A newly renovated Lyceum opened to much fanfare in November, and we were eager to investigate. The original restaurant, opened in 1989, featured mainly American fare and was a long-time favorite of ours for burgers at the bar and Sunday brunch.
There were a few missteps during our dinner, but overall, we’d call the changeover a success. The new interior is particularly well thought-out—rich woods and neutral tones make for a cozy, elegant feeling while the high ceilings and brick walls evoke Old Salem at its historic best. A fire crackling on one side of the dining room adds to the ambiance.
We chose the crab cake appetizer to start our meal. The cakes had a crispy exterior and very little filler, and the accompanying corn salad was tasty. Still, at $13 for two small cakes, the value is questionable. There’s an emphasis on seafood for appetizers, including raw bar items, shrimp cocktail, steamed cockles, and tuna tartare.
Under new chef de cuisine Dan Friley, the menu is Mediterranean influenced, and there are several interesting-sounding pasta dishes available in small or full portions, including pumpkin ravioli with sage brown butter and gnocchi with wild mushroom sauce. We tried the diver scallop entrée, also available in two sizes ($14 for half portion, $26 for full). There were four large scallops with a flavorful sear outside and tender middle along with a tasty mushroom risotto.
The duck l’orange entrée ($25) was good but not great, with lentils that were less done than we’re used to. The filet with potatoes au gratin ($31) was served medium rather than the requested medium rare, and the potatoes were a bit dry.
The most successful dish, and it’s a must-try, was the pork osso buco with gnocchi and sautéed apples ($23). The meat had a delicious savory sauce and fall-off-the-bones texture. The gnocchi were large and unusually creamy.
We sampled the chocolate mint bread pudding for dessert. It was comforting, with the mint adding a nice side-note to the chocolate and custard-soaked bread.
We were very pleased with the service, which was friendly and highly professional. We had an early reservation and appreciated the fact that we were never rushed. We anticipate that the kitchen will smooth out its rough spots, and we’re interested in checking out several items on the revamped brunch menu.
43 Church Street, Salem