Debra S Kaplan
As I entered Stirnella at 3814 Farnam in Blackstone, I was instantly attracted to the layout. In spite of the many tables, each area of the establishment lends to the feeling of a private party. The architecture is beautiful, and you may or may not be able to guess that the building was originally designed to house a car repair shop. Garage doors open to create a patio environment when the weather cooperates, and close tight to seal in the warm vibe that emanates from within on cold days.
Custom wood creations, from a mosaic wall to the floors, are all reclaimed wood. Each piece holds a story that the staff is well-versed in. The tables themselves were once the floors of a train. Co-Owner and manager Matt Carper asks me to feel the underside of the table. “That’s where the crates would bang against the floors. We’re the only ones who have these tables. This is one of a kind.”
That unique flavor is woven throughout the concept, from the bold original artwork on the walls to the paper to-go boxes.
An extensive bar menu will have you craving a cocktail, so be prepared for something infused in-house and delicious. And be prepared to have more than one.
The menu is well-focused without feeling limited. Be sure to ask questions for two reasons: first, each item on the menu is something more than it seems. Second, the staff is courteous, knowledgeable, and pretty funny. Our waitress, Georgie, was engaging and happy to tell you the story behind most of the dishes.
However short and well-focused the menu was, it was of little help when it came to narrowing down our choices. I asked Georgie what she recommended and she mentioned the popcorn chicken. I was slightly surprised, as this summons images of greasy guilty pleasures and not the elevated fare I was looking at on my fellow diner’s plates. She smiles and mentions that it’s made of the “chicken oyster” which is a rainbow-unicorn on most menus. There are only 2 oysters on each chicken, a slightly darker pearl of meat near the thigh. In a civilian kitchen, this is often ignored and tossed into a stock with the carcass. In a professional kitchen, this is often eaten by the chef because he was there and you weren’t.
Her other recommendation for a shared plate was devilled eggs. Again invoking images of a mayonnaise and relish mess on a boiled egg. Wonderful for a family-style buffet, but seemingly out of place among the elevated dishes on my menu. Georgiana is there again with an explanation. These are sous-vide eggs with a soft cooked center and crispy chicken skins. The spirit of the refined gastro-pub strikes again and I find myself intrigued.
I opt, instead, for the brightness of a roasted beet salad. The menu describes it as butter lettuce, apple, horseradish, shisho ranch, and sunflower seeds. What came to my table was a bit unexpected. A very light touch was used on the horseradish, which I found acceptable in spite of my love of a good kick. The red and orange beets were roasted perfectly to the bite, and the apple gave a beautiful acid to the dish. The surprise was the smoked bleu cheese, which is all well and good, if you like bleu cheese. As it happens, I love it, and the sweet, tangy, spicy crunch was the perfect start to the meal.
Debra S Kaplan
The Reader’s photographer, Debra Kaplan, settled on the cauliflower soup for her main dish. So thick and rich it’s served on what could be described as a deep plate, she found the soup a bit over salted for her taste. A brief trip through online reviews shows that this is a common comment, but that a request at the beginning of the meal for less salt has been met with the same courtesy we now understand is common practice for the staff.
Debra S Kaplan
Roasted Cauliflower Soup
The dish that is worth suffering a beautiful day on the patio with a cold cocktail, however, is going to be the spätzle. While oxtail is a very “in” ingredient at the moment, I remember it from cold days at my Grandmother’s house. It’s nostalgic, fatty, and difficult to master. I was almost resentful of chef Matt Moser for being brave enough to send me out a dish that he had no idea held such a warm place in my heart, and I even tried to pawn the dish off on our photographer so that my personal bias wouldn’t color the review. Alas, she really doesn’t like meat.
Debra S Kaplan
I’ll mention first that the dish is beautifully plated. It’s a rustic meal, and usually rustic means sloppy. Instead, the onion confit, mushroom and meat dish is simply topped with a smattering of mustard seed which lend a delicate texture. Each element is focused and the flavor and texture are developed before coming together perfectly on the plate. I enjoyed the flavor, but requested a to-go box as I was at the perfect point of satisfaction before becoming uncomfortably full.
I have no obligation to mention to you that I may or may not have finished the sticky, delicious mess in my car with my bare fingers as I drove home that afternoon. Spätzle really isn’t finger food, but when something is this warm, hearty, and satisfying, you improvise. You also change into yoga pants, because stretchy waistbands are for winners.
There is no reason for you to leave as full as I was, as the menu is comprised of small, shareable plates. The ingredients are sourced locally, and the suppliers are listed proudly on the menu, website, and even occasionally on the Facebook Page. Be prepared to spend a little more, as the both the quality and application of ingredients are absolutely top-shelf, and the service may entice you to tip on more than the meal, but on the experience.