AMESBURY – If you’re going to go out and brave the cold, you’re usually not looking for anything fancy. You just want familiar foods done the right way. Phantom found a place that can blow you away with basics like potato chips and a BLT.
Housed inside an old wool mill along the Powwow River in Amesbury, No. 8 Kitchen and Spirits is one of the North Shore’s newest spots for farm to table, contemporary New England cuisine.
“We try to take things that people are familiar with and we put our own little twist on it,” said Chef Christopher Jackson. He loves being in the kitchen and puts passion into every plate, from the first taste to the final sweet bite.
“This is everything for me. Passion, love. Reason to get out of bed in the morning. I’m just having fun.”
Some plates are stunning and surprising, others are fun and familiar, and everything coming out of the active open kitchen is made with the utmost care.
“We challenge ourselves every day by doing it as fresh as possible, and making everything we can from scratch: from our bread to our aioli, to our pasta, all our desserts, as much as possible, as much as we can,” explained the chef. “We push ourselves very hard here.”
Many of the dishes are made for sharing, because according to General Manager Erica Petersiel, you’ll want to taste as many as you can.
“What our goal was is to have a group of people, whether it be two people, four people, ten people, all be able to try a little bit of everything,” she said.
Every meal at No. 8 Kitchen starts with complementary popcorn that gets a different gourmet seasoning every day. There are Cured Meat Boards, Artisan Cheese Boards, Housemade Chips and Dip, and a big skillet of warm fresh baked Corn Bread.
“Corn Bread is not just Corn Bread here. We serve it in a large skillet, cooked fresh to order, and it’s served with our housemade, smoked maple pork belly butter that just melts on top of it,” described Erica. “It is unbelievable.”
The menu is ever changing, but hopefully their fresh take on a BLT is available when you stop in.
“The BLT at No. 8 is very different. It’s a fried green tomato that we put with our housemade bacon. We have crème fraiche and a little frisee on top. So we have the bacon, the lettuce as the frisee, and then the fried green tomato. It’s a really special dish,” Erica said.
Another special dish that’s worth seeking out is one of Erica’s favorites: the playfully named Chicken or Egg.
“It’s our take on a Scotch Egg. It’s an egg that’s been cooked for five minutes. We peel it; we batter it; we deep fry it; and it’s served with a piece of chicken skin on top of it.”
“Break it in half; watch it gush out; pick up your chicken skin with your hand. I like watching people eat with their hands. It’s fun; it’s entertainment, and just dig in,” added Chef Christopher.
Entrees hit all the comfort food favorites. There’s Grilled Skirt Steak with Swiss chard and a Potato Gratin, Truffled Chicken with wild mushrooms, and a spectacular half pound burger with cheddar and pancetta on a house baked bun.
“We make our own brioche. We make the pancetta. We get in grass fed beef. We slow cook it so it’s cooked perfectly all the way through, nice thick piece of cheese melts over it, and some red onion and red bell pepper relish,” the chef described.
While the burger may be a best seller, the dish Chef Christopher is most proud of is his Cheese Tortellini. He makes each one by hand, filling fresh pasta sheets with a blend of cheeses, and then tossing them with a mushroom ragù, hazelnuts, and brown butter sage.
“Anytime you brown butter you get a nutty aroma to the dish, and sage, it’s very aromatic, and then the nuts give it a little crunch, and then we use pecorino, ricotta, mascarpone, and parmesan for the cheeses, so you get different textures and flavors of cheese,” explained Chef Christopher. “That’s what we’re all about.”
On weekends, No. 8 Kitchen is all about brunch, with everything from Brioche French Toast with bourbon butter, to a Lobster Roll with avocado and cucumber, to a Banh Mi with fifteen hour roast pork.
“It’s fun food to eat, because you can get breakfast, you can get lunch. It’s in the middle of the day. Usually people are having a few drinks or cocktails because it’s the weekend,” said Christopher.
As soon as customers come into the restaurant, they’re greeted by a long bar that offers twenty beers and four wines on draft, along with a fun list of creative cocktails.
But if you prefer to indulge on the sweet side, No. 8 has three desserts you won’t want to miss. There are Profiteroles filled with peanut butter ice cream and topped with chocolate ganache, Fried Beignets served with a spiced maple ginger sauce, and a dense and decadent chocolate cake.
“The chocolate cake is my absolute favorite,” declared Erica. “It’s a small flourless chocolate cake and it has sea salt sprinkled on top. It has salted caramel drizzle, salted caramel ice cream, and candied hazelnuts. It is absolutely amazing.”
And so is just about everything that comes out of Chef Christopher’s busy kitchen.
“It’s fun. Having the open kitchen here, we can interact with the guests. They come by. We say, ‘have a good night, thank you.’ And they say how great everything was. It makes us feel like all the hard work and effort is worth it. And that’s what it’s all about.”
You can find No. 8 Kitchen and Spirits at 37 Main Street in Amesbury, and online at no8kitchen.com.
Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.
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