Perfect Game revitalizes bar cuisine
By Bernie Whitmore
Perhaps it’s time for me to revise one of my personal laws of dining, the one that says sports bar cuisine is dismal and industrialized fare.
For all I know, this was never true. It may be a prejudice born from a couple of poor dining experiences many years ago. But in the past couple years, one after another, my excursions to sports bars have proved to be surprisingly good culinary outings while retaining the elements that made them so popular: big screens, draft beers and fun.
The Perfect Game extends this winning streak.
Sited on Water Street, The Perfect Game is at the vanguard of the rebirth of this historic neighborhood. It is taking advantage of the new streetscape with outdoor seating and large, retractable windows that allow the outside in.
On the evening I met a friend for dinner, The Perfect Game was busy with two huge parties, and we soon surmised the kitchen staff was stretched because the wait for our first course felt like an unannounced rain delay. I put the time to some good use, observing that the décor had distinctly shifted to football. It was also an opportunity to enjoy my Harpoon IPA and listen to a surprisingly extended live concert recording of the Dave Matthews Band. (How often to you hear that at a sports bar?)
But the manager at The Perfect Game just doesn’t like being less than perfect. After a while, he came to our table to explain the situation and left us with a promise to make things better. Game on.
In minutes, he was back with our first course. Consider this an object lesson in how to correct a business problem: Face it, take ownership of it, explain it, and then correct it. In this case, it was corrected with an oven-hot dish of Stuffed Mushrooms. My friend’s appetizer choice, the half-dozen caps were packed with a seafood stuffing of bread crumbs, minced onion, herbs and, of course, bits of fresh seafood. Then, they were topped with a layer of molten mozzarella cheese. He effused, “Stretchy and delicious!”
I started with the House Salad, a large salad plate of mixed, crispy leaves (red and green), wide carrot shavings, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes and sweet-fresh red onion slices. I dressed it with tart balsamic vinaigrette. Perhaps I’ve been salad-deprived; this one tasted so crunchy-fresh and alive with flavor that I eagerly savored the generous portion.
Disclosure: Our meals were specials featured for Worcester Restaurant Week. But I daresay they were representative of The Perfect Game’s everyday fare. Most places tend to scale back a bit on portion sizes for these special offers. Each of The Perfect Game’s courses was very generous in size.
My friend’s entrée, Grilled Jack Daniel’s Sirloin Steak, was a 12-ounce hunk of sirloin marinated in homemade Jack Daniel’s sauce and topped with caramelized onions. The medium-rare presentation was proof that this is a chef who knows his way around a grill and, as my friend put it, there was enough Jack Daniels sauce to “float Kentucky.” If you are from Tennessee, you might know exactly what that means. For the rest of us, let’s assume it was an enthusiastic compliment. The steak came with baked potato and Greek-style string beans.
I chose Seafood Alfredo. It seems that every menu touts the alfredo sauce as ‘homemade’. Most of them are thick and tend toward gloppy. Not so at The Perfect Game; the sauce was cheesy-light with a peppery flavor that made it truly a delight. It also contained strips of tasty sundried tomatoes and freshly sautéed spinach to boost the flavor and provide streaks of contrasting color. And the seafood: This Alfredo came with plenty of large, juicy shrimp and scallops and was bristling with mussels in their deep-blue shells.
We ended with cake. The Carrot Cake was dense, moist and slathered with thick cream cheese frosting. It was decimated on the spot. I boxed a slice of Lemoncello Cake to take home. It was mouth-puckering tart and sweet, with lemon filling, butter cream and, of course, fluffy yellow cake.
After a shaky start, The Perfect Game truly hit its stride with tasty cuisine, good service and large portions. Recommending sports bars for their cuisine? It’s not easy to get used to. But dining at The Perfect Game? Any time.
The Perfect Game
64 Water Street, Worcester, MA