The two chefs at Two Chefs balance dinner and dessert. Not being very familiar with Spencer, I anticipated our drive to the Two Chefs Restaurant as a journey of discovery to the outer edges of Worcester Country. But my phone soon sucked the life out of that drama with the simple command, “Proceed on Route 9 for 7 miles, then turn right on Donnelly Road. Your destination is on the right.’
If the trip proved uneventful, the destination appeared less than idyllic.
The Two Chefs Restaurant is set back from the road in the midst of a few small industrial concerns that surround a parking lot. In fact, the restaurant looked like a small warehouse. But the owners brightened the exterior with a huge wreath made of pastel-colored silk flowers and shimmering ribbon.
The interior borders on austere, with Formica tabletops, black vinyl-covered chairs and thin industrial carpeting. To make the restaurant feel friendly, the walls were brightened by a variety of posters, plaques and, what really caught my eye, the 2014 Worcester’s Best Chef Award. Then, as I read the evening’s menu, it became apparent that the essence of the Two Chefs experience would be in the actual dining experience.
That’s when a hopeful flicker of culinary adventure sparked back to life!
Our decision to visit Two Chefs on a Wednesday evening proved fortunate because that’s the day the restaurant sets aside its regular menu and offers three courses for $23. A nice bargain, indeed, but made better by a generous range of offerings. Most of the regular menu is represented and augmented by special items. It’s a great way to “meet” a new restaurant.
The Two Chefs is a BYOB restaurant and, consequently, avoids the ritual of drink selection. A tall glass of ice water was perfect on this warm summer evening, although I could hear the klunk-fusssh of pop cans being flipped open at surrounding tables.
For my appetizer, I ordered Spicy Calamari. The serving came packed in a round silver baking dish and had been crazy-drizzled with garlic aioli – seemingly by the hand of a sushi chef. My initial sampling left me doubtful of the “spicy” boast. But then, I reached the soft flecks of cherry pepper and a pleasing, yet mild, burn set in. Very nice.
I often make note of my perception of the quality of deep-frying oil used by a kitchen. This is because freshness is so critical to the preservation of the delicate flavors of fresh seafood. Over-used or burned oil burdens the dish with a greasy surface and overpowering flavor. The Two Chefs understand these basics and presented perfectly fried calamari.
My friend started out with the Classic Caesar Salad. It was a forthright treatment: romaine leaves coated with a creamy, mildly garlic-flavored dressing topped with a tumble of croutons. But it was the non-classic flavor that puzzled us … Mint? Celery seed? Tasty enough, but not classic. We asked our waitress, who, after checking with the kitchen, returned with an answer: Citrus.
Service was crisply efficient, and soon, our entrees were served. My bowl of Penne Primavera was topped with a long hunk of garlic bread grilled to a buttery golden brown. The pasta was drenched in a creamy vodka sauce with plenty of stretchy bits of cheese. Florets of broccoli, peas, soft spinach and strips of rich roasted red pepper provided color, texture and flavor contrasts.
But if I were to offer menu advice based on this trip, I’d refer to my friend’s entrée of Braised Beef Short Ribs. A generous cut of boneless Angus beef short ribs was slow-cooked in a red wine bordelaise sauce that pooled around the meat’s bed of mashed potatoes and came served with brilliant green broccoli sautéed with a touch of garlic. “Luxurious,” he sighed. The meat seemed to shimmer and easily fell away by the forkful. It was well worth the trip to Spencer.
When it was time to make dessert decisions, I betrayed my ignorance of the Two Chefs Restaurant. “Homemade?” I asked. Of course desserts are homemade! That’s the realm of the second chef, the pastry chef. And she proved formidable.
We tried the Chocolate Cake, two layers of moist chocolate cake thickly blanketed with rich cream cheese frosting and encased in a layer of chocolate ganache. A burst of contrasting flavor intensity came from the raspberry coulis drizzled over the cake and decorating the dish. ’Twas masterful.
And then there was the Coconut Cream Pie. The menu offered no description or superlatives, and it would have been easy to ignore. But I know what potential lies here. For I’ve been to the Germantown Commissary, about an hour down the road from Memphis, and tasted real coconut cream pie. It left a mark on my soul!
Not wanting to be disappointed, I dismissively asked about the pie. Our server raved. I made my decision.
The pie came in a flaky, fluted pastry shell filled with creamy custard and topped with toasted shredded coconut. Rich. Fluffy. Custardy. Eggy and not too sweet. And such a relief, for now I know I don’t have to wait for heaven to have another slice of good custard pie. It’s just a few miles down Route 9 at the Two Chefs Restaurant.
Two Chefs Restaurant
8 Donnelly Road, Spencer
By Bernie Whitmore