“Je ne sais quoi?” Not really. I just always wanted to say that. In fact, I know exactly how to describe every experience I have at the Chilmark Tavern, and that French phrase sums it up. Sublime comes to mind. If you know, then you know. Is it the excellence of the staff and service? Is it the perfection of the kitchen, and the succulence of the roasted chicken? Is it the company of the other Chilmark Tavern diners who come to enjoy a terrific meal and ambiance as well? Is it the anticipation of all the above? Yes, it is exactly that.
For my wife’s birthday a few weeks ago, I took her and my 5-year-old son to Chilmark Tavern. It was my third and final visit before the summer season ended, and each time the anticipation of eating there fills me with excitement. I packed my small family into the car for the 22-minute drive to Chilmark past the beautiful Vineyard landscape. My son Dylan and I counted deer along the way (the unofficial count was 14). The birthday girl, being ever the Virgo she is, had already perused the menu online, and knew what to order.
We were greeted by the owner, Jenna Petersiel, who seated us. For the first time, we chose to sit outside. We were only just settling in (dining with a 5-year-old takes some settling-in time) when we received a wonderful birthday greeting from Jenna. She birthday-gifted the most beautiful plate of calamari, much to our surprise and delight. This may have short-circuited my wife’s preplanned ordering, as she would have surely chosen the calamari on her own. After devouring the delicious appetizer (fried Point Judith calamari, shaved vegetable salad, chili lime vinaigrette, charred scallion aioli), we eventually ordered the mussels (PEI mussels, white wine, vermouth, garlic, cream, and tarragon, with house bread) and paté (organic chicken livers, sherry gelée, caramelized onion jam, pickles, olive oil crostini) as appetizers. We went with the poulet frites (roasted Green Circle half-chicken, fries, sauce Provençal) — a must-have — and the fish and chips (beer-battered halibut, malt vinegar dust, slaw, caper rémoulade, fries) for our mains. We also had the Brussels sprouts (Buffalo-style, with pecorino) as a side. For dessert, I had preordered the chocolate sundae, which was delivered by Jenna as well, complete with a happy birthday candle and song. I did not get a chance to take a photo of the sundae, as it was devoured before I could get my camera out. The whole evening was definitely “parfait.”