I have discovered the best part of riding the Smartway Bus to Tech this summer, lunch with my husband on half days. I started riding the bus to be more eco-aware and bond with my fellow Blue Ridge Writing Project people, but I have discovered that by doing this my husband and I get some small windows of time to commune over lunch. Last week we were on a kick to try new restaurants so we ventured to Salem and The Blue Apron. We had heard good things about this new addition to the dining scene, but had yet to actually get a table. This time we were in luck.
The first thing you notice about this place is the stylish decor. It is just the right mix of darkly oiled wood floors, beautiful cream-colored tray ceiling and exposed brick wall. The seats are upholstered in a chic fabric that reminds of me some of IKEA's choicer pieces. It is an elegant and inviting addition to Main Street in Salem.
The server shortly arrived with water in tall, slim glasses in keeping with the decor and explained the menu to us. They serve the same menu at lunch and dinner with 2 different portion sizes and accompanying prices. There was a special board, but it was not nearly as interesting as the menu, though less expensive with larger portions. My husband and I haggled over which size portions to order. He asserted that the lunch portion would be too small, and I argued that the dinner portion would be too big, and it was lunch! We compromised and ordered a dinner-size portion of the duck and a lunch-size portion of the black grouper, although I was really drawn to the Grilled Shrimp served with ratatouille and curried cauliflower and had a tough time deciding. The menu is interesting and eclectic. If you have been looking for something different, it won't disappoint!
Our food came out fairly speedily and it turned out my husband was probably right about the size. The duck was sitting atop steak frites, pooled with a rhubarb gastrique, and mounded with heirloom tomatoes. It was gorgeous and as delicious as it looked. The duck was perfectly done and succulently tender. Every bite melted in my mouth. The rhubarb gastrique had enough sweetness balanced with tang that it brought out the true flavor of the meat (like a real gastrique should). The Seared Black Grouper was equally delicious. It was served over a summer corn sauce with grilled artichoke and micro greens. The fish was expertly cooked and the corn sauce was silken. Sometimes when you order fish it comes overcooked and tough, but this was perfectly seared. The combination of ingredients was smart and sophisticated. The grouper was a smaller dish- as would be served in a Tapas-style establishment and a little on the pricey side. Average prices are $12-$14 for lunch size and $22-$28 for dinner size. We did see many of the specials from the board come out and they were very large portions for under $10, just not exactly what we were looking for cuisine-wise as they were so much more mainstream than the regular menu. We opted to not have dessert, though a delectable creme brulee was served at the table across from us.
The food was very well seasoned and bursting with flavor at this Salem hot spot. The service was attentive and courteous. The ambiance would make for a nice evening out with your significant other. They have a lovely wine list and we promised to return for dinner one night. Definitely check out The Blue Apron but be warned, make reservations and order dinner-size plates!