After a superlative dining experience last night at The Squeaky Bean, I did a post-meal Google search to see how other diners liked restaurant (which had been open for seven weeks when we dined there). After reading the solitary, one-star review on Menuism, I felt compelled to set the record straight: The Squeaky Bean is one hell of a good restaurant. Good enough, in fact, to inspire me to write and post my first review here (I also posted this review at Yelp)
We arrived at 7:15, with reservations, and were seated at the chef’s counter – a 10-seat “bar” set up around the food prep area. Some people might not enjoy this sort of seating (bar stools can become uncomfortable, linear seating arrangements stifle intra-party conversation, etc.), but it was perfect for me. Several talented (and friendly) chefs were busy plating salads and desserts throughout the night, and it was clear they approached their jobs as an outlet for a certain kind of artistic expression. I was fascinated by the skills on display, and thoroughly enjoyed watching them work.
We ordered wine and cocktails, which were delivered promptly and impeccably. The Squeaky Bean has developed several unique concoctions made with local liquors and served over a solid, impeccably clear, 3-inch cube of ice. The two cocktails I tried (one tequila-based, and another bourbon-based) were not only lovely-looking drinks, they were delicious and complex.
We asked to see the cheese cart and had prepared for us a cheese plate that included a sumptuous gorgonzola, a Vermont cheddar, an aged Gouda (I think — I was a bit distracted by the chefs in the kitchen when our cheese was being plated), and a creamy cheese made from water buffalo milk. The plate was finished with mixed nuts, green olives, and peach preserves, served with house-made crackers that were simple in appearance but surprisingly buttery and flavorful. The cheese plate didn’t stand much of a chance with our ravenous party – we polished it off in less than ten minutes.
We ordered two salads, which we shared among the three of us. The first salad I tried – a smoky, creamy grilled eggplant dish served with thin-sliced plums and raw Asian greens, blew me away. In comparison, the heirloom tomato salad had less punch. The dish is conceived to showcase the vibrant acidity of spectacular tomatoes, but the fruit tasted a bit muted. At any other restaurant, this would have been a standout dish even with these less flavorful tomatoes, but here at The Squeaky Bean it merely was my least favorite of the dishes I tried.
Our first entree was wagyu beef teres major, an extremely lean and slightly chewy cut of beef extracted from the shoulder. While not especially tender (it is not supposed to be), the preparation yields a wonderfully beefy flavor that is enhanced by a bone marrow wine sauce served from a brown egg shell. The beef was accompanied by a wild mushroom preparation that was good enough to serve as the centerpiece of its own entree, and a densely flavorful potato “bar.” Served perfectly rare, it was one of the finest pieces of beef I’ve had in a restaurant in a long, long time.
We also ordered the fried chicken, in which a chicken is deboned and skinned, the breast meat is rolled in thigh meat, and the whole thing is rewrapped in skin and fried. It’s a wonderful deconstruction of traditional fried chicken, served with an intense swath of gravy and an artichoke heart stuffed with a zucchini puree. A couple bacon-like pieces of crisped chicken skin topped the dish, each bite of which tasted like the best Thanksgiving dinner I ever ate.
The Squeaky Bean is a unique place. The food quality, ingredients, and imagination shown in each dish are of a quality that should bring them national attention. But it’s the “personality” of the venue that really completes the experience. The decor is whimsical yet refined. It’s a bit noisy and boisterous and busy; it feels like a happy place, in which people are genuinely enjoying themselves. And even though they have been open only a few weeks, the staff operates like a ballet. Every person working at The Squeaky Bean exudes a tangible sort of pride and commitment to making every diner’s experience a memorable one.
“Foodies” will adore The Squeaky Bean, as will anyone who appreciates imaginative dishes made with fresh, flavorful ingredients. “Feeders” should probably look elsewhere. The Bean’s significant charms will be lost on you.