hot sauce and salsa.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: kaszeta

                              I too have tried them when they first opened and loved it. Very nice folks too with great service. They'll do well. I think they are expanded their menu too.