Dining Review

An Avenue of New Flavors

Sunday dinner at Avenue N in Rumford delivers familiar foods in unexpected combinations

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When we gleefully realized that Avenue N’s Sunday dinner starts at 2pm, I had one of those “I guess this is us now” moments. As new parents, we’re just happy for an early meal before our little amuse bouche clamors for his bath and bedtime. Our arrival at Avenue N in Rumford around 3pm showed us we weren’t alone; the alfresco area this afternoon was full of wriggling little humans and their tired adults, looking like they deserved a good meal. We got to enjoy both inside and out after our little one’s desire to show off his new tricks (impression of a tea kettle, endless clapping) led us to give our fellow diners a break and head outside. The outside area adjoins the parking lot, but the inside makes great use of the repurposed industrial space, with exposed brickwork, joists and boards in the ceiling, and large front windows.

We received great service at all times: we weren’t rushed, and our waitress was very happy to help us move and give us time to consider the menu. True to its “American Kitchen” billing, your options include melting pot fusion like kung pao brussels sprouts and Korean tacos – but seasonal New England produce is really at the heart of it all. In addition to the normal appetizers and entrees section, they also offer pizza, which I didn’t get a chance to try. Turning to drinks, of note was their nicely selected all-American wine list, mostly from California and Washington State. I went for Whalers “The Rise” American Pale Ale ($5.50), which was a crisp accompaniment to one of the last warm days of the year.

My wife ordered the iceberg salad ($9), which was gorgeous on the plate. With iceberg offering crunch and little by way of flavor, the salad fell to its accompaniments. Here they delivered a plated, haute cuisine version of a salad bar classic. There was lovely crumbled blue cheese, a copious amount of creamy, ranch-esque dressing, crisp thin discs of radish, baby tomatoes and of course, candied bacon.

I on the other hand decided to go all pumpkin with my order. My sugar pumpkin bisque ($8) was lovely, defined above all by its milder prime ingredient, and not cream or stock. The texture was perfectly velvety, the color alluring. It was elevated by a series of really thoughtful accompaniments: a halo of drizzled miso crema was fun to play with on the spoon, a sprinkling of black sesames was that perfect black and orange Halloween contrast, and shards of fried ginger added sharpness and a unique texture in the mouth. It’s one of the very best pumpkin soups I’ve ever had.

For our mains, my wife again went for the conventional with a sirloin ($25), although this time you couldn’t judge a book by its cover. The steak sat high on a green and purple raft of bok choy and cabbage, topped with some micro greens and floating on a sunchoke hash surrounded by what they called a sesame “A-1” sauce, but was thankfully miles removed from anything bottled - glassy, flavorsome, and interesting to the last bite.

Turning from the dark tones of brown and green, my Massachusetts cod filet ($23) was bright, with light greens from just cooked brussels sprouts, the yellows of a pumpkin sauce and golden beets. The cod was fresh and thick. If brussels sprouts were always cooked as carefully as this, they wouldn’t have their reputation in some corners. Here it all came together with the rich mild sauce. I didn’t think that this would go with fish; now I will.

For dessert I was denied the pumpkin trifecta as my choice of pumpkin cheesecake was vetoed. I couldn’t complain much as I tucked into a chocolate mousse cake ($7.50)instead. Everything was light and fluffy, but the dark chocolate ganache really took the cake, so to speak. Fantastic technique, amazing sauces, and a really consistent approach to all the dishes gave the restaurant a clear personality, one that honored both technique and seasonal ingredients in equal measure. Go enjoy a nice late dinner there for both of us; it’s past our bedtime.

Avenue N
20 Newman Ave, Rumford • 401-270-2836