Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's Harvest Season! Bring Out the Pipes! (Part 3: Bonus QUICKVIEW!)

QUICKVIEW: Gypsy Cafe- +++ / $$

Lincoln is the proud home of one of New Hampshire's very best restaurants. The Gypsy Cafe is an amazingly inventive, well-sorted, fabulously executed little restaurant in the middle of freaking nowhere.

The inside is well-appointed, a vibrant color scheme of reds, blues, and black & white checker patterned floor, and various little knick-knacks dominate the dining area. Combined with lots of twinkling point lights and one of the best signs I've seen in a long time, it's a winning look. There's a large bar with beers on top, and a variety of drinks with an emphasis on exotic vodka. The dining area is pretty small, and if you're up there for the highland games, the biggest event of the year for little Lincoln, you might have to wait awhile.

The service is excellent and friendly. Me and my partner had long conversations with the staff on both visits. Dishes were accurately recommended, delivery was quick, and the details of the night were sufficiently transparent. Table dress was good. The brushed metal salt & pepper shakers were very post-modern and looked nice in comparison to the de rigueur glass shakers with dented metal tops.

For an appetizer, we had lobster risotto cake ($8.99) and shrimp wrap ($10.99). Both were inventive enough and to impress us. The risotto cake was spicy with good, firm risotto. In effect, it was a giant crab cake with lobster in place of crab. The creaminess of the risotto needed a bit more crunchy greens on the side, but that was the only real criticism. It was a great deal at only nine bucks.

The shrimp wrap was a great take on a shrimp appetizer, which usually takes the form of coconut shrimp. The won-ton wrappers were fried to a golden crisp and brought fabulous crunch to the texture of the shrimp inside. It was a thoroughly satisfying mouth feel that was superior to the omnipresent coconut shrimp, if not also in flavor.

Entrees came out, we got one of the specials, the El Paso Tenderloin Pasta ($18.99), and the Cashew Long Bean Stir Fry ($16.99). Talk about impressive. The tenderloin was tender and very flavorful for the cut. The chile rub and grille of the meat resulted in a powerful, spicy smokiness that combined fabulously with the creamy chipotle cream sauce. The pasta was perfectly al dente, and the asparagus still had some good snap to it. The serving was gargantuan and was an excellent deal for only nineteen dollars.

The stir fry was a similarly shocking revelation. Unlike a lot of places that mix it up for impressiveness' sake, and use fusion as more of a marketing tool, like I think Cafe Nuovo is guilty of sometimes, Gypsy Cafe balances different cuisines to universal success. The stir fry was sweet and spicy, as you'd expect, but there was also a dash of cayenne pepper all about the edges of the dish, and this was integrated into the whole of the dish as well. That same smokey undertone was present all throughout the food. I think that it was a detail taken from southwestern, Tex-Mex cuisine used to great effect and the kind of stuff that I wish would be more prevalent in "fusion" cuisine. It was primarily a stir fry, with just a dash of Texas thrown in for good measure.

The Gypsy just kept impressing, finishing up the evening with a great dessert menu. It's not the most mind-blowing assortment, but today, anything beyond "chocolate cake" and "tiramisu" is a fucking blessing. The pumpkin crisp was well-made comfort food, and the blackberry mousse pie was suitably decadent. But the rest of the selection provided me with a rare treat: multiple choices. So rarely do many things on a dessert menu sound good. But the chocolate torte with ice cream sounded good. As did the chocolate trifle with pecans, amaretto, and Heath bar.

The Gypsy Cafe would be a great restaurant with great prices just about anywhere, but nestled up in the mountains of New Hampshire, in a skiing town catering almost exclusively to tourists makes it nothing short of a miracle. If you're nearby, you positively must try.

Gypsy Cafe- +++

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117 Main St
Lincoln, NH 03251
603-745-4395 (Reservations accepted)

Wednesday through Sunday 11:30am to 4:00pm
Friday & Saturday 5:00pm to 9:30pm
Wednesday, Thursday, & Sunday 5:00pm to 9:00pm

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