I've been eating at Peter Havens for years, and am in agreement with the vast majority of comments on here, that it is simply one of the best restaurants anywhere. Still, I think a lot of people are aware that the restaurant recently changed hands, and for many I'm sure they're wondering if this means a change in what one might expect. The answer to that question is, "yes."
The previous owners were two of the finest operators I've ever had the chance to experience, and I wondered if Zach, the new owner, could fill those gigantic shoes. My wife and I had the pleasure of dinner at Peter Havens this past Saturday, and I simply had my socks knocked off. Chef Zach has taken the incredible foundation built over nearly two decades and raise the bar considerably. It's not just that Peter Havens remains the best restaurant in town, or in the region, it has simply become a world class operation.
The service was spectacular; the environment remains so welcoming; and the food was of a level I don't think Southern Vermont has experienced before. Peter Havens has risen to a level that begs questions of when the New York Times will be visiting. I'm not kidding.
Bread and wonderful infused olive oil.
Mussels: They changed my wife's life. She's never been a big one for seafood, and she ate every last bit on the plate.
Seared Pork Belly: Cooked perfectly, crispy on the outside and melting on the inside, served with an Asian barbecue and white bean cassolette. Freaking perfect.
Breast of Chicken with Herb Veloute: Honestly, it's hard to impress me with chicken, while at the same time I consider it to be the halmark of a great chef. Zach did not miss a beat with this one. The chicken was prepared perfectly and the vegetables we beautiful and still retaining fresh snap, while being cooked exactly as I like them. Still, what makes the dish is the sauce. You just don't see chefs work with veloute anymore, and I think that's because it's a complicated sauce. While seeming so simple it is a high wire act that can easily pass over into the world of being pasty where it should be... well velvety. This one was perfection.
Braised Veal Shank: Well... this is where I move into a a whole different world of respect for Zach. Look, braised dishes are usually an easy layup for a chef... And as such, many just mail it in, but Zack's attention to detail is obvious in this preparation. Again though, it's the sauce... Honestly, I don't know when, or where Zach sold his soul, but it's not possible to make a sauce this good without having done a deal with the devil. The mouth feel was something that just rocked my world. I should be clear, I'm a professional chef, with AAA Four Diamond and NYT Four Star restaurants under my belt, and this sauce nearly made me hang up my apron and throw away my clogs. Simply put... this is one of the top five dishes I've had in my entire life.