M3 Restaurant has only been open a few weeks, but you’d think it’s a long-established favorite. The latest effort of an experienced family of restaurateurs, it’s best described as an upscale, new American cuisine bar and grill, i.e. a gastropub. The place was packed on a weeknight—always a good sign.
The atmosphere is a mix of sophisticated design and rustic, country kitchen, as though you’re dining at Granny’s table in the old country and Granny has excellent taste. There are a handful of TVs displaying sports programming, but with the audio muted I didn’t really notice them. Service is above average, friendly and efficient. Food and drink are well-paced, and the staff work as a team. For me, service this good is the best sauce for any meal.
My group came hungry, so I got to try a lot of dishes. With new soups made daily, the cream of artichoke and mushroom was a must-try ($4 cup). Fresh dairy was readily apparent, a standout when so many cream soups are rushed and thickened with starch. This mix of garden flavors and seasoning made for a hell of a start.
The M3 quesadilla ($11) is an almost flaky, crispy flour tortilla stuffed with andouille and chorizo sausages, roasted red peppers, red onions, cilantro cream and melted cheese, served with a sweet and spicy fruit salsa. Inspirational. Maybe one of the best things ever.
Doubling down on cheese were stuffed risotto balls ($9), which combined the classic rice dish with fresh-water mozzarella and panko crumbs, served deep-fried with a tomato bisque dipping sauce. We could have eaten a bowl of that sauce, and the rest was literally “amazeballs.”
Fried calamari ($10) is easy to overcook, but these were tender morsels in a crispy, seasoned coating, with sweet chili dipping sauce. So simple, yet so satisfying.
Moving on to the comfort food, we had tender prime rib Stroganoff ($13), with wide egg noodles, Parmesan, fresh herbs, and a dollop of sour cream. The flavor was more subtle than expected and could have used a bit more meat. A dash of salt and pepper helped bring it a bit more into “hearty” territory.
There’s cheese and then there’s white mac ’n’ cheese ($10), a blend of white cheddar, fontina, fresh-water mozzarella, and asiago combined with classic macaroni al dente and baked in a cast iron skillet with a toasted panko topping. Creamy, cheesy, heart-stopping. A basil Parmesan loaf came with both noodle dishes. Fine enough, but it would be better served warm.
More cheese? You bet. The M3 house burger ($10) was basic, yet not. It was served on a handmade, grilled bun with lettuce, tomato, and onion layered under an Angus beef patty and a choice of cheese (in this case, gorgonzola). Ordered medium by the diner, the burger wasn’t as juicy as it could have been, but the flavor was solid. A choice of sides was available—a mixed-green salad with tangy balsamic dressing, in this case.
Fish and chips with tartar sauce ($11) were exactly that: skin-on, pub-style chips with beer-battered white fish and a housemade sauce with an almost-hollandaise thing going on. Simple and delicious.
The marinated lamb chops ($18) were anything but simple, finished in balsamic fig butter and served with mascarpone polenta and seasonal vegetables. The polenta was creamy yet chunky, a perfect side for medium-rare meat. I went caveman and gnawed every bit of savory succulence off those bones.
Rounding things out, the manager did her job, talking my wife and I into a German chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream ($8). The dessert was served nice and warm in an earthenware crock, and nice and warm is exactly how we felt as we headed home.