***UPDATE 1/5: Bittersweet is now open.***

Between her insane schedule & my merely neurotic one, pal K of Big World Small Kitchen & I don’t get together as often as we mean to. So on the rare occasions that it happens, we talk so much we almost forget to eat; we could really be anywhere with chairs. (Reminds me of that old Jackie Mason joke: “If there’s a Jew on a vacation, he’s only looking for one thing—a place to sit. He sees a chair, it’s a successful vacation. Jewish resorts are the only place that advertise ‘Brand new lobby!’ Here’s the lobby, that’s the chair.” But I digress, as usual.)

However, on Friday night we weren’t just anywhere with chairs: we were at the soft opening of Bittersweet, which officially opens its doors on Tuesday. Having (like many others) been impressed by Olav Peterson since the early days of Bistro One (click here & here for reviews), I had high hopes. (I’m less optimistic about the fate of his former place of employ, already hurt by its poorly trafficked location on Antique Row, but I sure do wish it well & plan to visit it in the hospital as it recuperates from its chef-removal operation soon. Stay tuned.)

Those hopes were well met immediately—at the door, in fact, where I was excited to see Dustin Swenson, recently of Divino. He’s a great get for what I’m sure will be a stellar wine list; certainly the house wines he was pouring for us were distinctive.

And both appetizers easily qualified for Dish of the Week. But since I can only name one—my blog, my rules—I’m going with the rabbit sausage, a downright delicacy as handled by Peterson.

Both it & the mustard sauce were ultra-suave & subtly tinged with sweetness—cider? honey? simply the right white wine?—while the potato-chive dumplings proved soft & light as bubbles.

Meanwhile, the chowder’s already getting a lot of love from local writers—deservedly.

In the center sits a potato croquette topped with a clam (FYI, it’s supposed to be a razor clam, but none were available that evening) & “crispy pork,” basically a glorified slice of bacon. But it was the soup itself that stunned me, like the dumplings a triumph of smoothness & subtlety. Over the course of 10 years in Boston, I had my share of pasty, clumpy clam chowders; for that matter, I’ve had my share of superb chowders. This utterly silky rendition is among the most accomplished, based on a from-scratch shellfish broth.

I didn’t try K’s monkfish with lobster-cauliflower hash in a pool of cauliflower bisque, but it sure looked pretty.

So did my entrée—gorgeous, in fact—but it was the one disappointment of the bunch, perhaps a little too subtle; from the hash-browned spaghetti squash in intensely hued but barely-there butternut squash broth on bottom to the herbed squash tortelloni on top, it lacked depth of flavor. Much as I respect Peterson’s considerable talent for showcasing ingredients as such, these would shine brighter with a dash more seasoning.

That said, let’s keep in mind the place hasn’t even opened yet! At the rate it’s going, it’ll be one of the white-hottest restaurants in town before, I dunno, Christmas.

Beautifully moist yet fluffy apple cake confirmed as much.

It was also confirmed for me that the dining room we were sitting in (there are 2) would be decorated further; good thing, because between the gray walls & the cement floor it either looks like a jail cell or I’ve seen too many episodes of Oz lately. (The latter is entirely probable.) I’m all for minimalism, though, so I’m not asking for much: a painting or two, a rug. I bet I get it, & then the Bittersweet experience will be nothing but sweet.

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