Our Gourmet: 11Eleven a new hit at an old address on Manchester's Lowell Street
11Eleven Bistro36 Lowell St., Manchester
Open: Tuesday through Saturday, 4-10 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday.
Cuisine: Fine dining Prices: Appetizers, $9-$13; salads and small plates, $8-$17; entrees, $23-$29; Desserts, $7.50.
Late last year, 11Eleven Bistro, headed up by chefs Jeff Dudley and Joseph Drift (formerly of Saffron Bistro in Nashua), opened in the same place. Recently we took a trip to 11Eleven Bistro to see if lightning could indeed strike twice at the same location.
First impressions: 9/10
We had deja vu when we walked into the cozy downtown bistro. For the most part everything looks the same, including the décor, layout and open-kitchen concept we raved about in our original review. The menu seemed more condensed than the previous establishment's, but covers all the bases with a wide variety of proteins and flavors. The wine list is also impressive. Even The Dining Companion eschewed his typical beer for a glass of vino. That's when you know we are somewhere fancy.
Our Gourmet: While the crispy calamari and caramelized scallop appetizers first caught my attention, I decided on the Beef Filet Crostinis with scallion, garlic cream cheese and horseradish aioli ($10). Upon being served, and seeing how much aioli was on the three crostinis, I wasn't sure if I should eat them with my fingers or a fork. The filet was melt-in-your mouth tender and was complemented nicely by the creamy cheese and bite of the horseradish. Realizing I wasn't getting anywhere fast with the fork, I just dug in. The key to the appetizer I found out is to eat them fast before the crostini gets soggy. Definitely worth the extra napkin. (8/10)
TDC: I had the Baked Stuffed Clams ($13). These six medium-sized clams are stuffed with applewood bacon, caramelized onions with fontina cheese. This seemed to be a milder version of fontina, a usually pungent Italian cheese, which suited the appetizer. The stuffing mix was moist and the salty bacon was a delicious addition. The appetizer was also portioned well. There was enough stuffing to satisfy, but not so much that it overwhelms the dish or your appetite. (9/10)
OG: In the past year I've become a huge fan of duck, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try their Pan Roasted Duck breast with saffron risotto and cranberry port wine demi-glace ($26). I was not disappointed. The duck was well seasoned and perfectly cooked with a nice, crispy skin. The demi-glace was a good foil for the rich duck, a little sweet and a little sour - I kept going back for more. I can't forget to mention the risotto that thankfully didn't suffer from the fatal flaw of having too much saffron. (9/10)
TDC: For an entrée I chose to go with the Oven Roasted Cornish Game Hen ($26). I had never had this before so I was curious if there was any difference between this and your run-of-the-mill chicken. I really only found the difference in its size; Cornish Game Hen is actually a younger bird. It was served in a deep dish, surrounded with a pan sauce. The hen was stuffed with apples, onions, sausage and was served with julienned root vegetables. The sauce kept the meat tender until the last bite and I found myself continually going back for more. I didn't really notice the apples much, though the flavor may have presented itself more in the sauce. The sausage, however, felt like an extra bonus. (8/10)
OG: A while back I spotted the Eggnog Crème Brulee ($7.50) on the online menu; I was pleasantly surprised it was still available after the holidays. After breaking through the sugar crust, I discovered that the custard was a great version of the holiday classic with the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg. (8/10)
TDC: I had the Kahlua Chocolate Bread Pudding ($7.50), which was another first for me. I wasn't quite sure what to expect because pudding and bread present themselves as two entirely different things to me. What I got was something akin to a really soft and delicious cake. The brioche is house made and covered in an exclamation point of butterscotch crème anglaise, which was a highlight. (8/10)
Final thoughts: 27/30
We don't know if this is typical, or perhaps it was because it was a quiet night in the restaurant, but it was a nice touch to not only be greeted by the chef but also to have him wish us a good night. Service was spot on and matched the high quality of the food. The atmosphere was relaxed and a perfect place to linger over a great conversation, which we did. Our hopes were high and we're happy to report that 11Eleven Bistro is continuing the tradition of excellence in the 36 Lowell St. location.
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