These are not the ramen noodles from your college days.
by: Kimberly Nolan
photography by: Terry Pommett
“Correct ramen noodles have chew, texture and elasticity, they stand up to the broth,” said Liam Mackey, The Nautilus restaurant executive chef. “Broth can be hotter than boiling because it has fat in it. The noodles are affected by the different flour we use and by Nantucket water.”
Countless batches of broth, developed over years of trial and error, led Mackey to his current recipe. Asianinspired dishes are his comfort zone. He spent five years as the chef-de-cuisine at The Pearl, where he learned the nuances of Nantucketers’ palates, he said.
This winter he and two colleagues from The Pearl decided to set out on their own.
“The decision to leave The Pearl was the result of the right opportunity presenting itself,” said Mackey, who along with Clinton Terry, bar manager; and Stephen Bowler, wine program director and front of the house manager; opened The Nautilus in May.
The 55-seat Cambridge Street restaurant, which replaced 12 Degrees East at that location, features an Asian-inspired menu, much like Mackey’s food at Seth and Angela Raynor’s The Pearl.
The concept is one of shared small plates with a few large plates, notably the 30-ounce “Ssam-style” roasted ribeye steak for two with sushi rice, scallion pancakes and mushrooms, which comes with an $88 price tag. The ribeye is a nod to David Chang, of New York’s Momofuko, where chef de cuisine Emmanuel Rojas once worked.
The heritage pork belly ramen ($25) features homemade negi noodles with a six-minute egg drenched in shio broth. Light, fresh and flavorful are the endnotes that Mackey is aiming for.
“The island is becoming a dining destination,” Mackey said. “However, people are primarily here to be with their family and friends. They are here to enjoy the island. We are going to have staples that will create a crave-factor for our customers.”
The availability of fresh, locally-grown produce will continue to influence and change the menu, Mackey said. “We’re looking forward to switching things around as much as possible,” he said. “Due to the size of the space and the size of the team, we want to keep things
straight-forward with a high impact on flavor.” Mackey and his team are not, however, limiting themselves to Asian cuisine, as noted in the mussels escabeche – a Latin American technique for preserving seafood. Escabeche consists of warming a pickling liquid comprised of herbs, peppers, onions, garlic and olive oil. It is served with lardo, cured pork back-fat sliced thinly, melted and brushed onto toast.
“The barbecue baby back ribs are marinated in lemongrass and tossed with chile black-bean sauce,” Mackey said. “The ribs epitomize what people can do here: Eat with your hands and share. I don’t believe in manipulating the food too much.”
The Nautilus team sources as locally as possible, using Pumpkin Pond Farm for produce.
“As the farms produce more, our menu will be influenced in ways I can’t even conceive of right now,” Mackey said. “We will make changes, depending on what is growing in the fields. (Clinton) scouts the farms and is on the lookout for upscale quality. He is a classically-trained chef and his bar is basically a small kitchen. We are essentially running two kitchens out of one space.”
Terry’s food-infused cocktails highlight his Culinary Institute of America pedigree. His drinks feature farmfresh selections, from rhubarb to cucumbers to pickled jalapeños. Two specialties could easily morph into house favorites: The ACK Nauti – a blend of tequila and fresh cranberry juice topped with lime bitters, and The Nauti Dog – Lucky Dog vodka, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and barrel-aged Campari.
“The ACK Nauti is a version of the old tiki drink called the Nautilus, so it is our namesake,” Terry said. “The Nauti Dog uses the big juice press for the grapefruits, made to order. Lucky Dog vodka is made by Greg Nichols, one of our builders who did the renovations for us.”
Terry moved to Nantucket two years ago from Washington, D.C., where he specialized in boutique cocktails. He was the general manager and bartender at PX, a speakeasy spinoff of Restaurant Eve; and Eamonn’s, an Irish fish-and-chips eatery.
He said his drink concepts originate from multiple sources.
“Some of the cocktails are recreations of food,” he said. “Some of the drink inspirations are from going to the market and finding whatever I can to make something out of. Since I am a cook, some are classic pairings or contrasts just applied to a different medium.”
Sometimes Terry redesigns classic cocktails that he finds by thumbing through old cookbooks, he said.
“We have a plancha, which I’ve never used,” he said. “I love grilled pineapple. In talking with (Mackey) about using it and what I wanted to do, he suggested using some togarashi, which is a super-funky Japanese spice blend. Instantly, the Golden Goose cocktail was born.”
The Golden Goose is a blend of grilled pineapple, Grey Goose citrus vodka and togarashi.
Mackey received his training at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont before working at The Pearl, where he honed his skills for the past 10 years. In the Nantucket off-season he worked for chef Ken Oringer at Toro, Uni and Clio, all in Boston. Mackey said he reveres Oringer and also references David Chang’s cookbooks.
Bowler was the former sommelier at The Pearl and The Boarding House restaurants. Prior to that he worked at Épernay Wine Shop on the island. His love for wine developed while living in California, he said.
Bowler’s wine travelogue includes Spain, Mendoza, Argentina and stomping grapes in Peru for the production of Pisco, a grape brandy. He lived in the Napa Valley and worked at Cain Vineyard and Winery before taking over the wine program at The Pearl and The Boarding House.
Whether an evening at The Nautilus consists of small plates, a noodle entrée or a shared steak, a digestif is the right way to end. Fernet Branca is an Italian digestive bitter liqueur containing upward of 30 herbs. The recipe is supposedly a legendary and secretive healing elixir. It is served on tap. Be sure to order a dram after dinner – as a toast to good health, of course. ///
Kimberly Nolan is a staff writer at The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket's newspaper since 1821.