New Restaurant Report: The Food Market in Hampden
Okay, for about as long as I've been here (which ain't that long) there's been a dingy storefront down in Hampden, a convenience store in the middle of the block between Parasio and whatever was east of there. I'll admit, I never had the inclination to go in - the faded beer posters and gloomy interior were enough to put me off. The prospect of limp vegetables and sad canned and bagged goods had no appeal. Then, not surprisingly, it closed and the whole place sat dark. Eventually the windows were papered over. Like a butterfly cocoon it sat for six months, brown-paper windows featureless and mysterious.
Then in the last few months there was activity. Work was happening inside. New signage went up. Paint and, god forbid, marketing. A new place was coming, even if it did have the uninspired name The Market. And then, in what must have been a trial by fire, the Market opened for brunch, just in time for HonFest. Therefore against all better judgement about trying brand new places we had to go.
Four of us went last Friday night at 8:00. We'd made reservations, which was a good thing. The place was jammed. Who knew everyone in Hampden was waiting for a place called the Food Market to open? First observations -- the service was friendly and efficient and the place was LOUD. This was not the have a quiet dinner conversation with friends place. It was a lean across the table to hear your dinner companions night.
With four of us feeling celebratory (I don't know why), we decided to share a selection of appetizers. The menu was divided into Little, Small, Big, and In-Between. We had an order of spiced edamame, soft pretzels with a beer-cheese fondue, and potato skins with duck confit and mornay sauce. The edamame was a modest-sized bowl dusted with a chile-based spice mix, quite tasty and light. The "pretzels" were 4 stubby soft breadsticks and crock of fondue sauce. The breadsticks were okay but not enough, but the fondue sauce was hailed by everyone. Nicely beery, cheesy but not gloopy. In fact it was so good it we added it to the potato skins which were deemed good but otherwise a bit bland.
We tried an assortment of main dishes, all of which hit the mark quite well. There was much sharing of tastes all around. The "small" crab cake was quite large enough and came on a bed of lobster mac-n-cheese. The crab was large chunks with little filler and fresh tartar sauce. The buffalo steak was cooked perfectly rare on a potato pancake(?) with housemade steak sauce. The third dish was scallops in a bacon-y cream sauce with the smoked bacon pronounced but not overpowering the scallop. Last was blackened tuna -- four large pieces of tuna, with a spice crust crisped by not horribly charred on a bed of edamame succotash and a sauce of caramelized soy around it. The sweet actually went quite well with the blackening. Everybody cleaned their plates and thought their meals were fine.
Splurging we shared two desserts -- a fresh peach cobbler with cognac sauce and ice cream (can't remember the flavor, but it wasn't vanilla) and chocolate mousse on shortbread. The cobbler was excellent, though some thought it too sweet. The mousse was very light and chocolatish. Unfortunately, the shortbread was so dense you practically needed a knife and fork to break it up.
Judgement all around was that we would definitely come back. It's another good addition to the Hampden restaurant choices. The cunning plan is to opt for the smallish bar next time and concentrate on the Small and Little plates.
Price for 2 Littles, 1 Small, 4 Bigs, 2 desserts and assorted cocktails, beers, and wines was about $200, a bit much for the night's budget but we were splurging.