Tucked away in a Hamilton shopping plaza is a restaurant making everything from mozzarella to sushi.
15 Walnut — which was called Indigo Bar and Grill until the name changed in October 2009 — takes pride in using seasonal and as-local-as-possible ingredients in its dishes. The menu also boasts an impressive amount of vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, along with plenty of seafood, sushi, and meat options.
A meal at 15 Walnut begins with fresh rosemary focaccia served with good-quality olive oil for dipping. The focaccia was nicely warmed, proving a successful start to the evening.
For a lighter appetizer, the fried chickpeas ($7) make a fun alternative. The crispy, borderline addictive chickpeas are tossed in a sweet-and-spicy mix of smoked paprika, coriander, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, and salt. The exotic aroma of the spices immediately catches your attention, and adds to the multisensory appeal of the legumes.
Although the menu has several soup and salad options, we opted to try the sushi list for an additional predinner bite. The veggie roll ($10) is chock-full of vibrant, obviously fresh vegetables like daikon radish, cucumber, peppers, carrot, asparagus, and avocado. Each slice was easy to eat in one bite, and the roll came with the necessary wasabi and pickled ginger accompaniments.
Entrées at 15 Walnut are diverse, ranging from burgers and sandwiches to seafood and meat dishes to lighter, vegetarian-friendly options.
Unfortunately, our entrées came out about 10 minutes too early. Wanting to finish our appetizers at a comfortable pace, we let our dinners sit to one side until we were ready for them. Thankfully, they stayed warm, but we wished the timing of their arrival had been thought out more carefully.
One of the entrées was the sesame-seed-crusted yellowfin tuna ($25), which came with sticky rice, caramelized bok choy, seedless cucumber strings, mandarin orange vinaigrette, and a drizzle of wasabi sauce. The obviously fresh tuna (which the chef recommends be cooked rare) was seasoned well, and the sesame crust provided a necessary texture to almost every bite. Although one of the three tuna steaks was slightly underdone, the dish was still a successful combination of flavors, and the sticky rice was just about perfect.
The second entrée was the stuffed bell peppers ($19), a vegetarian-friendly option. Piled high with quinoa, smoked eggplant, sun-dried tomato, marinara sauce, arugula, and mozzarella cheese (made in-house), the peppers packed a lot of smoky flavor without being overpowering. Unlike other dishes at 15 Walnut, the peppers weren’t the prettiest on the plate, but their flavor made up for the presentation.
15 Walnut offers six desserts ($8 each), with four made in-house and two from Sticky Fingers Bakeshop in Gloucester.
The house-made vanilla bean and honey crème brûlée is a must-try. Topped with a nice layer of crunchy, caramelized sugar and served with a delicious gingerbread cookie, this aromatic and intensely flavorful dessert was a favorite of the evening. The crème brûlée was studded with fresh vanilla beans, and we found ourselves scraping the ramekin with the ginger cookie in an effort to reach every last bite.
The creative seasonal cocktails at 15 Walnut are worth your liver’s pain. The grapefruit-basil martini ($11) is especially refreshing, and the strong basil flavor was complemented by the tang of the grapefruit-flavored vodka. Each sip was also wonderfully sweet with an ideal kick from the liquor.
If you’re into dirty martinis ($9), 15 Walnut makes a great one — and the bartender even hand-stuffs the plump olives with blue cheese.
15 Walnut offers plenty of wine options as well. Glasses range from $8 to $15, and bottles run from $26 to $79.
The atmosphere at 15 Walnut is enhanced by new walls, floors, and decor, thanks to an update to the interior completed about three months ago. The space is on the smaller side, but big enough for a large party.
The open kitchen is the first thing seen upon walking in, while the other side of the restaurant features a U-shaped bar, which was packed on this evening — most likely due to the live acoustic music, which occurs every Thursday.
Thankfully, the live music was just loud enough to be pleasant in the background without making it difficult to carry on a conversation.
Michelle Lahey is a professional chef who blogs about food at www.theeconomicaleater.com.