The Central House at the Crown
The Central House at the Crown and Anchor has long been known for fine cuisine with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. This year, this Provincetown mainstay got an infusion of creativity and pizzazz when, after 10 years in the kitchens of Chanterelle, Amali, and other prestigious Manhattan establishments, Devon Gilroy took over as master chef.
After accepting manager and wine steward Peter Miscikoski’s invitation, Gilroy went to work on the Provincetown restaurant’s menu. His continuation of the restaurant’s tradition on selecting produce from small-scale farmers, fresh fish from local boats, and providing an emphasis on perfectly blended seasonal flavors has made its way onto every plate.
Expect meat and dairy from sustainable purveyors, and expect the produce to reflect the time of year—by the time you read this, heirloom onions, tomatoes, and summer squash will grace the menu. But also expect the sort of back-story that only comes with getting to know the source, like the farmer from Truro who specializes in pre-1800s strains of long beans, like cranberry and fava. “I want to focus on vegetables and finding the farmer who has a little garden and really takes care of it,” Gilroy says.
The upper half of a chalkboard outside the dining room lists the names of farms throughout the Northeast that are latest contributors to the menu. The lower half of the list is also the other half of the Central House equation: an impressive cadre of under-the-radar wineries from the West Coast and around the world.
With 17 years spent as a wine steward in New York, Miscikoski uses a career’s worth of connections to bring limited-production wines to the Outer Cape restaurant: For example, the Crown is one of the few establishments to carry Horse & Plow outside of Northern California. “Some of the [wineries] Peter uses might make 100 cases a year,” Chef Gilroy says. “For him to get six cases here in P’town is really significant.”
From our perch on a covered first-floor deck, my guest and I watch the colorful procession move along P’Town’s Commercial Street as Miscikoski pours tastes of his latest choices—rosé and white wine—into our stemless glasses. In quick succession, we experience the 2010 Vin Gris de Cigare, a crisp, dry rosé from Bonny Doon Vineyard; the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc from Horse & Plow with an initial burst of fruit dissolving into a dry finish; and a fine 2011 selection from Zocker, a California winery specializing in wines derived from Grüner Veltliner grapes.
The delicious meal begins with a pair of Panko-encrusted Salt Cod Fritters ($15), and in short order, our choice entreés appear. The Thyme & White Wine Steamed Halibut ($28), a fine bone-white filet topped with grilled broccoli rabe and served with a chile de arbol broth stained red from leaves of rainbow swiss chard, has a zest that ignites the palate. Chicken Two-Ways ($23), is a tender roasted chicken breast and fried thigh served atop a mound of fresh black-eyed peas, served creatively with pancetta and escarole. Our dessert is a sweet and scrumptious butterscotch pudding ($7).
Throughout the menu, Gilroy’s simple mastery, yet creative instincts lets the sumptuous taste of the raw materials prevail as intended. The Central House has a bright new P’Town glow, illuminating Cape Cod’s dining scene from the inside out to the world beyond.
–– Jeff Harder