Belmont Food Shop, once a neighborhood grocery in the Museum District, looks like a butler's pantry from the "Downton Abbey" era. It's run by bartenders who double as waiters. They greet guests as if they're entering a party, not a turn-and-burn dining room. The musical selection isn't a parody of another era — it suits the candlelit room, whose occupants might be restaurant folks in hoodies at the bar or women decked in crystals with their dates.
The barkeep tells us the thing to order is the fixed-price, three-course dinner — appetizer, main and dessert for $30. The menu has about a dozen appetizers and entrees, which a la carte are $8 and $20, making dessert $2. Who could say no?
It's one of those menus where dishes are lists of nouns. The spiced duck mâche and pomegranate-toasted-walnuts appetizer tickles with musty, sweet spices and crunch. The duck breast, pink and studded with pomegranate seeds, evokes a jeweled Moroccan belly dancer. Though not a menu catering to vegetarians, the vegan mushroom soup with tamarind and tarragon smells of unspoiled Asian forest. Butternut ravioli with sage-brown butter is autumn in squish form.
Guests should never go ravenous or impatient. We wait 30 minutes for our first course and 30 more for the second. In the case of the crisply singed half chicken, served off the bone with meltingly soft gnocchi, the delay is worthwhile. Rockfish on watercress with lobster sauce is so good that I want to build a monument to the chef. Short ribs over spoon bread have the sweet, meaty cast-iron taste of Sunday. There are riskier late night dishes, such as blood pudding, served after 9:30 p.m.
A few things you won't find at Belmont Food Shop are steaks and trophy wines. For those, go elsewhere. Wines, like the meats, run to savory and interesting. Lesser-known regions and varieties, such as salice salentino and zwiegelt, are chosen by chef and owner Mike Yavorsky specifically to complement his revolving menu.
Because the restaurant holds just five tables, guests might be advised to go late, or early, and plan to order dessert — dense, gluten-free flourless chocolate cake and grape panna cotta, for instance. Coffee is served in press pots. Remember when more restaurants did this? They gave it up because of the extra work maintaining the method. I get the impression that Yavorsky doesn't mind work when it comes to serving his guests. His chocolate truffle and candied orange peel mignardise, presented just before the check, shows it. S
Belmont Food Shop
27 N. Belmont Ave.
Sunday-Thursday 5-11 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 5 p.m.-midnight