by Alice Levitt
2545 Shelburne Road, Shelburne 802-985-5009
Two weeks after opening, 7 Nights reviewers have written six reviews of Shelburne Steakhouse. The diners were all eager for a return to Sirloin Saloon form in the space previously occupied by the lost classic. Critiques ranged from one star to five. I had to see for myself.
My server was clearly new — and nervous. After taking my order, he had to return more than once with a question about something he forgot. When I had questions, he didn't have all the answers, but was eager to please and quickly found out what I wanted to know.
Though the salad bar is not as large as it was at the Sirloin Saloon, I filled a plate and still regretted missing several items. There were all the basic veggies, plus sweet, grilled squash and zucchini, sesame noodles and bacon-speckled potato salad. The best part: Homemade honey-chile vinaigrette, with a wonderful balance of tangy, earthy and sweet, in which I ended up dipping my bread once the salad was gone.
Even before Shelburne Steakhouse opened, I was curious about its country pâté, made in-house. That dish wouldn't have flown at fusty Sirloin Saloon, no sir. I was stunned when the plate (pictured above) arrived: Three huge, buttery planks of toast arrived with three slabs of pork loaf, wrapped in bacon, all for $9. The meat was similar in taste to creamy, spreadable rillettes, but composed enough to stay molded in an easy-to-eat shape. The taste was a pleasure in itself, but was even better when paired with the trio of condiments: tangy pepper jelly, house-made fruit chutney and grainy mustard. Fresh blackberries further dressed up the plate, along with a few small bunches of grapes. There was enough to take home, and I am excited to eat it again.
When the aforementioned tenderloin medallions arrived, I understood why the dish (pictured at right) was only $16. The portion of meat was just north of minuscule. The beef arrived medium-rare as I had requested, though a little more charred on the outside than I might have preferred. Grill marks are great; a blackened crust, less so. The meat still satisfied, especially when dipped in its buttery Madeira demiglace. Mashed potatoes were suitably creamy and green beans cooked a delightful al dente.
The pork steak also consisted of small, grilled medallions, sitting in a pool of lightly sweet, buttery sauce. What was advertised as jalepeño and corn relish on the menu was actually the salad-bar coleslaw with roasted corn and jalepeños mixed in. Tasty, but not what I was expecting. The crispy, fried sweet potatoes were a better side. I hate sweet-potato fries, but these fat wedges were soft on the inside with a crunchy coat. Imagine mashed potatoes with a side of potato chips, only sweet.
The entrées were on the small side, but that was OK -- there was room for dessert. A round of chef-made peanut-butter mousse was bolstered on top and bottom by layers of chocolate ganache. It looked like an ice cream sandwich but was far richer, especially paired with a scoop of chocolate from Island Homemade Ice Cream.
Overall, I was very pleased. There were clearly still some kinks, but for a gigantic restaurant that opened just two weeks ago, the proceedings were surprisingly smooth. Both appetizer and entrées came out with startling speed. Often, when a restaurant first opens, there are promises that more dishes will be homemade once the chef gets his footing. At Shelburne Steakhouse, practically everything — even the fairly involved dessert — already is. More upscale restaurants could learn a thing or two about value from the wonderful pâté plate. I look forward to returning.