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Jan 11, 2009 06:51 AM

The Boardroom (Varsity Club) - new resto Salem, NH

The Boardroom is the re-incarnation of the former DeVito's in Salem, NH. It's a large two-storied resto with a formal dining room downstairs and a sportsbar on the top floor (now called the Varsity Club).

The main dining room is quite pretty with a large and comfortable bar area and an open kitchen. There are big windows and enough space for a grand piano. We were informed that they will be having a jazz ensemble in for Saturday evenings and Sunday brunch. Note that there are large televisions in the bar area, which I personally detest in any establishment that considers itself fine dining, but that said, this is undoubtedly the nicest dining room in Salem.

The menu is Italian-ish, although there's really a little bit of everything with grilled meats, a greek pasta, sesame crusted ahi tuna, hickory smoked ribs, and even fish and chips. I'm always anxious that a kitchen with a do-everything approach simply can't execute such wide variety particularly well. We made some mistakes in ordering, but next time around I think we could navigate the menu a little better.

We started with a couple of cocktails (a manhattan and a gimlet), both properly executed. We weren't overly hungry and honestly none of the starters really caught our attention, so we went straight to mains. Mr. Rabbit opted for the veal scaloppini from the pasta menu. The dish looked very monochromatic and it tasted quite Olive Garden, making it entirely forgettable. My tuna was slightly overcooked, but still tasty enough. It was described as coming-with stir fried vegetables and white rice. This sounded like a relatively clean and healthy plate, but the veg and rice were a drowning in a gloop-y mess of soy sauce and sugar (the once white rice was very, very brown and there was a lot of oil at the bottom of my dish). Both servings were very generous. With dinner, I put back a glass of chianti chosen from a serviceable wine list. We opted out of dessert - a choice of chocolate or cheese cakes or creme brulee (the creme brulee is house made, cakes are sourced elsewhere). Service seemed like it was still finding its feet a bit, but the bar is a fun place to sit so we really weren't concerned.

We popped up to the Varsity Club (the sports bar upstairs) after dinner, and this has clearly become the place to be in Salem (not that there are a lot of choices). The room was packed (around 9:00) and there was a lot of buzz.

Sooo, I was definitely not blown away by the Boardroom, but that said I can almost surely guarantee that I'll be back. I'm thrilled to have an in-town option other than the Colosseum... and I think that we could "order better" next time around. While our choices both tasted like mall food, the kitchen was turning out some steaks that looked quite nice. Next time, I'd go for something from the grill and something green from the a la carte side dish menu. Otherwise, I might opt for one of their green salads with a some protein (you can add beef, chicken or shrimp to all salads). I sincerely wish these restauranteurs well, and I think the Boardroom is a much welcomed and much needed addition to Salem.

PS - I'll post a couple of pics at

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  1. Rabbit is off her pellets today so I've been tasked with posting a follow-up.

    To put the Boardroom in perspective, the cocktails were well done, the bar is a nice space, and it will be even nicer with live music. The HDTVs in the bar really do allow you to see every bump and blemish on people's faces. The horror.

    The food we ordered (and we don't think we ordered the best stuff on the menu) was run-of-the-mill suburban restaurant fare. I ordered veal scallopini. I expected a plate with slices of veal (ie scallopini), a pile of pasta, and some vegetables. What came out was veal mcnuggets mixed in linguine with a heavy buttery sauce. The sesame-crusted tuna was actually a decent piece of fish, but the pile of veg and rice underneath it was drenched in a heavy soy-oil mix. I ate the veg because there was none in the scallopini, but the rice was like rice-a-roni. We think we should have ordered steaks (or the salads with grilled meat); we saw a lot of those coming out of the kitchen and they looked great.

    I feel you have to cut the Boardroom some slack since they have only been open for a couple of weeks. If they add some more color to the plates and lighten up on the butter and oil, it would improve the menu quite a bit. The menu is also a bit confusing; the menu sounds Italian but the Italian dishes are poorly executed and inauthentic. There is a large section of seafood entrees but these are pretty boring, even for the suburbs (ie they have both kinds of fish -- baked haddock and fried haddock). My best advice might be to refocus the menu as a steakhouse. A steakhouse menu would emphasize the kitchen's strengths allow it to cut the dishes that just take up space on the menu.

    We think that Southern NH has more than enough money to support at least one fine-dining restaurant in Salem. The Boardroom arguably has the potential to fill this niche but hasn't achieved it yet. Having said all that, the Boardroom is still one of the nicest places in Salem and we will undoubtedly be back since we live in town, and especially when winter weather makes driving to Boston risky. For now we will stick to the grilled dishes and tell the kitchen to hold the sauces or put them on the side.

    Pictures available here: