30 June 2009

Nectar in Moscow, Idaho

I've been to Nectar a number of times, and only my latest visit has been impressive. We don't have many inventive restaurants on the Palouse, particularly ones that serve dishes that feature local or fresh produce, so I was excited to try Nectar when it first opened.

Unfortunately, the first five or six times I ate at Nectar, the food was mediocre at best, and I was really disappointed by the lack of fresh produce at a restaurant that seemed to feature local, fresh ingredients. Everyone raved about the mac n cheese on Yelp, but what arrived at my table was tasteless and without any sharp notes whatsoever. This could be because I grew up near Wisconsin and I really don't like Cougar Gold cheese, but my macaroni was so soft it practically melted in my mouth, and the cheese tasted like Velveeta, and not in a comforting way. When they first opened, they also had a pancetta wrapped meatloaf on the menu, but what came out was actually a BACON wrapped meatloaf and it was overseasoned, too salty and very gamey. I noticed soon after they changed the description to read "bacon" instead of pancetta--wise choice.

Alright, before I say too much and you all think I hate Nectar, the last two times have been fantastic. I'm going to venture out on a limb here and postulate that winter is a difficult time for gathering fresh ingredients and showcasing them in dishes, but I do still think a little more creativity might also go a long way for the price.

For my mom's last night in Pullman (way back in May! I'm behind!) we decided to take the drive to Moscow, and after a fairly short wait we were seated in the partially enclosed back room that I've often seen used for private parties and receptions. It was actually kind of nice having the room to ourselves before a few tables wandered in.

The back room at Nectar

Ah yes, and here is my shy dining companion

I have to rave about the steamed clams we ordered as an appetizer in May, but I also have to report that last Saturday the clams (which I didn't take any pics of) were horribly salty, overcooked, rubbery and without the fresh parsley and saffron taste of the first batch. Sigh.

The tasty batch

Leftover juice ready to be sopped up with fresh bread; the juice was almost better than the fresh clams

There are two reasons I think the clams were horrible, one being a kitchen staff change. One of the cooks (who happens to be opening a restaurant in Pullman, meaning a review will pop up here as soon as that happens) is nothing short of an awesome cook, and the first time I tried his clams I knew immediately I'd found a safe item on the Nectar menu. Without him in the kitchen, I'm afraid the quality will suffer.

The other reason is that the clams themselves didn't seem very fresh. Very fishy tasting, but that could also be why they oversalted? Or an effect of oversalting??

Next up, the salad was pretty standard, except I have to note that they are never swimming in dressing (which is important to me--I loathe getting dressing on the side).

Mom's entree was fantastic--Scallops with sugo (basically just tomato sauce, but the seasoning was really fresh), served on a summer vegetable tian. If one is going with the strict definition of a tian dish, the layers of veggies didn't really so much complement each other as they did taste all alike, but nonetheless, I couldn't stop stealing tiny bites of her tender scallops. I secretly wished I had ordered her dish, but mine was extremely satisfying.

My asparagus and wild mushroom risotto was cooked just right (I feel I always need to point this out on the Palouse; no gummy risotto!!) and the earthy mushrooms were just as fresh as the asparagus. My only problem with this dish was that the parmigiano reggiano was barely recognizable, as was the white truffle oil the menu boasted. Still, I was full at the end.

My mom and I aren't really dessert people, so if we did order dessert, it probably didn't even occur to me to take pics!

While the service is fantastic and the prices are pretty reasonable, the food can sometimes be a little iffy at Nectar, so the best advice I could give anyone is to go at the height of a particular fresh ingredient's season (asparagus and mushrooms were the best ingredients of the evening). Nectar is the only restaurant I actually enjoy in this area, so give it a shot if you're in the area.

Nectar Restaurant
105 W. 6th St.
Moscow, ID (across from One World Cafe)


The Cooking Photographer said...

We don't usually go to Nectar for food because I make better food here.

The wine is nice though.

EMC said...

Yep! My sentiments exactly. Although, when I don't want to cook, this is a mediocre substitute.

I said the exact same thing about the wine in my Yelp review!